Posted by Eric Aghadiuno on 2/12/2003 10:21:46 AM


Historical Development: Changing a nation's capital to a new place is an issue that is considered as part of an evolutionary

Gurara River Landscape
Gurara River Landscape

life of a nation. Countries like Brazil, Australia and Cote D'lvoire have, for instance, thought it necessary to have their capitals shifted to Brasilia. Canberra and Yamoussoukuro respectively, in order to address the apparent inadequacies of the traditional capital cities of the respective countries.

In Nigeria, many had for long observed that Lagos as a federal capital suffered several drawbacks which made its continued existence as Nigeria's capital untenable (NIBC, 1998). Reasons for this include: inadequate land for expansion, urban crises, lack of proper cosmopolitan orientation, lack of locational centrality and urban congestion. It was however, only in 1975 that the Federal Government thought it timely enough to initiate a process towards finding a lasting solution to these problems.

Aso Rock and associated Inselbergs
Aso Rock and associated Inselbergs

Precisely on 9th August, 1975, the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, set up a panel to examine the issue of a new federal capital for Nigeria. The seven man panel (Dr. Akinola Aguda, Chairman; Chief E. E. Nsefik, Secretary; Dr. Tai Solarin, Professor 0. K. Ogan, Colonel M. P.Professor A. Gandonu, Members) that was set up after collecting memoranda and extensive deliberations, submitted a unanimous recommendation to the Government for siting the new federal capital at Abuja. Less than two months after its submission, the Panel's recommendation was accepted by the Federal Government, formally accepting Abuja as the new Federal Capital.

However, in order to avoid confusion since this name was already being borne s Government renamed the latter town/emirate as Suleja. On 3rd February 1976, General Mohammed made a historic national broadcast on the issue and on 5th February, 1976, Decree No. 6 of 1976 was promulgated by the Federal Government establishing the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). The Decree charged the FCDA with the responsibility for planning, designing and developing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Presidential Villa
Presidential Villa

The decree a went ahead to vest the ownership, control and governance of the territory in the hands of the Federal a Government. From that period, construction of the new federal capital began in earnest and since then successive administrations have placed very hiqh priority on making Abuja a reality. In fact, Alhaji Shehu Shagari who ruled the country from 1979 to 1983, made this a fundamental component of his campaign promises, which he however did not fulfil.

It was General lbrahim Babangida, Nigeria's President from 1985 to 1993, that formally and finally moved the seat of Government from Lagos to Abuja on 12th December 1991. Abuja (FCT) covers an area of 8,000 sq. km. This makes it more than twice the area of Lagos State. According to the Aguda panel, this vast area was considered necessary in order to allow room not just for the capital city but also for a city region that will provide most of the needs of the city, including water, forestry, industrial, agricultural, open spaces, defence, air transport and other needs.

As at now, the Federal Capital City (FCC) is planned to cover an area of about 250 sq. kms, while the rest of the Territory of the city region covers about 7,750 sq. kms. The entire Territory itself was carved out from three states, namely, Niger State which contributed seventynine percent of the land area and seventyone percent of the indigenous population, Nassarawa State which contributed sixteen percent and twentyone percent respectively, and Kogi State which made a contribution of five percent and eight percent respectively. Until the creation of the FCT, the area was among the least developed in the country, lacking any form of developmental amenity and infra structure. Things are now changing at a pace hardly matched by any other part of the country.

Administrative Areas: During the precolonial period, the various ethnic groups in the area which now forms the FCT were administered as autonomous kingdoms in their various locations. Such kingdoms had some diverse interethnic, political and economic relations. Such external influences as slave trade, the jihad and colonial administration changed the pattern and structure of this indigenous administration.

With the coming of the colonial administration, administrative heads were created for the various units. Under this set up, commonly referred to as the Native Authority (NA) system, emirates were established with emirs and chiefs as heads of the various administrative units that were designated as emirates. These units were further broken into districts, headed by district heads. Prior to 1996, the FCT had four area councils, namely Abaji, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Municipal. In 1996, two more area councils were created, namely Kwali (from Gwagwalada) and Bwari (from Municipal area Council). Each area council is now headed by an elected Executive Chairman.