Speculating and Politicizing the Demography of FCT-Abuja Area
MAILAFIYA ARUWA FILABA
A logical procession of discussing the demographic problematic of the region takes the follow ing ord er: Meaning of demography; Archaeological and Linguistic inferences on demography of central Nigeria; Speculated poor demography for the area; Declining ‘pagan’ population and settlements; Und erestimated censuses in the area; Denigrated and speculated demography as by 1977; Undisclosed indigenous population and settlements in the of the FCT by1981; Congested and impoverished satellite towns; and Conclusion.
The key concept of this article is demography, which is the systematic analysis of the size, organization and change of human population in a given ward/ settlement/ territory. Some of the most important aspects considered in demographic analysis include composition of population (settlement pattern, how many people, whether the groups differ ethnically, occupationally and socially and whether they inter-relate), causes of changes like births, deaths, migration and social mobility. Special attention is given to age, sex, marital status, social conditions, health, reproduction, impact of migration, skills and creativity and other human activities that have positive and negative impacts on the survival of the settlements (P. Singha, 1976:2-5; Microsoft Encarta 2007).
Archaeological and Linguistic Inferences on the Demography of Central Nigeria
The ethnobotanical and archaeological studies revealed that farming in this region is as old as 3,000 BP, and the cultural styles of the figurines have striking similarities with the hair and dressing styles and pots of the present inhabitants. Sangoan tools found scattered in abandoned settlements were dated back to about 40,000 B.C. While the sedentary life here since earliest time has been consistent that the indigenous inhabitants are the direct successors of the artifacts (Clark 1960:19; P. Soper, 1965:175 – 194; T. Shaw, 1978:31-32).
Artifacts reveal that the Middle-Belt of Nigeria had the earliest settlements and more populous and widespread up to the 17th century compared to the neighboring regions and was relative to other parts of the world. It was also one of the earliest farming zones from where the Nok Culture evolved, flourished and spread to the neighbouring parts of Nigerian area about the first century A.D. This spread of people led to the spread of Nok culture in the neighbouring region (T. B. Bingel, 1991:2462).
The glottostatistics further corroborates the millenniumsold existence of the Kwa or Benue-Congo group of languages whose proto-language was spoken there since 6,000 years ago, and which separation period varied between 1,500-6,000 years ago. (Obayemi, 1971:201; 1984:144-147; Hansford et al 1987:23; Greenberg 1966:22; and Armstrong 1969:132; 1962:283290). These facts help us to dismiss the crafted 1750 A.D. as the earliest date for the peopling of the region.
Speculated Poor Demography for the Area
Some European scholars like D. Clark who did not know much about African demography speculated that the whole “African continent was ill situated for cultivators” and “agriculture did not possess here the rich potentialities that belonged to it in other regions.” This Eurocentric speculation led to the conclusion that such plight of Africa was the cause of its poor agricultural method and scanty population (Desmond, 1960:19). Gunn and Conant specifically emphasized that the Gbagyi were noted for “poor” farming method with the consequence of “poor” harvest (Gunn and Conant, 1960:90). The Gbagyi seem to be one of the most advanced farmers in Africa rather than the denigrated “poor” farmers. The basis for the Eurocentric conclusion that this region has poor soils, poor harvests and scanty population was not given. On the contrary, farming activities in this belt seem to be more advanced and with more types of crops and methods of cultivation than in the sahel and forest belts.
Some scholars like C. Wringley dismissed speculation that the soil was poor and argued that the tropics is neither desert nor jungle but savannah with easily worked soils and rapid vegetation grow ths, w hich provid es a more suitable agricultural environment than the arid sub-tropics or the cold dark forest of the temperate zones (Wrigley, 1960:68).
The view of Wringley is true because a recent study of the central Nigeria by J.A. Ohiare reveals that the region grows more crops than in the other belts of Nigeria, as it is most suitable for agriculture than the forest or sahel belts. The recent agricultural research and demonstration in this area attest to the fact that it is one of the best zones for Nigerian extensive and large scale agricultural investment (Ohiare, 1988:429-432).
