Africa Leaders Magazine

ABUJA – The Capital City of Africa’s Oil Nation

Abuja is located in the centre of Nigeria, within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Abuja is a planned city, and was built mainly in the 1980s. It officially became Nigeria’s capital on 12 December 1991, replacing Lagos, though the latter remains the country’s most populous city. At the 2006 census, the city of Abuja had a population of 776,298, making it one of the ten most populous cities in Nigeria.

ABUJA – The Capital City of Africa’s Oil Nation - African Leaders Magazine

Abuja has witnessed a huge influx of people into the city; the growth has led to the emergence of satellite towns such as Karu Urban Area, Suleja, Gwagwalada, Lugbe, Kuje and smaller settlements to which the planned city is sprawling. The unofficial metropolitan area of Abuja has a population of well over three million and comprises the fourth largest urban area in Nigeria, surpassed only by Lagos, Kano and Ibadan.

The presence of numerous governmental institutions, foreign embassies and its strategic location in the heart of the nation has led to significant investment in the city. This has resulted in Abuja ranking among the fastest growing cities globally.

With a total population well over 2.5 million, Abuja currently has the 4th biggest metropolitan population in Nigeria after Lagos, Kano and Ibadan.

English is the official language of the city however other major Nigerian languages such as Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are spoken. The city of Abuja is nicknamed “The Centre of Unity”.

Abuja is a beautifully planned cosmopolitan capital city with an extensive highway network, plenty of appealing green space, colourful nightlife and many restaurants. The culture of the city is formed by Nigeria’s many ethnic groups.

ABUJA – The Capital City of Africa’s Oil Nation - African Leaders Magazine

Bush bars or gardens are a prominent feature of the capital, these are informal open spaces where people meet-up to eat, drink and relax.

The city’s numerous open markets, like Wuse Market, present opportunities for purchasing anything from local delicacies to art & textiles. For more formal shopping the city offers many malls, such as Jabi Lake Mall, that stock various international products.

Being both the political and administrative centre of Nigeria, Abuja has an extensive hospitality sector: playing host to many international events year-round.

The Federal Capital Territory is surrounded by numerous grasslands and hills allowing for some truly stunning scenery in places. The Abuja skyline consists of mostly mid-sized buildings among a few high-rises.

The city boasts of impressive modern architecture, highlights include: National Mosque, National Christian Centre, Ship House (Ministry of Defence) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Headquarters.

ABUJA – The Capital City of Africa’s Oil Nation - African Leaders Magazine

Other major sites are Silverbird Cinemas, Jabi Lake, Millennium Park, Aso Rock, Zuma Rock, Arts & Crafts Village, National Assembly Complex and the National Stadium.

The climate in Abuja can best be described as tropical. The weather is mostly warm with bright sunny days being normal.

Summer is known as “rainy season” as there is significant rainfall while winter is known as “dry season” as there is a shortage of rain. In winter it is common to go for weeks without as much as a drizzle.

The city is served by the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, which has direct flights to numerous national and international destinations. Roads link the city to several other urban destinations in the country such as Kaduna, Minna, Jos and Keffi.

Both Uber and Taxify are in operation around the city. This has made it notably easier to get around the metropolis.

Abuja’s, recently commissioned, light rail transport system is the first in Nigeria and aims to ease the movement of people across the capital.

ABUJA – The Capital City of Africa’s Oil Nation - African Leaders Magazine


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.

ABUJA – The Capital City of Africa’s Oil Nation - African Leaders Magazine

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.

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.



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