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Abuja population growth challenge (I)

Among the salient reasons for transferring the Federal Capital of the nation from Lagos to Abuja were the physical and environmental problems largely caused by…

Among the salient reasons for transferring the Federal Capital of the nation from Lagos to Abuja were the physical and environmental problems largely caused by the population increase beyond the existing physical capacity of Lagos city. It was also noted that the result of increased population was a serious over-crowding in slum areas and acute shortage of land, which had seriously impeded the transformation of Lagos into a modern capital city aspired by Nigeria.

Thus, Lagos as the capital of Nigeria was the largest sea port, the largest employment centre, the capital of Lagos State and the largest commercial and financial capital. In 1970, it had an estimated annual total population increase of 11 per cent, and in 1965 it had a concentration of about 32 per cent of the country’s total manufacturing plants, making it a characteristically primate city to its fullest. All these are functions that interfere with the normal efficiency of government.

Despite the transfer of the capital city from Lagos, its continuous growth was unabated, due to the fact that it had already developed its internal mechanism and attained its geographic inertia and shall continue its growth in spite of the removal of the initial function that triggered the growth. Coupled with the fact that when the new FCT was created the cities of Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Kaduna were accepted as special cities, more than sometimes in 2007 there was a proposal to send a bill to the National Assembly for Lagos to be a mega city.

It was observed that Lagos has grown beyond the capacity and capability of the state government, and that road transport alone cannot solve the transport needs of the city, thus rail services were needed to complement the needs of the urban mass transit system. Also, the growth of Lagos had adversely affected Ogun State, hence, the inclusion of the neighbouring Ogun State in the plan.

The past is studied in order to arrest the harbinger of the future. In order to arrest those problems that necessitated the transfer of the nation’s capital to a new location, among the development guidelines it gave to IPA to prepare the Abuja Master plan, the Federal Capital Development Authority suggested that the excess population growth would be accommodated in satellite towns. Also suggested was that the new Federal capital will be an administrative city and will not be oriented to developing broad economic base characteristics of the other large cities of Nigeria, or that would be typical of a primate city.

The Abuja Master Plan gave the ultimate population of the city as 3.1 million inhabitants when fully developed. The regional development plan for the FCT also gave a population projection of 2.6 million for the remaining parts of the territory. Thus, the expected population of the entire FCT was in the region of 5.7 million by the year 2000. We would only be deceiving ourselves that Abuja will be immune to developing those characteristics that made Lagos a primate city engulfing also Ogun State, which the mega city status is being considered.

In its regional context, the city of Abuja is a core in a central place structure, while the surrounding areas are peripheries; each peripheral town is a polarised region with its respective centre. The boundary of a polarised region is that line beyond which flows and connections are predominantly in some other directions, towards some other poles. It is thus irrespective of political boundaries. The suggestion that Abuja’s excess population is to be accommodated at the satellite towns was an attempt to prevent over crowding of the city, however, people’s choice and direction on where to reside is determined by other forces against the prescribed direction in the master plan.

Distance between the core and periphery in terms of time taken to traverse between them, cost of transportation, intervening opportunities, available infrastructure to support a large population, and cultural activities are all factors determining the choice of alternative location for accommodation by those centrifugally repulsed by Abuja City mostly due to high rental charges.

With the power and glamour associated with Abuja and high expectations on its residents, the unprecedented growth of the city and its regional areas, especially those outside the FCT like Suleja and New Karu shall continue, and attain the mega city status even faster than the period it took Lagos.

Meanwhile, the road transportation system is yet to be fully developed, and the existing services are already overstretched. Also, the metro railway to support the city mass transit system is not yet in place close to 50 years after the city’s establishment, rather the earmarked spaces for the city transportation terminals are continuously facing the threat of encroachments and personalisation.

To be continued.


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