This is not to say that there are no diseases and declining fertility of the soil. Naturally, the warm and humid climatic condition and the vegetation favoured the prevalence of some diseases which had serious implication for the health of the people. Some of the most prevalent vectors in this area are mosquitoes, tsetse flies, house flies, lice, cockroaches, bed-bugs, ants, rats, jigger, etc. The more dreaded diseases of this area are river blindness, malaria, hook worms, guinea worms, amoebas, yellow fever, jaundice, gastro-utorratties, measles, catarrh tuberculosis, pneumonia, ring worms, scabies, small pox, cerebro-spinal-meningitis, filariasis, sleeping sickness, sexually transmitted diseases, trypanosomiasis, bilhaziasis, etc. Other dreaded diseases identified in the area are leprosy and anemia/ sickle cell (Shaw, 1978:; Walls, 1978:9-10, 23. Filaba, 1994:10). The prevalence of these diseases enabled the people to develop the medicine-know-how and professionals in diagnosis and treatment, and thus adapted and survived in the region for millennium (Filaba, 2006).
Declining ‘Pagan’ Population and Settlements
It is guessed that the Middle Belt of Nigeria is scantly populated compared to those to its north and south, and the 1952/ 53 census confirmed that the belt was least populated (Gana, 1978:138). T. Bingel agreed with this based on archeological evidence that the population of the region started to decline as from the 18th century (Bingel, 1991:24-62), while the study of J. Gana is of the view that the differential low population density of the area started by the end of the 19th century, as the pre-18th century Niger-Benue confluence area had similar structural arrangements of human habitation (Gana p.138).
Up to the middle of the 19th century, the region was still comparatively populous and without any single emirate, as only Zaria had influence on the Muslims and Hausa traders in the region. Indeed, those settlements Richard Lander and Clapperton went through in 1827 did not mention the now orchestrated Jama’a, Lafiya, Keffi and Nasarawa emirates nor
Abuja polity, as they were not there, or too insignificant. From
Kano on their way to Panda they arrived at the central Nigerian area they called Bowchi (Gbagyi) and the people Bowchee (Gbagyi) on 1st June 1827 (1966:293, 299 & 301). He traveled through Gbagyi settlements of Fullindushie, Lazumee, Catica, Bowchee, Coorokoo, Coodiniya, Cuttup, Coogie, Dungora, Dunrora, Acccoran, and Coroo (Karu). He reported that Cuttup/ Kuttup/ (Kurape/ Kurudu/ Kooto?) was at the bank of river Cooduniya (Ciduniya) which empties itself into the Niger near Funda. This is what he saw in Kuttup:
Having heard on my route so many reports about Cuttup, its wealth, population and celebrated market, I was rather surprised on finding it to consist nearly five hundred small villages, almost adjoining each other,…and in a flourishing condition… A considerable traffic [including Arabs and far away Africans trading in local, Asian and European goods] is carried on here daily (Clapperton, 293-294).
By the mid 19th century, the raids organized by the Caliphate completely razed down some, forced many to take refuge on hilltops where they remained until the colonial government forced them down to the plains while others migrated elsewhere outside the region (Sciortinor, 1920:5; Mohammed, 1987:266; Filaba 1994). The dialectics was that the Hausa, Nupe and Ebira/ Igala raiding settlements were growing, while ‘pagan’ towns were dying out (Oyedele, 1999; Ohiare, 266).
Indeed, the European eye-witness accounts and the writings of the Jihadists reveal that the interaction between the aboriginal ‘pagan’ groups and the Hausa, Fulani, Ebira and Nupe traders was conflictual as the former groups were raided and sold out to Europeans by the later (Lander, 1960:4755; Lander, 1830:47-55; Laird and Oldfield, 1960:90). The raids were characterized by wholesale plunder of the pagan populace in the middle belt and caused absence of social cohesion and “reduced them to a state of complete economic and moral paralysis” [Meek, 257-258 & 287–293], as they were “continually robbed of their agricultural implements, their clothes, their crops, and even their children” and kept “in a state of constant terror and poverty” (Allen, 90; Clapperton and Lander, 314). Such raids were responses to the Trans Atlantic slave Trade and Sokoto Caliphate slave estates Enoch (1990) noted that:
the end of the 19th century saw a complete ruins and depopulation of the Province…In Nassarawa country, a once fertile and populous province, one could only see the remains and ruins of large and totally deserted town, bearing witness to the desolation wrought by hundred years of internecine strife and slave raiding by the Fulani… Such was the state of the Province when the arrival of Sir Freiderick Lugard put a stop to the slave-raiding and evolved law and order out of chaos and ruin (Sciortinor, 1920:5).
