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Who Owns Lagos? A Look Into Its History And People

Some have claimed that the people from Benin own Lagos, while others claim Lagos belongs to no one and it’s a no man’s land. How true or false are these claims?

The port and island of Lagos is one of Africa’s most metropolitan and populous cities, that’s why there is a question as to who owns Lagos and who are the original inhabitants of Lagos.

Does Lagos originate or belong to the Benin Kingdom?

According to a statement from Iga Idugaran, Palace of the Lagos King, Oba Akiolu said;

“Modern-day Lagos was founded by Prince Ado, the son of the Oba of Benin. Prince Ado was the first Oba of Lagos, and he named the town Eko, until the Portuguese explorer, Ruy de Segueira, changed the maritime town to Lagos, which at that time from 1942 was the Portuguese expedition centre down the African Coast.”

While this is true, this is not the full picture. It was not founded by Prince Ado. Benin invaded Lagos and were not the original occupants.

The Aworis and the Ilajes were there way before the invasion of Benin in the 16th century. These two tribes were not concerned with setting up some sort of monarchical system, hence the ease of the Benin invasion.

The monarchical rulership of a place may be a result of conquest and not the origin, a case in point is the Queen of England who was the head of so many countries.

Currently, the Prince and Princess of Wales are not Welsh, but because their forefather conquered Wales, the rulership of Wales falls on the first son of the ruling monarch of England.

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The first Oba of Lagos was undoubtedly from Benin. All Obas of Lagos trace their lineage to Ashipa who was a war captain of the Oba of Benin. Ashipa was rewarded with the title of the Oloriogun (or War leader) and received the Oba of Benin’s permission to govern Lagos on his behalf.

But if some Benin people migrated to Lagos, it means that they did become part and parcel of the Yoruba culture thereby abandoning their own. It is believed settled in Lagos Island or Isale Eko and its environs.

The Aworis and the Ilajes own land

However, from all historical records, the original inhabitants and landowners in Lagos are the Aworis and the Ilajes. They are the ones who own land. The Aworis were more concerned with land ownership, while the Ilaje moved to the coasts and were more concerned with fishing, though they still own land. The Ilajes coexist with the Ijebu groups in the Epe and Ikorodu divisions in Ijede, Owode, Majidun, Ajegunle, and Agbowa.

The chiefs in Lagos who belong to the Idejo class are Aworis and they hold land. The Olumegbon chieftaincy family controls all of Ajah, Oniru clan controls the entirety of Victoria Island, Ojomu, which was Ajah’s neighbour and is now home to Oba Ojomu, Elegushi, the territory at Ikate and Onisemo too. The Oluwa family once owned the whole Apapa Peninsula before being bought and compensated by the government.

It is now clear that Lagos is not a ‘no man’s land’ and it indeed has indigenous people. However, it has experienced the influx of many people through migration, even from neighbouring states, which has muddled the original ancestry of Lagos.

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