If you’re new to Nigeria or intend visiting Nigeria shortly, you’d find this article useful because it contains a mini guide to touring Nigeria’s two most important cities namely; Lagos and Abuja. Before we start our comparisons I’ll like to mention that Lagos is the economic capital and former seat of government of Nigeria till December 1991 when Abuja became the national capital. Why they’re both important and how would be explained shortly.
Lagos VS Abuja Airport
The Lagos International Airport better known as the Murtala Muhammed Airport is located in Ikeja Area of Lagos and is the busiest airport in Nigeria. More than 2 million passengers fly through this airport annually with no less than 40 daily international flights and several dozen local flights. The Airport is international standard and secure at least within the airport premises. The Abuja Airport on the other hand is called the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and is the second busiest airport in the country with nearly 1 million travellers using it annually for both local and international flights. The airport is roughly 30 minutes’ drive from the city center. For both airports, it’s advisable to use a car hire service on arrival into both cities.
Population of Lagos compared with Abuja
Lagos is Africa’s largest city by population with over 21 million residents as of 2014 and is projected to become the 5th largest city in the world with a population of 50 million by 2035. Abuja which is the 5th largest city in Nigeria is actually the main component of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – the region marked as the country’s capital - and has a population of between 3.8 million to 4.4 million residents who reside mostly in satellite towns and suburbs. The population of Abuja grows by an average of 3.8% per annum and could become Nigeria’s second largest city by 2030. While Lagos has a population density of over 13,500 persons per square kilometer, Abuja has a population density of 1,400 persons per square kilometer.
Lagos is a coastal city located on the southernmost part of country’s western side and measures over 999 square kilometers. It shares a busy border post with Benin Republic called the Seme border and to its south is the Atlantic Ocean. Whereas Abuja is located right in the middle of Nigeria measures 713 square kilometers.
Climate and Weather of Abuja and Lagos
Abuja is hotter than Lagos, with average daily temperature of 32 degrees Celcius whereas Lagos is 28 degrees Celcius. Lagos experiences more rainfall than Abuja although both cities have the same raining season which usually lasts from April till late November or early December.
Infrastructure in Lagos VS Abuja
While Abuja has the best infrastructure in the entire country, Lagos comes second. Abuja roads are very wide, smooth with lots of road signs. Lagos major roads are also well tarred but narrower than Abuja roads with fewer road signs. Commuting to work in Abuja is mostly by 30 seater light mass transit or 55 seater buses and taxis whereas mass transit in Lagos you'll find lots of 55 seater buses called BRT and 14 seater buses called Danfo. Taxis are very expensive in Lagos compared with Abuja. Housing in Abuja is far more expensive than Lagos and that is ironic considering the massive difference in population densities although one could argue that houses in Abuja are more modern and better planned than those in Lagos. Both cities still grapple with power supply and their metro train services are not fully operational although massive investments have been made to transform them into world class train services.
Social Life and Recreation in Abuja and Lagos
In Lagos night life happens everyday till 1 am on weekdays or till dawn on weekends, Abuja is mostly till 11 pm on most weekdays and till dawn on weekends. Abuja has lots of standard bars and night clubs but Lagos rules in this aspect. You'll find lots of gardens and parks in Abuja and most of them offer drinks, Pepper soup and/or grilled fish/lamb/chicken/beef. Hanging out in Abuja is more expensive than Lagos obviously because of rent.
The two major expenses for most Abuja residents are house rent and schools fees which is quite expensive. In Lagos both are relatively cheaper. Abuja has very few stupendously wealthy billionaires who are only too happy to squander their wealth on lavish living. Lagos also has billionaires but not as many as Abuja. However Lagos has many self made multi millionaires running into thousands compared with very few in Abuja. This can be explained by what is locally called the "Nigerian Factor" where things stand on their head on account of greed, corruption and impunity. Most of Abuja's super rich are top government officials, politicians, contractors and cronies of power brokers. Lagos has many self made millionaires because it's no man's Land. If you have a valuable skill, you're street smart and resourceful, you will get rich in Lagos - eventually. In Abuja unless you own the door or have keys that can open the door of opportunity you are on your own till someone else in a position to open it for you chooses to do so for you or if you're smart enough to get them to do it for you.