Thus, the destruction of the pagan communities in central Nigeria was a response to the Arab and European slave trades, which dialectical relations was the draining of the population to the raiders’ settlements.
Underestimated Censuses in the area
Empirical surveys conducted by anthropologists during the colonial rule and after independence attempted vivid account of settlement patterns and estimated population for each tribe in the whole country and this area had the largest colonial records in this respect (Gunn, 1960; Ford, 1955; Meek, 1960; Mudoc 1958). The works studied the different peoples of the area with respect to location, natural environment, economy and crafts, social structure, political organization, religious beliefs and cults (Filaba, 2001:47-65). Available earliest census figure of the peoples in this area are in the colonial gazetteers (Willis and Kirk-Green, 1920:25). By 1919, Nassarawa Province which covered Abuja, Keffi, Nassarawa, Lafiya, and Jema’a emirates with about 40 tribes had an estimated population of 267,140 (Willis and Kirk-Green, 1920:20, 25; Filaba and Gojeh, 2008).
Comparative Population Concentration in
Niger and Benue Provinces by about 1920
|Total in Niger
|% in Niger
|Resident in FCT Area|
|7.||Moroa||5 09||I .98|
|13||Ayu||2 970||1.1 1|
|14||Kagoma||4 495||I .68|
|17||Yeskwa||5 332||I .99|
|19||Afo||4 430||I .65|
|38||Mama||8,1 1 1||3.03|
Only about 1/ 8 (one-eight) of the former Nasarawa province is now FCT. The population resident in the area by 1919 part of which was carved as FCT was about 112,452 (Sciortinor, 1920:20).
Similarly, the 1981, 1991, 1997 and 1996 Censuses of the FCT can be used to project the population for subsequent years (The Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No.25, 1997), as in Table 2 below.
|Abaji [part of Koton Karfe||2,1 13||8,450||21,438||21,081 60,327|
|Kuje [partly Abuja & Nasarawa Emirates||6,077||24,305||64, 165||44,338 188,838|
|Kwali [Gwagwalada]||9,470||37,880||96,102||79,306 270,431|
|FCT indigenous population||39,050||485,660||1,470,976|
|Federal Capital City||1 70,575||825,005||2,615,632|
Comparative Population Growth in the Districts Carved as FCT
The census figures were always contested, as the governments since the colonial time never had everybody due to the following problems: Some remote and asulated villages were not counted, there was no long Zbilization of the people and farmers and nomads reluctantly government did not give enough logistics and zaterials while the enumerators were not properly groomed; s.–me village and district heads hid some figures in order to cut demanded recruited labour and taxes; Hausa and Fulani •ze suspected to have inflated their numbers for political a—ons; All Muslims were termed as Hausa; Some tribes were :–.ided according to dialects; and the Gbagyi among the Nupe Ganagana were counted as Nupe or Ganagana.
Denigrated and Speculated Demography as from 1977
The figures of the indigenous population in the area carved as
FCT was given by the government in 1977. In Plateau (Karu, Karshi, Gwargwada and Gadabuke Districts only, was 21,725; Kwara (Abaji, District only) was 8450 and Niger (Kuje, Lapai, Bwari, Yaba, Districts only) 70,265 (Abumere 1989:258-259). These figures were apparently incomplete, as independent reconnaissance survey conducted by companies applying for feasibility study discovered that the population to be affected in Plateau State alone was about 50,000 (MINCO, 1978). The population for the year 2000 in the table may therefore be much higher due to the high urban-urban and rural-urban migrations caused by the heavy businesses and constructions that attracted national and internal labour. The population of the satellite towns in the FCT and in the primate cities in the frontline states have been geometrically increasing since the commencement of the construction of the capital city in 1980, and whatever statistics submitted are mere guess works.
