The Capital of Nigeria

The capital of Nigeria used to be Lagos, but what is it today?

And the answer: Abuja.

Photo credit: Patrick Diallo. 

During the 1980s, the city of Abuja was built from scratch and, in 1991, it replaced Lagos as Nigeria's capital. The land where Abuja sits is more centrally located, and seen as a more neutral region for Nigeria's many ethnic and religious groups.

While nation capitals are often located on the ground chosen by their founding fathers or on a site of traditional significance, Nigerians elected a new path: create and centralize a capital that will better serve their needs as a nation. From 1980-on, Nigerians worked to create a new capital in Abuja, building the city from a plot of land. The site was chosen for its centrality, low population density, and ideal climate.

As the most populous city in sub-Saharan Africa, Lagos is known for incredible congestion. Further, Lagos is dominated by one primary ethnic group called The Yoruba, making it difficult to lay claims to neutrality and leading to inter-group conflict. Ethnic group alignment is a significant factor for unrest in Nigeria – in fact, between 1967 and 1970, Nigeria was wracked by the Biafran war, when the Igbos sought to secede from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Abuja is designed to handle heavy traffic (as it was built with wider streets), and its neutral location was designed to accommodate most all ethnic groups. It is also far safer in the center of the nation – port capitals are often more subject to sieges by sea from neighboring countries. Today, Abuja is fondly referred to as the "Center of Unity."

Check out this site for a taste of cuisine in Nigeria’s capital city.


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