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Abuja, space in the city

so many roads lead to Abuja
so many roads lead to Abuja
Coming from Lagos, Abuja throws one in disarray. Is this Nigeria, the chaotic and busy Nigeria we Lagosians are familiar with? What has caused all of the Central Business District (CBD) to be practically free of pedestrians? However concrete has been spent without restraint and asphalt too. Massive infrastructures seem oversized, perhaps as a result of the ambitious dream of nascent nation. The wide roads might carry traffic on all lanes at peak time, but the whole affair rhymes more with policed traffic on a US highway than what would be considered peak time traffic anywhere else in Nigeria.
Abuja is visibly the youngest born of the nigerian nation, concretely sterile, unfinished and yet fast-spreading. Built in the 1980s, it became the capital of Nigeria officially in 1991 and is the centre of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
millenium promise under construction
millenium promise under construction
Abuja is a city of architecture. All government buildings, from federal state houses, federal government ministries, all have been built with heavy funding by architects who met the need for differentiation from their respective clients. Lagos State House has the shape of two Eyos standing next to one another. The Federal Ministry of Finance looks like an FBI inspired truncated pyramid.
As I was leaving the city from Garki II to go to the airport, we drove through a double-laned road which obviously felt lonely looking at the equivalent free space left undeveloped. I asked the driver about it. He said that road in the opposite direction had not yet been built, although it had been paid for. Of course it had been planned, judging by the ready interconnections at crossroads. The government is now asking all contractors to finish their work or bring back the money that was paid to them. A few kilometres down the road, construction in the opposite
direction has (re-)started.
neat and clean
neat and clean
It looks like money is again available for construction, as many construction sites are popping-up. New shopping centres, somewhat fancy, are emerging with an air of refinement previously unseen in Abuja. For instance, Dunes, a shopping complex, has just added a whole new wing, very spacious to welcome numerous boutiques and shops. The fourth floor is dedicated to Made In Nigeria.
There are also many skeletons of buildings, probably interrupted a few years ago for lack of money or lack of authorisation to continue building.
Lagos State house in the shape of Eyo twins
Lagos State house in the shape of Eyo twins
New entertainment places are opening, with western standards, such as Blue Cabana, a lebanese run fitness centre with a nice restaurant and a large pool. It lies on the outskirt of the city centre.
The skyline of Abuja is relatively flat, besides the central mosque, the National Christian centre, and the millennium tower, which was supposed to be completed for the previous millennium on Sani Abacha Way. But it could be just in time for the Third Millennium!
The city is dominated by the Aso Rock, which is at the centre of a military area. It is indeed a strategic point of observation and defence. Then there is the diplomatic area of Maitama which has a few rich mansions with the a nice overview of the city.
Outside of the sanitised CBD, the Nigeria we are used to is filling-up the space with lively and chaotic markets. Could its spirit possibly one day spill over to its sleepy neighbour of CBD?

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