In 1977, 1981, 1984 Mabogunje and Abumere carried out the Ecological and Demographical Feasibility Study of the area to be carved as new FCT (Mabogunje et al, 1977, 1981, 1984). In the description of the physical features, demography and economy of the area, they seemed to have used the findings of European scholars’ reports of 1960s, and therefore recycled the ideas of J. Clark (1960:19), Pritchard (1973:37), Trewartha, (1955:61-62), and Agboola (1968:191-297). Azikiwe had earlier reported in 1974 that the “area (was) of low and declining population. 44 rural settlements of about 7,000 people” only (Zik, 1974:7; West Africa, 1977:899). Their reports were evidently not based on any empirical survey because they were full of contrad ictions. This can be seen in a synoptic examination of the reports:
- Azikiwe reported in 1974 that the area had just 44 settlements of 7,000 people;
- Mabogunje and Abumere reported 3 years later that the area had “less than 100,000 people”; or that “the area had 845 settlements of 11,000 to 12,000 people; or
of 26,328 Households; or 131,252 in 1981” (Abumere, 1989: 258, 262). Since Mabogunje and Abumere agreed that there were as many as 26,328 households with a population of 100,000, it implied that there was an average of just 4 people per household, which could not have been the case as the Gbagyi had a fertility rate of 4% annually, practiced teenage betrothal and polygamy.
- Aina and Salau reported uncertain figures thus: “there w ere 133,000 people in the area in 1976; or 242 settlements for 39,800 people to be resettled; or 264 settlements for 50,000 people” in the same paragraph (1992:30, 50–51).
- FCT Master Plan used the figures submitted to it by of the 1979 Presidential Ad-Hoc Committee set up to examine the attitude of indigenes to the issue of resettlement. It submitted 26,328 households, which was just the respondents of the survey sample, and that was the number that agreed to be resettled (Aina and Salau, 51). Mabogunje and Abumere presented the sample as the total population in the FCT (Abumere, 269), which was a serious under-estimation of the population of the indigenes in the area.
The reports merely guessed the figures and settlements as the confusion are seen in their reports. The speculated numbers were underestimations as they could not tally with the true population and households in the region. In fact, the names of the settlements were apparently not given. Abumere revealed that they were to submit their reports within two months from award of the contract. This time limit was impossible to survey a total population of an insulated area of about 8,0002 km w ithout road s and ad equate logistics w ithin a short period. Reports from oral interviews reveal that they did not cover up to 30% of the total population. Therefore, the observation of Aina and Salau, that “initially government grossly under-estimated the number of people involved since there were no accurate population data,” (Aina and Salau, 51) is true. Lack of correct population data impaired the plan for compensation and resettlement. To have had a sample of 26,328 households that were unwilling to move, it would not have been possible for the whole or even half of the remaining larger population to be sampled within a short time. Their data implied that there was an average of 7 persons per household, which was on the lower side. It was noted that the Gbagyi and the Fulani in particular had the highest fertility rate in Central Nigeria with annual increase of 4% and were steadily increasing (Bingel, 24-62; Kirk-Green, 1920:1; Smallwood, 1932:2), due to heavy dietary intake, early marriage, high knowledge of traditional maternal and child care, and so on.
Assumed Impoverished and Sick Demography
Urbanization process has had profound impact on the rural population all over the world. Scholars in urbanization are of the view that the process of urbanization is comparatively speedier in the developing world (Bresse 1966) rapidly engulfing its rural communities
giving rise to shanty township and slums with poor sanitation fostering the spread of infectious d iseases. Further overcrowding causes health hazards like tension, anxiety, neurosis and social adversities like family trouble, divorce and crime (Singah, 1996:4).
