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Friday, May 6, 2011

Abuja, the Beautiful Capital City

A view of Abuja city
A view of Abuja city


Abuja was selected as the new capital of Nigeria when it was obvious that population pressures, political and ethnic divisions necessitated a move from Lagos.

On February 4, 1976, a decree was signed establishing the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja and setting up the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), the organisation charged with the task of developing the new capital.

Physically located in the centre of the country and viewed as neutral both ethnically and religiously, it is where culture and religion meet. The vehicle license plate for the FCT reads "Centre of Unity" a constant reminder that Abuja was selected in the hope of creating a united central city.

The FCT has borders on the north with Kaduna State, on the south-east with Nassarawa State, on the south-west by Kogi State and on the west by Niger state.

The 1979 master plan called for Abuja to be developed in four phases. It estimated a population of about 3 million by the year 2010 and a maximum population of 4million well into the 21st century. Nearly the entire Phase 1 development has been completed and it includes the following: the Central Business District, the Three Arms Zone (Presidency, National Assembly and Supreme Court) as well as the Maitama, Wuse, Garki and Asokoro residential and business districts.

Most of the diplomatic missions relocated to Abuja from Lagos; with some using temporary buildings and residences while their permanent structures were being built.

Unfortunately, due to rapid population growth, some of the initial facilities are over stretched. The government is aware of this challenge and is working to rectify the situation. The main source of water is the Usman Dam. And both international and domestic flights arrive via the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

As a new capital, Abuja had the advantage of being well-planned over many capital cities. Visitors and arriving residents are greeted by wide, well-designed and maintained roads and clean streets. Abuja also has excellent access to the wider road network to the rest of the country. It is built on a pre-Cambrian basement (granite) rock complex of distinctive domes and hills, the most striking of which is called Aso Rock.

The impressive Aso Rock rises majestically over the city's central government district. The diverse architecture of the city is reflected in notable sites like the National Mosque, the National Christian Centre and the National Stadium. Daily markets throughout the city offer everything from pottery to local fruits and beads.


Abuja National Stadium is an all-seater national sports stadium. The Federal Government of Nigeria approved the contract for the construction of the National Stadium complex and Games Village on July 18th 2000. The stadium was constructed to host the 8th All Africa Games which took place in October 2003.

The stadium's main bowl is designed to accommodate 60,000 spectator seats covered by a lightweight roof construction. The main characteristics are the two overlapping spectator tiers; the lower tier accommodating 32,000 seats and the upper tier 28,000 seats. The lower tier also incorporates 56 corporate suites with viewing terraces and one presidential lounge for 50 guests. All functional and secondary areas are accommodated in the entrance building which provides a gross floor area of approximately 25,000 m². This building is arranged below the concourse level which serves as the spectators‘ distribution level and therefore provides several kiosks, banks, first aid stations and toilet buildings. The structure of the stadium is a combination of insitu and precast concrete elements. There are 36 towers supporting the upper tier and the roof structure. These towers are founded on 140 bored piles with diameters of 1.30 m and 1.50 m in a depth of 8.00 m to 30.00


Abuja has several and some of the finest and best hotels in Africa.


Zuma Rock in Abuja
Zuma Rock in Abuja
The very character of Abuja has been shaped by the two renowned rock formations around it - the Zuma Rock and the Aso Rock.

The former is referred to as the ‘Gateway to Abuja' and the Federal Capital Territory begins at its base, where the state of Niger ends. It is also reported to be the exact geographical center of Nigeria. The Aso Rock is located at the head of Abuja and the city extends southwards from the rock

Zuma Rock
The imposing Zuma Rock, located a little off the main road that goes from Abuja to Kaduna, is definitely worth a visit. Several facilities and amenities to attract tourists are gradually coming up in the vicinity. It is close enough to Abuja to be covered in a day trip. Or it can be visited while traveling north.

Aso Rock
This is the largest rock formation in close proximity to Abuja City. The main axis of the Central District, it rises to nearly 400 meters above sea level and towers majestically in the background of the Three Arms Zone – so named because it is home to the Presidential Complex, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court.

