If you’ve been to Lagos, Nigeria, Shitta is one place you are sure to have heard of but only a few people know the story behind the name.
Mohammed Shitta Bey was a Sierra-Leone born Nigerian businessman and philanthropist who was a leader of the Muslim community. His father was named Salu and he was also a Muslim leader in Sierra-Leone.
Some key Lagos personalities at the Opening of the Shitta Mosque- Lagos, 1894
Seated- On Left: Oyekan I (Oba of Lagos)On Right: Edward Wilmot Blyden(Pan-Africanist)
Standing- 2nd From left: John Otunba-Payne(Registrar Supreme Court), 1st From Right: Richard Beale Blaize(Businessman & Newspaper proprietor) 2nd From Right J.S. Adelabu Leigh(Consul)3rd from Right: Hon. J.P.L Davies(Mariner, Businessman & Philanthropist), 4th from Right Mohammed Shitta-Bey aka 'Olowo Pupa'(Businessman & Philanthropist)
He was born in 1824 and moved to Nigeria with his parents in 1844 alongside other Yoruba speaking peoples of Sierra-Leone. They originally settled at Badagry where Salu was made imam of the Badagry Muslim community.
After his father’s death in 1847, Shitta moved to the Lagos colony where he later began commerce in 1861 from where he later moved to Delta to become an agent for Miller Bros. a few years later.
He returned to Lagos in 1885 where he built a mosque which was opened in 1894. The opening ceremony was attended by notable people such as Edward Blyden. He had also contributed financially in 1873 to the erection of the Lagos Central Mosque earlier.
Later in his life, he was honoured with the tile of Seriki Musulumi (Head of Muslims) of Lagos and was an important political leader of the Muslim community. He also had a good relationship with Oba Akintoye and Dosunmu and supported various Islamic causes including the erection of mosques beyond Lagos specifically at Otta, the use of Sharia as a guiding law for Muslims and the establishment of a Muslim school in Lagos.
He was awarded the title of ‘Bey’ by the Ottoman Sultan of Turkey and he and his children became known by the compound name Shitta-Bey. The tradition has survived till this day.