Abumere and Mabogunje regurgitated the notion that the Nigerian Middle Belt on latitudes 8° to 12° N was an area noted to be of low population density, as a result of its soils being “poor” and “too dry” for agriculture; infested with diseases and its people sick, lacking food and cash crops and also imported food, and therefore, had “kept out population or decline population” They concluded that the above could therefore not allow the belt to have “dense population, traditionally organized in fairly large socio-cultural or sociopolitical groups” as obtained in the Southern forest zone and northern Grassland zone, and could not have “the capacity, especially during the colonial period, to produce export crops, and in consequence to sustain a relatively high level of infrastructural and economic development.” They further claimed that it has lowest population density as “a consequence of harsh ecological conditions with prevalence of “tsetse fly the single most important fact that kept out population or the decline in population numbers that gave the fly the opportunity to thrive and multiply.” They added that unlike in the northern and southern belts, Middle Belt’s fragmented and excessive multiplicity of ethnic groups reflects the absence of large sociopolitical organization, which could offer long-term security and defense against external enemies, which provided easy hunting grounds for slave raiders from better-organized groups to the north and south that considerably depopulated the region (Mabogunje et al, 1977; 1989:262). They referred to Buchanan and Pugh (1965) a work which was largely based on overgeneralization and assumptions of the conquerors of Nigeria in the early 1900s, which they could not update but uncritically accepted the descriptions. They forgot that the orchestrated and grandiose ‘big’ and consolidated Old Oyo and Hausa polities in a swoop fell like park of cards under very few Fulani Jihadists, while the denigrated ‘acephalous’ communities could not be conquered by the Jihadists. The maps of the Sokoto Caliphate in the work of Hogben and Kirk-Green excludes the Gbagyi of Keffi-Abuja-Lokoja area (Hogben and Kirk-Green, 1966).
On the question of tsetse fly, there is the impression built that the fly is ever present and kept people away, as it was “the single most important fact of the environment.” The question that can be posed is whether the fly lives on human beings. If the answer were yes, then they would have gone to more populous area. If the answer is no, then they cannot seriously affect the demography of any area. Then, to argue that massive resettlement of the aborigines could cause fast breeding of the tsetse fly (Aina and Salau, 51) was highly unscientific. If the argument is that the fly loves forested area, then they should have been more in the southern rain forest region.
This apart, it seems Mabogunje and Abumere wrote to protest the resettlement of the people in the area (and of course succeeded), and concluded that:
to move everybody out would mean that the substantial expanse, which is generally agreed as having high agricultural potential, will become uninhabited wasteland. This will be undesirable not just because it would mean the loss of valuable resources (Mabogunje and Abumere, 1989:269).
They further recommended that government should not relocate the people en-mass because he thought that such would lead to breading of tsetse fly, and that there was no money for resettlement. The w ay they influenced the unprincipled handling of resettlement issue can be inferred from their remark that
more than four-fifth of those needing resettlement have not yet been taken care of. The resettlement issue is a very sensitive issue. If badly handled, it can result in riots and other forms of civil disobedience. Hence, extreme care is being taken in the FCT to ensure that nothing goes wrong” (Abumere, 269-270).
This influenced the promulgation of the Obasanjo’s Circular of July 1978, which reported thus:
1.09 Changes in the FCT Resettlement Policy: The Obasanjo Policy Circular of July 13, 1978.
1.09.1 By 1977 when the University of Ibadan Consultancy turned in their report, it was clear that the local inhabitants within the Territory were far from being ‘few’ in fact well over
316,000 people were enumerated and not the 25,000-50,000 earlier thought. Estimated fund required for their compensation entitlement and resettlement outside the FCT were put at over #1.8b. In these circumstance, resettlement costs would have been astronomical, and would have delayed the development of the new Capital. By July 1978, the former Head of State, Gen. Obasanjo issued a circular to the three affected states of Niger, Plateau and Kwara, informing them about a slight change in resettlement policy which states in part thus:
1.09.2 Those not affected by the first phase of resettlement, but wish to move out of the Territory may do so, but such people will have no claims on the FCDA, as they have not been forced to leave. This in effect means that inhabitants (indigenes) not moved out during the present exercise who decide to stay will now be deemed to be citizens of the FCT and the FCDA will soon appoint an Administrator to administer them and look after their welfare. The present land area gazetted as FCT will remain. The site cleared for the building of the Capital itself will be evacuated and resettlement of the people so evacuated can take place within or outside the Territory. The meager funds available now should be spent more on development of infrastructure rather than on payment of compensation” (Ago, 1999:5).