Government and Administration of Lagos and Abuja
Lagos is divided into 20 administrative units at municipal level called Local Government Areas while Abuja is divided into 5 administrative units called Area Councils. Lagos has an executive governor and deputy with a 40 member state parliament with Alausa as the Administrative Capital. Abuja has no executive governor or mayor but instead has a minister appointed by the President of Nigeria – he/she functions as a state governor but reports to the president and is not elected. Abuja has no parliament but the National Assembly – parliament of the federation – makes by laws for the city.
Local Economy of Lagos compared with Abuja
Lagos is Nigeria’s largest economy worth over $75 billion in GDP it is the headquarters of most of Nigeria’s biggest companies and industries and manufactures more than 65% of the countries locally manufactured products. The Lagos ports at Apapa account for nearly 80% of the country's imports and exports. Manufacturing, retail and services are the mainstay of the local economy in Lagos. Abuja on the other hand has a GDP of over $9 billion and is mostly a government run city with little manufacturing taking place. The private sector economy is mostly hospitality, retail, construction and property development.
Town Planning and Structure of Abuja and Lagos
Abuja is a well-planned city divided mostly into districts. The main districts are Wuse, Garki, Maitama, Asokoro and Central Business District. Lagos is far less planned and organized as Abuja and has as its main divisions – by population and economic significance – Apapa, Ikeja, Surulere, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki/Ajah.
Crime Rates in Lagos compared to Abuja
Abuja is gradually becoming less safe as the population increases and the economic opportunities are unequally distributed. The most notorious crimes committed in Abuja is commuter style armed robbery locally called one chance in which unsuspecting commuters who board unregistered taxis are attacked and robbed by the driver who usually has an accomplice who pretends to be a passenger or who hides in the booth of the car. Also beware of fraudsters and scammers who offer fake employment opportunities to job seekers. As an expatriate try not to visit unknown locations in the city alone, ensure you have a trusted guide who knows the city well. Hot spots in Abuja to look out for include; link bridge after central mosques in the evenings – some hoodlums attack and rob motorists in their car when they approach a speed bump – isolated areas with little or no lightings are also places to look out for. In Lagos, armed robbery is also the most common crime and it takes many forms including one chance, residential break-ins and on rare occasions bank robberies. The police however in both Lagos and Abuja are doing well despite the logistical and operational challenges they’re faced with as they respond appropriately to distress calls at least in key areas within both cities.
National Significance of both Abuja and Lagos to Nigeria
Lagos is to Nigeria what New York, Los Angeles, the state of California and Silicon Valley is to America. It is the financial, entertainment, technology capital as well as economic powerhouse of Nigeria. Abuja is what Washington DC is to America. It is the seat of Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers of Nigeria. All economic policies affecting business transactions in the country are made in Abuja and Lagos has to deal with that.
Key Landmarks in Abuja and Lagos
In Abuja we have the Aso Rock which is a mighty 300 meter tall rock very close to the presidential palace. Of course for security reasons is off limits to visitors and tourists. There is the three arms zone where the national assembly building, – parliament building – the supreme court of Nigeria and the presidential palace all share boundaries just opposite the Federal Secretariat and Eagle Square. The Next Cash and Carry Supermarket in Jahi district and the soon to be open Jabi Lake Mall in Jabi district are landmarks for shoppers in Abuja to note. Wuse 2 is Abuja’s shopping and entertainment spot as you have most of the Cities top boutiques, eateries, night clubs and lifestyle shops in the area. Lagos has the popular National Arts Theater in Iganmu – the part of the lagoon around this area doesn’t smell nice – there is also the Silverbird Galleria, Ikeja Shopping Mall and the Palms Shopping Mall if you want to see movies or do some serious shopping in Lagos in Victoria Island, Alausa and lekki respectively. If you ever want to visit the beach please go to Oniru beach or Takwa bay as they are privately managed, you may not be safe using other beaches for now.
While this guide may not be an exhaustive comparison it can be quite helpful if you are an intending visitor, tourist or investor to Nigeria on a first time visit. Nigeria is largely peaceful and secure but it pays to apply common sense and caution when dealing with people you don’t know no matter how nice and friendly they may act towards you.