Abuja, officially Abuja Municipal Area Council or AMAC, is the capital city of Nigeria. It is located in the centre of Nigeria in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Abuja is a planned city, as it was mainly built in the 1980s and officially became Nigeria’s capital on 12 December 1991, replacing the role of the previous capital Lagos. As of the 2006 census, the Federal Capital Territory has a population of 778,567.
Abuja’s geography is defined by Aso Rock, a 400-metre monolith left by water erosion. The Presidential Complex, National Assembly, Supreme Court and much of the town extend to the south of the rock. Other sights include the Nigerian National Mosque and the Nigerian National Christian Centre. The city is served by the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, while Zuma Rock lies nearby. Abuja is known for being the best purpose-built city in Africa as well as being one of the wealthiest and most expensive.
In light of the ethnic and religious divisions of Nigeria, plans had been devised since Nigeria’s independence to have its capital in a location deemed neutral to all parties. The location was eventually designated in the centre of the country in the early 1970s as it signified neutrality and national unity. Another impetus for Abuja came because of Lagos’s population boom, that made that city overcrowded and conditions squalid. The logic used was similar to Brazil building its capital Brasília. Construction broke ground and was dedicated in the late 1970s, but due to economic and political instability, the city in its initial stages was not complete until the late 1980s.
The master plan for Abuja and the Federal Capital Territory was developed by IPA (International Planning Associates), a consortium made up of three American firms: PRC Corporation; Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd; and, Archisystems, which was a division of the Hughes Organization. The master plan for Abuja defined the general shape and major design elements of the city, however a refinement of this design was accomplished by Kenzo Tange, a renowned Japanese architect, along with his team of city planners at Kenzo Tange and Urtec company.
Most countries moved their embassies to Abuja and maintain their larger former embassies as consulates in the commercial capital, Lagos. In addition to a major governmental centre, Abuja is the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS. It also has the regional headquarters of OPEC. Abuja and the FCT have experienced a huge population growth; it has been reported that some areas around Abuja have been growing at 20 – 30%.
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