Twenty years later Abumere revealed that his 1977 and 1983 reports were not based on facts. He condemned the position he upheld when he was given the feasibility study in 1983. In December 1999 at a workshop on the “Review of Abuja Master Plan”, Abumere was invited to present a paper to shed light on the Abuja factor. He blamed the government and the implementers (which he had been a member as he served with the Committee for Land Allocation and under Committee for Assessment of Physical Development of the FCT) for their inconsistencies with the policy of resettlement in FCT. He then believed that such inconsistencies were the causes of the plight of the indigenous communities he called “raging problems of indigeneship in politics, land, jobs, reparation and other privileges in FCT.” He revealed that 80% of the total population of about 180,000 FCT indigenes had indicated to stay in the FCT, and not 20,619 he indicated in 1983. That in 1983 the total population of the indigenes was just 26,328, and that 7,000 or 5,000 of the population constituted 80% of the total population to be resettled! (Abumere, 269-270). He alleged that the government later “changed (the resettlement policy) to read that only the villages in the area of the capital city affected by the development will require movement and compensation.” He alleged that it was the government that gave an excuse, declining from relocation because it might claim “too high cost which might leave nothing in the government purse to build the city after paying,” and thus, “government decided to pay only those who opted to leave the FCT.” One would like to know whether the government paid those who indicated in his survey to leave. Clear contradictions were noted when he made fervent attempt to exonerate the government with allegation that government needed N150 million only to totally relocate the indigenes as enshrined in the original Master Plan policy from 1976 – 1979, but that failure to implement the policy led to the shooting up of the amount by 1981 to N229.8 million, when “the cost had become too high for the government to bear”! He reiterated: “This would have been avoided if the government stuck to the original policy of moving everybody out.” He faulted the government for going on “integration (accommodating the indigenes) policy” as a cheap option instead of resettlement. He believed that ‘integration’ option was “purely sentimental ground” and a “gross violation of the Abuja Master Plan which was creating slums and distorting the way of life of the indigenes.” He ended with sadistic recommendation as “the way forward, by either resettling people per se, that is replicating their settlements as they were” (Weekly Trust, Dec. 17 – 23 1999:26).
Abumere continued with contradicting recommendation that the indigenous population be left to produce desired food based on the rich fertility of the soil, while the report of his feasibility study alleged that the area was poor in soils and productivity and that the vast proportion of the territory may not be required for city construction. The real situation on the ground proved him and the Government wrong even before the Phase 1 was completed. Mamman Vatsa was one of the earliest ministers of the FCT who unsuccessfully planned to enlarge the territory by 40 kilometres in each direction because it had become too small and land speculators were pressurizing him for plots. 20 years later Arch. Bunu the MFCT Minister declared to the world that “there is no land in Abuja.” Indeed, individuals, groups, government and international bodies were concerned that Abuja had become a “paradise crowded” (The Guardian, May 3, 2000:15). This was true because to drive through the capital city in 1999 was very difficult due to too many commercial vehicles frequently stopped either by the traffic lights or by the Traffic Warders (Filaba 2004:37-42).
Other scholarly studies (Thomas, 1963; Ohiare, 1987; Bingel, 1991:24-62; Filaba 1991) of the actual state of the soil, demography, diseases and other ecological problems dismiss the speculated denigrated demography. The notion that the area had “poor soils (sic.)” soon became big lies immediately construction work started in the FCT, as “it was found that the territory is naturally rich in resources” (Benna, 252). Despite realizing this potential, Benna digressed and contradicted his findings by reporting that, despite the “natural richness”, the area:
could not support all the needs of the ultimate population, even with the use of current technology (sic). In assessing the demand for water, agricultural and forest products, as well as some building materials, it was clear that the territory could only produce a varying proportion of these needs. In addition therefore, the plan developed a strategy for developing some of the existing settlements in the region (Benna, 254).
