History: How ABUJA Came To Be The Federal Capital Territory

The States (Creation and Transitional Provisions) Act No. 14 of 1967 dividing Nigeria into twelve states had Lagos doubling as the Federal Capital and the Capital of Lagos State.

This dual role understandably heightened the pressure on the infrastructural facilities that existed then. And the pressure was manifested in various economic and social ills among which are: over population, high cost of living, particularly rents, traffic congestion, existence of slums, high mortality rate, delinquency and drug abuse.

The reaction of the majority of the population to these social ills which persisted in spite of vigorous attempts to combat them by both the former Federal Military Government and Lagos State Government, put into sharp focus the need to review the position of Lagos as the Federal Capital.

The Federal Government of Nigeria therefore decided to create a new capital city; due to the non-functionality of Lagos as the Federal Capital city. Consequently on August 9, 1975 a Panel was set up under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Mr. Justice T.A. Aguda to advise on the location of the Federal Capital with the following Terms of Reference:-

a. “To examine the dual role of Lagos as a Federal and State Capital and advise on the desirability or otherwise of Lagos retaining that role.”
b. “In the event the Committee finds that the Federal Capital should move out of Lagos, to recommend a suitable alternative location with regards to the need for easy accessibility to and from every part of the Federation.”
The Panel undertook a working tour of some world Capitals particularly very recent ones then with a view to gathering useful information and data that would assist them in their work. They also toured the country extensively and received memoranda from interested individuals/organisations as well as from the then 12 State Governments of the Federation.

On December 20, 1975, the Panel submitted its report to the Federal Military Government, headed by Gen. Murtala Ramat Mohammed. It concluded that Lagos was incapable of playing the dual role of being the Federal and Lagos State Capital in view of its overwhelming problems particularly inadequate land space for meaningful development commensurate with its status as the capital of Nigeria. The total land space in Lagos was estimated at 67.12 sq.km. and this was considered grossly inadequate for the use of the Federal Capital City alone. It also highlighted other points that guided it in arriving at the recommendation that the Federal Capital of Nigeria should be moved out of Lagos and located in an area south of Suleja covering an area of 8,000 sq.km. The conlusion is that a centrally-located Federal Capital in a spacious area with easy access to all parts of the Federation would be an asset to the Nation and would help in generating a new sense of National Unity.

The recommendation of the Panel was accepted by the Federal Military Government and to give it a legal backing, Decree (Act) No. 6 of 1976 was promulgated thereby establishing the Federal Capital Development Authority which consists of a Chairman and eight other members.
Under the Act, the Authority was charged with the responsibility for:-
a. The choice of site for the location of the Capital City within the Capital Territory.
b. The preparation of a Master-plan for the use of land within the Capital City and the rest of the Capital Territory.
c. The provision of Public Services within the Capital Territory.
d. The establishment of infrastructural services in accordance with the Master-plan .
e. The co-ordination of the activities of the Ministries, departments and agencies of the Government of the Federation within the Capital Territory.

The present Suleja was formally known as Abuja, a sparsely populated town with a population of about 500,000 people; it was completely rural with little or no infrastructure until the enactment of Decree No. 6 of 1976.
Before the 1976 Decree, a committee (‘The Aguda Panel’)was commissioned to go round the country in search of a suitable location for the New Federal Capital with two major points of reference; a region that is sparsely populated and that is centrally located. And the region now known as Abuja met these requirements and hence became the recommended location for the New Federal Capital.

The acceptance of the recommendation of the committee, led to the enactment of Decree No. 6, of 1976, the Federal Capital Territory Act, and this became the blueprint for the re-location of the new Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja.
The town originally known as Abuja was later renamed Suleja, while the name “Abuja” was reserved for the capital-to-be.

In order to realise the objective of developing Abuja, the new Capital City, into a masterpiece on the African continent, the Federal Government established the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) as the sole agency vested with the responsibility of planning, designing and developing the city

Post Author: Isa Ozo

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