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Over the last four decades, the world has experienced a phenomenal growth in the rate of urbanization both in developed and developing countries. The United Nations (1993) estimates showed that by mid-1990, 43 percent (2.3 billion) of the world's population lived in urban areas. In addition, the United Nations projections further showed that by 2025, more than three-fifth of the world's population would live in urban areas, 77 percent of which would be in developing countries.

Similarly, Jenks (2000) estimates show that for every one person now living in cities in developed countries, there are two in the cities of the developing countries, and by projection, it is expected that in the next 30 years this ratio will rise to I in 4, indicating that 90% of the growth in urban population will be taking place in developing countries.

In the African context, Nigeria is remarkable for its high percentage of urbanization. For the periods that figures are available, the annual rates of urbanization in Nigeria were 4.9%, 5.13%, and 6% in 1965-1970, 1970-1975 and 1975-1980 respectively. These periods coincided, incidentally, with the period of the oil boom and expansion in public expenditure as well as the period when the idea of relocating the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja was conceived and subsequently implemented. Today, Abuja is contesting with Lagos as the fastest growing city in Nigeria. One of the consequences of the unprecedented increase of urban population is an exceptionally high demand for housing which puts a great pressure on land. A United Nations study on land use in urban areas of developing countries underscored this problem when it observed that:

The demand for urban land is growing, yet the supply is both genuinely and artificially limited. This situation radically increases land costs and, in turn, consumes scarce investment capital better used elsewhere. It also irrationally distorts patterns of urban growth and development. This latter fact leads directly to a third round of undesirable consequences; as the urban infrastructure becomes more costly and inefficient, and institutions and facilities fail to provide adequate services to their populations, urban social and economic imbalances and injustices are intensified, the quality of the total urban environment erodes and it becomes difficult to harmonize man's activities with the components of the natural environment (United Nations, 1975: 4).

Thus, the pressure on urban land arising from rapid urban population growth in a situation where there is limited supply of serviced land, poses many problems, especially when there are competing uses for the land. Where the supply of serviced land for urban uses cannot meet increasing demand, the tendency is often the indiscriminate conversion of lands meant for other uses, especially for agriculture and environmental protection at the periphery of the city's built-up area to uses that are at variance with the conceptual plans of such towns and cities.  The implication of the reality of limited supply of serviced lands for urban uses in the face of ever-increasing demand for such land is the emergence of land speculation at the peri-urban locations which drives up land prices in these locations.

Furthermore, the high cost of land in urban centres plus the imposition of regulatory standards make it difficult for the poor who are in the majority to afford even the conventional types of dwelling units. The efforts of the poor to provide shelter for themselves results in the phenomenon of squalid squatter settlements which have become a distinctive feature of the margins of cities in developing countries.


Generally speaking, the idea of creating or relocating capital cities is not new. What may be new is the approach to the development of such new capital cities. The historical geography of capital cities is replete with visions and actual construction of new capital cities in many countries. To mention just a few examples, the United States of America moved her capital to Washington D.C. in 1800; Canada designated Ottawa as her new capital in 1857; Canberra also became the new capital of Australia in 1913 while Brazil moved her capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia in 1956. Others are Dodoma which replaced Dar es Salam as Tanzania's new capital in 1974; Malawi also designated Lilongwe as her new capital city replacing Blantyre in 1965; while Pakistan created Islamabad to replace Karachi and Cote d' Ivoire relocated her capital city from Abidjan to Yamoussoukoro.

One of the characteristic features common to most of the relocated capital cities is that the approach and process of their development which started on a modest scale and progressed on a cautious but steady pace. Vagele (1976) for instance, shows that having designated Washington D.C. as the new capital of United States in 1800, it took 50 years to attain a population of 50,000, and that it was not until the end of World War II that it became a reasonably sophisticated and a cosmopolitan city.

Similarly, the population of Canberra in Australia grew from 12,000 to a little over 15,000 between 1940 and 1947. According to Vagale (ibid) Canberra's growth in population was deliberately slow as it took 50 years to attain 42,000 inhabitants after the influx and increase in population began. It was also shown that due to poor economic circumstances in 1929, the development of Canberra was suspended and work resumed years later after there was a review of its master plan.

According to Leary (1970), the planning and development of Ottawa in Canada was based on the "idea of gradual adoption of definite objectives" determined by circumstances of necessity and finances. Islamabad in Pakistan also shares the characteristic feature of gradual, open-ended, and leisurely approach of its development. In aggregate terms, this points to and emphasizes the fact that the development approach of these capital cities was not only gradual but also flexible as time progressed and conditions changed.

The decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria to relocate the Federal Capital of the country from Lagos to Abuja in 1976 is considered one of the boldest and largest land use policies ever formulated since independence in 1960 (Ologe, 1992). According to the 1978 Abuja Master Plan, in order to achieve a gradual, orderly, and coordinated development, the capital city was to be developed in four phases from 1980 to 2000.

A major consequence of this rapid development of the new federal capital city is population explosion. The rapid growth rate of the population of Abuja derives from six sources. The first is the large number of civil servants and their dependants who had to move from Lagos to Abuja. The second are the artisans and labourers who are in the town to participate in the boom in the construction industry. The third source of population influx is the political class and their dependants in the national assembly. The fourth source consists of young graduates looking for work. The fifth source is the large group of small-scale producers, service providers and traders to meet the diverse needs of the other groups. The sixth and last source consists of migrants from the northern and north-central geo-political zones where recent civil and ethnic crises resulted in insecurity of lives and properties forcing Nigerians of southern states origin to relocate from Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Zaria, Sokoto and Jos to Abuja that is considered a safe and secured haven for habitation. In addition, the effects of the decline, stagnation or slow growth of other large towns in Nigeria, in sharp contrast to the concentration of wealth in Abuja, has become a relatively strong pull factor towards the town, resulting in rapid increase in population. This rapid growth of the population of Abuja arising from these sources has meant a very high demand for urban housing, especially residential housing, for the low income group which forms the majority of those who are moving to the city.

The approach to housing provision in Abuja was to rely on the private sector to build, sell or rent housing of all sorts to individuals and organizations while the Federal Government was to concentrate on public facilities and residential quarters for civil servants. Not only has the government been unable to meet the residential housing demand of its civil servants, the private sector has also failed to deliver affordable residential housing to the poor, including civil servants, who are in the majority in Abuja.

Faced with this choice less situation in the built-up area of the Federal Capital City (FCC), that is, Phase 1, the poor have been trooping to the rural areas of the territory in search of affordable accommodation. There is no doubt that this movement would generate significant effects on the use of land in the rural areas of the FCT where developers and accommodation seekers are moving. The effect of urban growth and housing problems in Abuja is the central problem of this research.


The aim of the study is to examine urban growth and housing problems in Nigeria, the effects of urban residential housing demand in Abuja (FCT) on rural lands and livelihood activities of the people in the rural areas of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with a view to generating a data base for developing informed and appropriate policies for coping with the changes being induced in the region.

This aim will be achieved through the following specific objectives:

(i)      To examine the general land use plan for the whole of FCT with a view to identify and quantify which area have been set aside for urban development, agriculture and environmental protection (green belt)

(ii)     To identity the trend in residential housing demand and supply situations in Abuja

(iii)    To identify the areas in the FCT into which people are moving to find affordable land and housing in Abuja


In specific terms, this study seeks answers to the following questions:

(i)      What is the general land use plan for the whole of the FCT, in other words, which areas have been set aside for urban development and which areas are to remain rural and largely agricultural, and what is the sequence in the master plan for their development?

(ii)     What is the demand and supply situation of housing in Abuja, especially residential housing?

(iii)    Which areas of the FCT is providing vent for the pressure of housing in Abuja?


Housing is a broad concept encompassing the structures that comprise the living and working habitats of people. Thus, housing as a concept covers building artefacts for residential, industrial, commercial, recreational, educational, health, administrative and other uses. This study however, focuses on the residential dimension of housing, especially for medium and low income people, because it appears to be the one most in demand in Abuja right now. In terms of spatial scope, the study covers Bwari Area Council, one of the six Area Councils in the FCT where the intensity of housing demand is very high. What effects does the invasion of rural areas of the FCT by those seeking more affordable land for housing have on the use of land and livelihood activities in these rural areas?


This study is focused on examining the effect of urban growth and housing problems in Abuja in general and in the new federal capital, Abuja, in particular. This is a departure from most previous studies that have focused on such aspects as resettlement, housing problems, population growth, etc. within specific settlement without specifically considering the effects of these variables on the hinterlands of the urban centres concerned.

The present study intends to extend our understanding of rural-urban relationships in a developing society like Nigeria. The findings of the study would be of importance to urban policy makers both in the public and private sectors. Administrators in charge of development control and regulation of land in the rural urban fringe would find the information generated in this study useful in the process of planning, development and management of land in the FCT in particular and other new towns located within a prosperous agricultural territory in general.

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