This report was not true because food is exported from the FCT to the neighbouring cities of Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Lokoja, Ibadan, Lagos and cities in eastern parts of Nigeria. There was no mechanization of agriculture in the FCT up till 2002. Farming remained mainly human labourd epend ent the w ay it had been practiced since time immemorial. Almost all the construction materials like woods of all sorts, sand, stones, water, etc., were available in excess and exploited, while the land was leached. The available unskilled labour was simply recruited from the indigenes and from the frontline states. They should have known that this belt was more farmed than both the grassland and the forest belts. Karu District, as with the rest area carved as FCT produced ground nuts, cotton, ginger, beniseed, shea-butter, pepper, and others, which were exported by the colonial government since the establishment of the Royal Niger Company. The cotton and ground nuts from this area enormously contributed to the pyramids in Kaduna, Kano and other depots. Again, the food crops consumed in the forest area – yams, cassava, sweet and Irish potatoes, maize, guineacorn, etc., were from this belt. The high cocoa and cassava yield in the South Western region was boosted by the seasonal labour flow from this region. Middle Belt had been contributing to the regional and international economy since the Royal Niger Company days.
Uncritically accepting the poor environment perspective, Salau and Aina similarly described the settlements in the area carved as FCT by 1980 thus:
The population was organized into a large number [sic.] of sleepy villages, all small and compact. The population size of the settlements varied from two to about 4000. Only five villages had a population of more than 2000.
More than half of the population had belonged to the nonproductive economic strata namely children (43%) and the over 56 years – old (10%). About 84% of the working population were farmers, the other 16% being traders, civil servants and handicraft makers, etc.
The area of the FCT produced no exportable crops and was therefore in the backwater of the colonial and post-colonial economy of the country, by-passed by the main north-south transport arteries, especially the railway lines to the east and west. Thus the area attracted a very low level of social infrastructure, such as roads, portable water supplies, health facilities and schools. The level of commercial activities was very low, most economic production being subsistence (Aina and Salau, 50).
It was unfortunate that scholars conceived rural area to be “sleepy” and “non-productive.” These scholars should have known that agrarian communities start to take children to farm immediately they start walking some distance, and traditional education and orientation start immediately in order to equip the child to be productive and to face challenges of life. Some children started to be productive as early as six when they used small hoes to farm, fetch water, sow, collect fuel wood, menial works at home, weave, etc. Aina and Salau, like Abumere, were carried away by imperial speculated theories, which could not appreciate the cash and food crops which were taken to Ibadan, Lagos, Onitsha, Ilorin and the rest of the Western part of the country. In addition, the demand for cocoa and rubber made the Yoruba to be importing seasonal labour from the Middle Belt. A scholarly study of seasonal migrant unskilled labour from the Middle Belt to Western plantations and farms is yet to be done.
The reports of Mabogunje and Abumere also included the level of infrastructural development and socialization of the area. They remarked that by 1977 the infrastructural development – roads, hospitals, schools, portable water, and so on, were poorly provided. There was no single tarred road, no hospital and secondary school in the entire area carved as FCT. They alleged that the “lack of education, and health facilities may have resulted in an extra-ordinary high death rates (sic). The lack of education facilities resulted in low level of literacy.” They provided the following table:
Educational Levels in FCT, 1977 (%)
|District||Koranic Primary Secondary University None Other|
Mabogunje and Abumere(1984:15; 1989:268).