The term ‘Aso' means victory in the local language, and the local people are called “Asokoro” or the people of victory. The original village of Asokoro was first located at the base of the rock and had existed there for centuries. But the development of the new city resulted in the villagers being resettled initially in Suleja and subsequently in Kubwa District. The village area is now part of Asokoro district of the FCT.

Minister's Hill
This range of hills is strategically located just beyond the outskirts of Maitama District, and the panoramic view from the top covers the whole Maitama District.
The Dutse range is a little further away, slightly off the Bwari road and just off Keffi-Suleja expressway. This area is a sanctuary for several forms of wild life, the most notable among them being the baboons.

Another interesting attraction is the Abuja Plant Nursery at the foot of Aso Rock. This botanical garden has an amazing collection of species of flowers, fruits, trees and many other plants.

National Arboretum
This consists of a restricted fenced in area of one hundred hectares of land, where visitors need special passes to enter. The purpose of the Arboretum, which is located in the Three Arms Zone, is to maintain the forest and other plant life within it in their original natural condition.

Another view of the beautiful city
Another view of the beautiful city
The land now called Abuja was originally the south-western part of the ancient Habe (Hausa) kingdom of Zazzau (Zaria).
It was populated for centuries by several semi-independent tribes. The largest of the tribes was Gbagyi (Gwari), followed by the Koro and a few other smaller tribes. In early 1800s when Zaria fell to Fulani invaders, Muhammed Makau, fled south with some followers and his brothers- Abu Ja and Kwaka. Abu Ja succeeded Makau in 1825.

The full name of the king was Abubakar; Abu was his nickname. By some accounts his fair complexion earned him the nickname which means 'fair-skinned' in Hausa. He became known as Abu-Ja, meaning Abu the red or Abubakar the fair one. Other sources say that the Abu Ja is a shortened form of Ishaku Jatau, his father's name.King Abubakar founded the kingdom of Abuja.

Abuja became a major commercial centre where goods were exchanged by long distance traders. The inhabitants successfully fought off the Fulani and were not conquered as the neighbouring lands. In 1902, Abuja was occupied by the British colonial army. The British reorganised the kingdoms and called them emirates which means kingdoms in Arabic. Until 1975, it remained a quiet part of Nigeria.

The population problems associated with the capital being in Lagos, led to the search for a new capital that year. Abuja was selected from amongst 33 possible sites. The criteria used for selection included: centrality, healthy climate, land availability and use, water supply, multi-access possibilities, security , existence of resources, drainage, good soil, physical planning convenience and ethnic accord.

The Emir of Abuja at the time, Altai Suleiman Bara, was asked to meet with his Emirate Council to approve contributing four of the five districts to Abuja to become the new capital. The council was divided as some districts considered it too much of a sacrifice; but at the end, they approved the request from the Federal Government.

Thus, the Abuja in Niger State contributed 80% of the land of the territory, Plateau State (now Nassarawa State) contributed 16 percent of the South east territory and Kwara State (now Kogi State) contributed about four percent of the south-west territory.The Emirate was then asked to give up the Abuja for the Federal Capital Territory. Again the council was divided. In the end, they agreed believing that the name of the emirate would become famous throughout the world.

Panoramic view of Abuja
Panoramic view of Abuja
Another interesting historical fact is that in the Gbagyi (or Gwan) language, the word Aso means success or victory. According to tradition, the original inhabitants of the region lived at the base of the rock for centuries without being conquered. The rock was a refuge as well as a mystical source of strength. Asoro (Aso Koro) the name of the one of the local areas, therefore, means people of victory. In addition, the term Aso Rock is increasingly being used to refer not only to the physical structure of the most imposing rock in the area, but also as a symbol of government power and a nation.

Abuja FCT Administration
There are six Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory, each subdivided into wards headed by local councils. The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory is the overall leader and is appointed by the President of Nigeria

The Three Arms Zone
The Three Arms Zone or TAZ is fashioned after Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. where the U. S Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House are within a short distance of each other. In Abuja, the TAZ consists of the presidential Villa, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, all surrounded by a ring road.

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