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Friday, December 20, 2013

A Tourist's guide to Abuja, Capital City of Nigeria

If you’re a tourist on first time visit to Abuja you’ll need to know a few things about the capital city. This brief article is a guide on a few things a first time visitor to Nigeria’s capital city – Abuja – should know about.

Abuja City – an Overview
Abuja is located in the center of Nigeria within a region known as the Federal Capital Territory which is governed by an agency called the Federal Capital Territory Administration and ministry of FCT. It is Nigeria’s fourth largest city by population and the fastest growing in Nigeria with an estimated 2 million residents who reside mostly on the outskirts in satellite towns and villages and an additional 900,000 who reside in the main districts of Abuja.

What you’ll notice for the first time
As you drive into the city from the airport you’ll notice that Abuja has lush green vegetation and very wide smooth roads – that’s mostly on the strategic parts of the city – the case is slightly different as you drift further away from the city center. The weather is hot most times above 30 degrees Celcius and rains which aren’t very heavy come around April till late October or early November. Much of the city is dusty especially around areas with large number of untarred roads, there are few shanties within the city as most houses are constructed within planned estates and districts. Transportation into the city center is mostly by high capacity buses, taxis and tricycles called ‘keke Napep’. The city becomes quieter during the weekends as most people who work in the city reside on the outskirts or in Satellite towns.

History of Abuja
As far back as 1976, Abuja was named capital of Nigeria by a decree under the military junta led by Murtala Muhammed but officially became the Capital city on December 12, 1991 when the abode of power was transferred from Lagos to Abuja and has remained so ever since. Abuja was chosen for being a neutral location just between Muslim dominated Northern Nigeria and Christian dominated South unlike Lagos which was in South Western Nigeria in a region dominated by Christians and the Yoruba ethnic group.

Districts and Satellite Towns in Abuja
The main districts in Abuja are those captured in the Abuja master plan and they include but are not limited to the City Center (Maitama, Maitama Extension, Asokoro, Wuse/Wuse 2, Guzape, Garki/Garki 2 and Central Business District), districts on the outskirts like (Wuye, Gwarimpa, Life Camp, Karu, Mpape, Jahi, Utako, Jabi among others) and Satellite towns like Lugbe, Kubwa, Jikwoyi, Gwagwalada, Kuje, Nyanya etc.  

City Administration
At the highest level Abuja is managed and governed by the FCTA which oversees infrastructural development and enforcement of the Abuja city planning laws. It is led by the Minister of the FCT. The Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) oversees rural development. There are environmental laws which should not be violated else one could attract the wrath of Abuja environmental protection board (AEPB).

Most big businesses in Abuja are either government agencies or private companies that rely heavily on government patronage. But there are a few others that are thriving but mostly in the hospitality sector – hotels, restaurants, lounges and real estate and so on. Trading is a very common business in Abuja as you’ll find lots of shops in shopping plazas and markets within the city in place of service oriented businesses which are few.

Social life in Abuja is very rife in the evenings on week days and on weekends and public holidays. Most places patronized during this time are lounges, fast food restaurants, hotels, parks where many Abuja social events are held.

Popular Landmarks in Abuja
Some very popular landmarks in Abuja include; Millennium park, Abuja Children’s Zoo, Wonderland Amusement Park, River Plate Park, City Park, Shoprite in Apo, National Stadium, Maitama Amusement Park, National Mosque, National Ecumenical center, Silverbird Entertainment Center to name a few.

Places to Visit in Abuja
As a visitor or guest we can recommend the following places for movies; Silverbird Entertainment Center and Ceddi Plaza, for picnics try Millennium Park and River Plate Park, for exclusive social hang outs; Juice Place 2 and 805 Restaurant for great Asian Cuisine; Woks and Koi, Grills in and Out, for excellent outdoor meals Food City, Quarter Café. For first class spa treatment – The Nail Bar.

Crime Situation in Abuja
Crime rate is relatively low in Abuja compared to many Cities in Nigeria but you have to watch out for a few common crimes like commuter taxi robberies known locally as ‘one chance’. Also car theft is common especially at nights in secluded areas of the city at gun point or in the main city at busy parks and market areas where cars are stealthily removed by expert car thieves. Be vigilant.

Abuja is largely a peaceful city with many well behaved residents but on week days during rush

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