Abuja — Revolved around a concept more out of empirical studies of the spatial organization of Nigerian cities rather than any specific theory of urban structure, the neighbourhood concept was adopted for the development of the Abuja Capital City.
However, as argued in a paper presented during the recently concluded 2009 Town Planner's Day in Abuja, while drawing his analogy from Walter Christaller's Central Place Theory, Tpl Yahaya A. Yusuf, the FCT Director of Development Control Department, Abuja opined that it does not mean that the Central Place Theory is devoid of relevance to the city's development. He stated that, "the efficient and effective distribution of services to any community that needs it is determined by threshold and range", and that "in order to arrest the issue of scarcity, promote effective access and reduce redundancy, precious services have to be effectively ordered over space".
Be that as it may, what should concern us presently, specifically considering the FCT Administration's exorbitant charges in land fees, is how to effectively provide these precious utilities and services with its high cost within the exhaustive space in the mid of very high land demand. It is also not possible to neglect the city's development concept at its advanced stage without incurring adverse consequences, and perhaps other consequences for neglecting the provisions of internal structures of towns and cities as Tpl Yusuf might put it. At the same time despite the fact that plans are made to be rigidly followed, due to human infallibility they are subject to adjustments in areas found necessary. This much has been acknowledged by the city master-plan itself. However, care must be taken not to defeat the aim and objectives of the project's creation. The major among which is Abuja being the nation's capital is the land of unity at the same time that of equal opportunities. It is worthy of note that despite being a product of special consideration the neighbourhood concept is not independent of major ingredients of Harris and Ullman's multiple-nuclei theory and Burgess's concentric zone model, both of which are off-shoots of the central place theory.
Thus while the concentric model recognizes the low, middle and high class residential districts as they shot out of the central business district in concentric circles, the Abuja development concept considers the various centers of neighbourhood, district and city in a hierarchical order, each surrounded by the various densities of high, medium and low densities residential zones, distinguished by their plot sizes, expected to represent the low, medium and high income economic groups respectively. Proposal for service lands were made with the aim of meeting the demand for land for individualized housing among both upper and middle income groups, where plot areas were assumed at 400 square meters and greater than 1,000 square meters. Clearly an efficient way to make the effective use of 400 and 500 square meter size is by prototypes of shared walls and was variously described in the plan. But where would we find plots of these sizes in the whole of the city presently? Nowhere.
Also to cater for upper and middle income households who are either economically unable to occupy single-family detached dwelling units or who would prefer to live in a multi-family environment, larger three and four storey walk-ups have been proposed. It is proposed that each household own the flats they are occupying and jointly hold the plot lease with other households in the condominium. Thus each household would have secure tenure and would be able to get mortgage loans to finance the purchase of their dwellings. This led to the preponderance of the high rise buildings accommodating the low and medium cadre of the working class in the predominantly high density areas of Garki and Wuse Districts much earlier in the development projects executed at the city's inception, only to be followed by those developed during the Kontagora administration ten years ago. These also are priorities of the past.
High land demand in the face of limited provision compounded by dwindling resources and high cost of the provision of infrastructure required to make life comfortable in the capital city ensured that not even the low, but also the middle income groups were marginalized to the dormitory towns within commuting distance akin to the British compromised model after P. Mann. Thus even with the required resources to provide the infrastructure evenly the less endowed cannot withstand the competition in the face of limited provision. Should we continue to develop a city where the land access is manipulated at the expense of the provision of master plan to ensure that the inhabitants are only the super rich?