In pictures: The lifeguards of Lagos

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Stephen Boboly on lifeguard chair on Landmark Beach, Lagos, Nigeria

A new beach has opened to the public in Nigeria's main city of Lagos. What marks this beach out as special is that it has paid lifeguards who watch over the Atlantic Ocean.

In the past three weeks, Stephen Boboly has saved several people from the rough waves on Landmark beach, he says.

"The happiness is rescuing people so they do not die. I am always happy because they come back to greet us and show appreciation," he tells the BBC.

The 50-year-old is from a family of fishermen, so he has grown up with respect for the strong tides around Lagos.

Many beaches in Lagos are privately owned - and this one in the upmarket area of Victoria Island charges 2,000 naira ($5.50; £4) a day for the privilege of swimming there.

Some are happy to pay as it means that the beach is clean and cleared of the plastic bottles and other rubbish that litter other beaches.

The fee also enables the management to pay for the three lifeguards, their uniforms and some lifebuoy rings.

One of them is always on duty during the weekdays and all three over weekends when the beach gets busy.

The three lifeguards all gratefully accepted the job at Landmark without knowing what their salary would be - although the beach management told the BBC it would be worth their while.

So three weeks into the job, Mr Boboly fishes early each weekday morning between 01:00 and 03:00 so he can make some money to send to his family.

His colleague Nicholas Paul also started out as a fisherman, but he decided to become a lifeguard seven years ago.

The 60-year-old says he would sometimes see dead bodies washed up on to beaches when he and the other fishermen came back with their catches - so he decided to become a volunteer lifeguard for his community's coastline.

Like most lifeguards in Lagos, he made ends meet from the donations he received from those he helped and others in the community.

He then set up an association of volunteer lifeguards along four beaches so that they could help each other if someone got into difficulty and was swept towards another beach.

Mr Paul, who supervises the other lifeguards on Landmark Beach, says they play such an important role because "Nigeria's swimming culture is not good".

"Nigerians don't know how to swim but if you tell them to come out of the water, they will argue. I must monitor them from start to finish," he explains.

The former fisherman was given his job by Landmark Beach's management after his recent rescue of three Indian men who had got into difficulty.

He says it would be good if the lifeguards were given better equipment - such as an emergency speedboat or bike, especially to rescue those who fall off water bikes in deeper water.

Mr Paul has his own fishing boat that he uses for such rescues, but it is not always fast enough to reach people when they get into trouble.

On neighbouring Oniru beach, volunteer lifeguard Samuel Omohon says he learnt to swim in Sapele in the mighty Benin River of the Niger Delta when he was growing up.

He came to Lagos as a teenager and has been working on beaches in the city ever since.

"When I came to the beach, there was nobody to assist so I volunteered. People know me here as 'Papapa'," the 65-year-old says.

"Anyone I save, I know they will give me something."

But surviving on such handouts from those he has saved from drowning is difficult and he has been unable to provide accommodation for his family over the years.

"My two children - someone is taking care of them for me," he says.

Yet he has a close relationship with them and adds proudly that he has taught his son how to swim and he is now a lifeguard at a private beach a few miles further along the coast.

Mr Omohon has a photo album of those he has met and rescued over the decades and says his childhood injury, when his hands were burnt by hot oil, does not hinder him in his job.

He is able to grab someone with his hands and then hoist them out of the water with their back against his chest.

"I love to save people."

He too belongs to Mr Paul's lifeguard association, which hopes that other beach managers in Lagos will opt to pay a salary to those who save the lives of others.

Pictures by BBC's Grace Ekpu

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