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How Abuja Emerged Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory



Abuja is situated in the center of Nigeria, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Abuja was largely constructed in the 1980s as a planned city based on a master plan by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange.

On December 12, 1991, it formally replaced Lagos as Nigeria’s capital, although Lagos is still the country’s most populated city. The population of Abuja was 776,298 at the time of the 2006 census, making it one of Nigeria’s ten most populated cities.

It’s no secret that Abuja has grown tremendously over the last several decades, resulting in the establishment of several satellite towns and smaller villages to which the planned city is expanding.

More than three million people are living in the unofficial metropolitan area of Abuja, which is Nigeria’s fourth-biggest urban region after Lagos, Kano, and Ibadan.
We’ll take a look at how Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, came to be in this post.

How Abuja Emerged Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory

Nigeria began discussing the possibility of relocating its capital away from Lagos. Congestion, pollution, and a lack of adequate infrastructure plagued Lagos. It was swelteringly hot and muggy outside.

Worse, it was located along the shore, making it vulnerable to assault. Brasilia was chosen as Brazil’s new capital because of this logic. However, the outcomes were different.

Abuja, a city carved out eight years earlier, became the country’s capital in December 1991, displacing Lagos as the country’s seat of government.

If Lagos had any resentment, it did not show it by filling the voids left by the departing diplomats and officials so quickly.

With an estimated population of 10 million, Lagos is Nigeria’s most populous metropolis and the commercial center of the country’s $510 billion economy: the country’s largest port complex, the bourse and banks, industrial estates, movie studios, and eCommerce start-ups.

Here is How it All Happened

During the 1970s energy crisis, Nigeria became wealthy due to the high price of oil, which fueled innovation throughout the country, including the construction of Alaska’s oil pipeline. This may have been a factor in the creation of the new capital of Abuja.

Because of this, Nigeria was able to start planning for new capital. Politics provided the immediate drive to develop. General Murtala R. Mohammed, the new head of state after the resignation of General Yakubu Gowon’s administration on July 29, 1975, convened a council to examine the possibility of transferring the capital.

In particular, the fate of Lagos, which at the time served as both a federal and a state government headquarters, was in doubt. The panel’s decision: relocate the federal capital.

Immediately after the Biafran civil war, Nigeria sought a central location where all tribes would be equitably represented. Good climate, an abundance of land, and enough water were all requirements for the chosen location.

Among the 33 prospective locations, Abuja was chosen. All of these characteristics were taken into consideration in the selection process: centrality; healthy climate; land availability; water supply; multi-accessibilities; multi-resources; drainage; and decent soil.

Mohammed broadcasted this information in 1976.

Neither the country’s two largest ethnic groups have authority over the region. In our opinion, a new capital city built on such pristine territory would serve as a symbol of Nigerian unity and oneness. “All Nigerians will have access to the Federal Territory.”

The dangers of land speculation, he warned, were obvious.

All land in the Federal Territory is to be vested in the Federal Government as soon as possible to prevent speculation in the region.

A new age of “justice, peace, and unity” was declared by General Mohammed to conclude his speech.

He was killed only a week later. However, he had a vision that came true.

International Planning Associates (IPA), a collaboration of businesses, won a competition. There was a lot of planning involved. Instead of following a grid pattern as in Islamabad or Brasil, the designers took use of the land’s natural curves to imagine more organic streets and communities.

An area for government and cultural institutions, as well as an area for residential and retail, was designated. Water supplies, schools, health facilities, and public transportation were all part of the government’s infrastructure.

In 1980, construction started. With a population of only 15,000 at the time, water and telephone infrastructure were in place that could handle a million people. In 1988, a university was established. The location was a huge success.

People arrived in Abuja at a rate that outpaced the construction of new dwellings. Even water that was previously considered abundant became limited, leading to the construction of dams to store the water and generate energy. In the Mbora District, private developers were encouraged to construct.

President Obasanjo declared universal primary education a national priority, and as a result, 285 public primary schools, 80 private primary schools, and 65 secondary schools were created. 300 physicians relocated to Abuja, where several hospitals had been erected. It was decided that the city’s new slogan will be “Center of Unity.”

So, the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja was created, with a considerably smaller Federal Capital City as “a symbol of Nigeria’s ambitions for unity and glory.” Thus, Abuja in Niger State supplied 80% of the territory’s land, Plateau State (now Nassarawa State) gave 16% of the South East territory, and Kwara State (now Kogi State) contributed 4% of the South West territory.

Abuja’s ancient old town was formerly home to natives who were displaced when the city was renamed the Federal Capital Territory (FTC). Moving options were investigated by committees. Households, as well as religious institutions like mosques and churches, were compensated following Decree No. 6 of 1979.

There are around 50% Muslims in Abuja, whereas there are about 40% Christians in the city as a whole. One million naira was agreed to for the relocation of houses of worship and people in the states of Niger, Plateau, and Kwara on October 10, 1977. People, on the other hand, were sluggish to respond.

The order designating Abuja as Nigeria’s federal capital was signed into law on February 4th, 1976. The capital wouldn’t be shifted for another 15 years.

Following the failed coup attempt in 1990, President Ibrahim Babangida decided to move the capital of Nigeria from Lagos, which was overrun by smugglers and drug smugglers, to the more secure capital of Abuja.

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