Abuja was selected as the new capital of Nigeria when it was obvious that population pressures, political and ethic 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 south-east with Nassarawa State, on the south-west by Kogi State and on the west by Niger state.
As a new capital, Abuja has the advantage of being well-planned over many capital cities. Visitors and arriving residents will be 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 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. The Phase 1 area of the city is divided into five (5) districts. They are the Central, Asokoro, Garki, Wuse and Maitama. There are also five districts in Phase 2. They are Kado, Durumi, Gudu, Utako and Jabi. And the Phase 3 districts are Mabuchi, Katampe, Wuye and Gwarimpa. There are also five suburban districts, which are Gwagwalada, Kubwa, Nyanya, Karu and Jukwoyi. Along the Airport Road on the approach to Abuja City are satellite towns, namely Lugbe, Chika, Kuchigworo and Pyakassa. Other satellite towns are Idu (the main industrial zone), Mpape, Karimu, Gwagwa, Dei-Dei (housing the International Livestock market and also International Building materials market).
Most of the diplomatic missions have relocated to Abuja from Lagos; some are using temporary buildings and residences while their permanent structures are being built. The Gwarinpa District, where many of the construction companies’ “Life Camps” are located, has also been developed but lies outside the Phase 1 area. Construction service companies and enterprises continues at a fast pace in Abuja and new places open weekly Phase 2, under development currently, involves the integration of the surrounding Katampe, Mabushi, Utako, Wuye, Durumi, Gudu. Jabbi, Duste and Gaduwa areas into the city. Phase 3 and 4 have not yet been fully planned.
Unfortunately, due to rapid population growth, some of the initial facilities are now being over stretched. The government is aware of this challenge and is working to rectify the situation. The main source of water for Abuja is the Usman Dam. The digital telecommunications system is maintained by Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). There is also a number of privately owned satellite and mobile phone systems.
Abuja is the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. It also has the regional headquarters of OPEC.
Abuja City and the FCT have, and still is experiencing huge population growth; it has been reported that some areas around Abuja have been growing at 20 to 30% per year. There has been a prolific development of Squatter settlements and shanty towns on the city limits. Tens of thousands of people have been evicted since former FCT Minister Nasir El-Rufai started a campaign in 2003, aimed at bringing city development back in line with the original master plan.
Both international and domestic flights arrive at the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. .
The land now called Abuja was originally the south-western part of the ancient Habe (Hausa) kingdom of Zazzau (Zaria). It was populated fore 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 “Ja” which means “red” or “fair-skinned” in Hausa. He became known as “Abu-Ja” meaning Abu the red” or “Abubakar the fair one “other sources say that the “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 were.
In 1902, Abuja was occupied by the British colonial army. The British re organised the kingdoms and called them “emirates” which means “kingdoms” in Arabic. Until 1975, it remained a quiet part of Nigeria
The problems associated with the capital being in Lagos, as mentioned earlier, 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. The previous town of Abuja was renamed Suleja after the then Emir of Suleiman Barau and “Ja” the last syllable of the first emir’s name.
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 mystical source 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 words 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” 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.