This year, the city of Ikorodu joined the club of cities with one million inhabitants or more, going by the UN population estimates and projections of major urban agglomerations. With a 2022 estimated population of 1,041,166 inhabitants, it is currently Nigeria’s 12th largest city, and the third largest city in the Southwest after Lagos and Ibadan. It has a higher population than several state capitals, including the capital cities of Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo and Osun. Ikorodu is currently more populous than cities like Ilorin, Owerri, Warri, Jos, Umuahia, Maiduguri, Enugu, Lokoja, Bauchi, Abakaliki, Calabar, Gombe and Katsina. Outside Nigeria, Ikorodu can be compared with Oslo, Norway’s largest city, or Sekondi Takoradi, Ghana’s third largest city. The population of the city currently grows at 5.26% annually and it is projected to reach 1.7 million by 2035.1 This new status should be a call to action for all stakeholders.
Lagos State is the only state with two cities with more than one million inhabitants in Nigeria. The city of Lagos itself has a population of over 15 million inhabitants, and it is currently Africa’s third largest city, behind Cairo and Kinshasa. Much of the growth occurring in the city of Lagos in recent years is northward, into Ogun state, although ongoing efforts on the Eko Atlantic City may lead to some southward expansion. The saturation of the city of Lagos is partly responsible for the growth Ikorodu is experiencing. A recent assessment ranked Lagos 172 of 173 cities in the world in terms of liveability.2 The reality is that large cities are not easy to live in and the liveability of cities depends on the planning that has been done in the early days of the evolution of those cities. That Lagos scores low on the liveability scale is a function of the planning that did not occur decades ago.
Managing a city requires enormous long-term planning and sustained commitment to compliance with the plan. This is partly because of the high population density cities are known for. With a large population of people crammed into a geographical area, everyday human activities begin to have serious implications. For instance, Ikorodu’s one million inhabitants mean a million people who will generate human and domestic wastes every day in perpetuity. And here we are with a city without a sewerage system. All households depend on septic tanks with huge potentials for contaminating the ground, surface water, and shallow wells which are still major sources of water for the majority of the households in the city. The city lacks a proper drainage system, and the gutters are open and prone to being clogged with improperly disposed wastes, much of which are not biodegradable. The emerging city also needs a reliable source of water that should be designed to serve two to three million inhabitants in the next couple of decades. Water and sanitation are key requirements for protecting the city from disease outbreak and if the city is to be liveable, these amenities should be prioritized.
There is need for affordable housing. Having a million city dwellers also means that the cost of housing may increase with time as demand outstrips supply. Cities typically have pull factors to which rural dwellers respond. If there is no adequate housing scheme to meet current and future needs for housing, a huge housing deficit will be witnessed and homelessness will soon become a common feature. At present the city is just sprawling organically in a patternless manner in different directions. It has sprawled to communities like Maya and Ijede. To the south, houses have continued to spring up along Owode-Ibeshe axis and Baiyeku axis. There is also a continuous stretch of built-up areas along the Ikorodu-Sagamu road, down to the boundary between Lagos and Ogun States in Odogunyan, far into Ogijo community in Ogun State. The city has therefore sprawled across a major administrative boundary, raising a question of the extent to which the Lagos State government is responsible for its planning and the power it has to exercise control over it. Nonetheless, a clear plan is required to reflect the type of city envisioned by the state(s), what areas are reserved for industry, commerce, agriculture, residence, sports and green areas etc.
Intracity and inter-city transportation is also essential. These one million city dwellers will need to be able to move freely within the city and from the city to other parts of the state, the country and the world. There is also need for the city to be connected to its food sources and other goods needed within the city. An efficient city bus system is one way to ease intra and inter-city transportation. The lagoon also offers a huge opportunity for ferry transportation to connect different parts of the city and to connect the city with the city of Lagos. In addition to the ferry terminal in Ebute, more ferry terminals can be constructed at Ibeshe, Baiyeku, and Ijede to ease intra-city movement and offer more ferry departure and arrival points for intercity commute. Besides, the road network needs to be improved. Many of the existing roads are narrow and have no room for cyclists and pedestrians. To reduce pollution, there should be provisions for walking and cycling.
Investing in the city’s public infrastructure is key to making it liveable. It is important to keep in mind that with city life comes a cultural melting pot, and anonymity. It will no longer be a community where everyone knows everyone. In such a human settlement, crime increases. An efficient crime patrol system and surveillance cameras may be helpful in preventing and solving crimes. The city also needs more than the lone fire service station it currently has. The water service also needs to be expanded to meet the needs of the emerging city. While doing this, consideration should be given to the provision of water hydrants to complement the fire service. The city’s energy need is also an important factor to consider.
The state also needs to provide more primary and secondary schools to ensure access to basic education. Another important need is health. More primary healthcare facilities will be needed. Ambulance services will also be required to facilitate access to the facilities, especially in emergency situations.
Whether Ikorodu will be liveable in the next 20 years is a function of what we do today. As anyone could imagine, planning for the city should be futuristic because many of the amenities are things that the state can’t afford to build and rebuild in a short time. At the minimum, the plan should be sufficient for the next 50 years. Leaving the city to evolve by itself is a recipe for making the city unliveable in the future. As the city sprawls, much of the agricultural land in the outskirts will be mopped up by residential settlements without adequate infrastructure to support the human population. All stakeholders need to be intentional about achieving the desired future for the city. The government of Lagos State, in partnership with that of Ogun State, and the people (locals and settlers) should work out a plan for the city. The people should cooperate with the state to make this happen as city planning requires huge sacrifices on all sides. The people must be ready to give up much to make the city liveable in the future. The people should also begin to demonstrate responsible citizenship in the way they use public infrastructure.
No city is liveable on its own. Cities are like organisms without brains. They have the natural tendency to grow, but their growth may become counterproductive. It is for this reason that people must plan cities for them to be liveable. The actions we take or fail to take today will determine: whether Ikorodu will be a stable city with low crime or not; whether good quality healthcare and education will be available and accessible; the quality of infrastructure; and the overall quality of the environment of the city in the future.
Kunnuji is an Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Lagos.