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Lagos: walking or not walking?

Not walking?

I landed in Lagos airport with the fear that I would probably not be allowed to walk on the streets for the rest of my stay in Nigeria. The fear of a traveller coming to a place, for the first time and who has been hearing a lot of safety warnings.

Good news is, during the day it is possible to walk on the streets on the islands (Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki, etc…) but it is not advisable at night. At night things are different. The "area boys" are the likely threat. These guys roam in their neighborhood and are apparently somewhat unpredictable.


Therefore my first day in Lagos was the occasion of a walk through Victoria Island starting with a short stroll on Bar Beach which was decorated with electrically blossoming cherry trees and a large stage for the New Year's Eve concert : the 2015 Lagos countdown!

electrically blossoming cherry trees
The rest of the walk led us through a mix of large paved streets, bordered by open-air sewer, covered in places by concrete slabs, and narrower streets. Walker beware and watch your steps! Holiday season and morning hours made the traffic very light and allowed a fairly easy navigation through the obstacles on the roadside. Shade was occasionally available in the narrower streets.

Election posters as a decoration

It is said that a few years ago Lagos was full of garbage, with abandoned cars, defunct generators and all sort of litter strewn between the road and property walls. That has changed, in Victoria Island at least. The streets, though still somewhat run-down looking are fairly litter-free. In places, testimony of the past, garbage bins flourish happily clad with election posters wishing "happy new year and vote for me"
happy new year neighbours

a nice way to refurbish garbage bin
One thing is striking, the general shabbiness of the streets is not so much the result of carelessness from people living on the street, as guards and other street sellers or street hairdressers will take care of clearing immediate litter. It is rather the result of overall lack of investment in common grounds, the street belongs to no one so no one really feels like maintaining it. 
Houses and buildings are usually poorly maintained resulting in an aggravated feeling of dilapidation. After all, a place rented for 6 or 7 years earns the owner the price of purchase, so why bother!

Harmattan and rush hour

The city is growing at an amazing speed preventing the eye from spotting its boundaries. The Harmattan, a desert wind which fills the sky with dust from the Sahara, is also closing the horizon. People are suffering from dry-cough and complain about the relative cold (down to 12°C at night and yet about 30°C during the day).

20 million people are said to live in the greater Lagos, probably a large part rarely leaves the city as transport can be cumbersome and expensive. In Victoria Island, large avenues are 2 by 2 lanes with a separation in the middle and regular openings to allow cars to turn into side streets. Cars are either too big or the road to narrow for a proper U-turn with an SUV leading to a permanent slow down of traffic and the building up of the aptly named "go-slows"

Victoria Island skyline
Victoria Island East and Harmattan
Cars, then, just fill-up the streets in all direction and nothing moves for a few hours. As a result, those leaving on the mainland or the outskirts of the city live their home between 4 and 5am to reach work before 8am. Same story at night, hence a lot of yawning going on during the day!


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