- Ola SULE, ‘the Nigerian New Capital: From Lagos to Abuja’.
- 'Abuja, The Single Most Ambitious Urban Design Project of the 20th Century', Nnamdi Elleh, 2001
type of New Town:
> scale of autonomy
Abuja was chosen to become the new Federal Capital of Lagos in the mid-1970s. Its advantages over Lagos were easy accessibility, health and climate conditions, low population density, the possibility for future expansion, ethnic neutrality. To these reasons was also added Lagos congestion, density, crime rates, price level. However, the land necessary for development was inhabited by roughly 500,000 villagers in small communities. The costs associated with this scale of resettlement were unacceptable, and the impacts of sloppy resettlement policies have continued to plague the city.
Abuja was thought to create greater ethnic unity. The master plan for Abuja is a crescent shape that fans out from the city centre which contains the National Assembly, government offices, national institutions and commercial centre. The residential areas extend in two directions from the centre; they are linked to the centre by expressways. The surrounding area is hilly and thus prevents uncontrolled growth of the city. The capital is designed according to the concept of American' neighbourhoods'. The districts, sectors, and neighbourhoods are designed as optimum communities with maximum serviceability. It thus consists of spatially defined units which are serviced by facilities. This also goes for the 'psychosocial' aspects of the sectors, as they also have playgrounds, clubhouses, social halls attached to generate a community feeling.
Most of the buildings are modern, reflecting that it is a new city. Plans were made to build skyscrapers such as the Millennium Tower which looms 170 metres (560 ft) above the city and is part of a huge cultural development complex.
Each neighbourhood is meant to house 4.000–7.000 inhabitants and will be provided with market shops, post offices, clinics and schools. Three or more neighbourhoods will add up a district; these will provide cinema/theatre facilities, community centre, religious institutions. In order to avoid uncontrolled urban explosion, a series of satellite towns are being planned in close proximity to the capital. The territory on which both the capital and the satellite towns are being built is called The Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The basic idea behind Abuja is the 'garden city of tomorrow' with its well organised and spacious communities and with self-sustained economies where people live and work. However, inhabitants have been consulted very little in the urban development processes.
Abuja is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. The capital was designed for 1 million but currently houses about 6 million. Until 2003, Abuja did not grow according to the master plan, with civic leaders often turning a blind eye to illegal neighbourhoods and expansions. In 2003 political leaders decided to adhere closely to the masterplan, effectively rendering masses of the population illegal squatters. The struggle between a formalised urban environment and the rights of the urban poor remains one of the city's biggest challenges.