Since they deemed it good to consider the Koranic education as worthy, it was expected that they should have considered Christian education – The ECWA Transferred Primary Schools, Bible Training School, Reshen Bible School Karu, and the various Adult Education classes organized by all the Churches as important, since Christians the area was heavily Christianized and a near accuracy of the percentages for followers were 80% Christians, 10% traditionalists and 10% Muslims. Christianization of the region started with the RNC missionaries’ activities based in Lokoja where they established the first Church in the North and their first Gbagyi convert was Yepwui Idako from Karu in 1890, and Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) established a Church and schools in Karu in 1902 and 1906 respectively, and embarked on literacy classes in all the villages that had churches. They started to reduce Gbagyi and Hausa languages into writing in 1908 (Low, 1908; Edgar, 1909) and also established clinics (Filaba 1994). It should be stressed that SIM (which became known as Evangelical Churches of West Africa – ECWA in 1940) had a special educational curriculum. A few of those trained in its schools and clinics secured private, NGO and government appointments. Christian religion is an intellectual religion, which orients members to reading, writing, accounting and lead ership. It has a formal ed ucational curriculum, cooperatives, scholarships and loans schemes. The literacy level for Gbagyi dominant districts like Karu, Gadabuke, Toto and Kuje was much higher than the underestimation in the report of Abunmere above. People in this region were attending schools at Suleja, Minna, Lapai, Bida, Keffi, Nassarawa, Laminga, Toto, Koton Karfe, Lokoja, Lafiya, Umaisha, Jos, Kwoi, Kagoro and Kaduna. Inside the territory, there were primary schools at Karu, Karshi, Gurku, Garki, Gbagbaladna, Kwaita, Yaba, Bwari, Rubochi and others. All of these places had government dispensaries. These schools produced the skilled labour in the civil and private employed services at Jos, Minna, Kaduna, Lokoja, Keffi, Nassarawa and beyond.
The Under-reported Population and Settlements of the FCT as from 1981
There were conflicting figure of the number of inhabitants and their settlements in the FCT by 1981 as given earlier. It was not until in 1999 that the truth started to be revealed by Abumere and by the Presidential Ad-Hoc Committee (Ago,
1999:5] that by 1981 “FCT had over 845 settlements with over 316,000 people” in the carved parts of the 11 Districts namely: Karu, Toto and Gadabuke Districts in the then Plateau State –
1,313 km² and constituted 16½% of the 8,000 km² with about
50,000 (¼ of the whole population); Gau, Suleja, Lapai, Bwari, Kwali, Yaba and Kuje Districts – 6,328.4 km² = 79.1% of the landmass in the then Niger State; and Koton Karfe District 358 km² = 4.5% – in the then Kwara (now Kogi) State. On the eve of the new FCT, the exact number of all the settlements and the total population of the area were not known.
Congested and Impoverished Satellite Towns in the FCT, and in Primate Cities in Frontline States
Demography is influenced by activities in the settlement some of which also cause environmental related diseases. The rapid development of the satellite towns have inherent social consequences and urban violence of all sorts, and people therein live in slums as the incomes of the inhabitants are very low and the settlements do not have adequate facilities for the teeming population while the disposed wastes from the capital city drains into the streams the rural people drink. Now HIV/ AIDS, typhoid fever, automobile noise, displacement of aborigines, accidents and crimes ravage the population (Biodun 1998; Filaba 2004). Of course, urbanization process has had profound impact on the rural population all over the world, and the process of urbanization is comparatively speedier in the developing world (Turner 1969; Breese 1966, 1969; Hauser
1963; Albert 1992; Brian1973; Sada 1978; Albert 1992; World Bank 1966, 1990). Urbanization of the developing countries is rapidly engulfing its rural communities
giving rise to shanty township and slums with poor sanitation fostering the spread of infectious d iseases. Further overcrowding causes health hazards like tension, anxiety, neurosis and social adversities like family trouble, divorce and crime (Singha, 1976:4).
The lack of space and government restrictions and demolitions in the FCT influenced rapid expansion of primate cities on the major arteries to the FCT in the frontline states, where many of the FCT workers reside. They soon became major markets for the teeming population. The FCT and the frontline states are becoming more and more nationalized and internationalized. These settlements experience similar urban problems as in the FCT (Filaba, 2004).
Material evidence point to the fact that since earliest time the FCT Abuja area was more populous and more productive than the immediate northern and southern regions up to the mid 19th century, when the slave raids organized by the Jihadists, Nupe and Ebira destroyed the settlements and sold out the population to Arabs and European slavers. Earliest reports on the demographic attributes of the area were not from results of indepth empirical studies but mere speculations denigrating the soil, population and production. The census figures were also mere estimates as the remote villages were not counted. Scholars that were awarded the feasibility studies uncritically accepted the earlier forged demographic data and presented under-estimated population, partly due to the fact that they, too, did not conduct any thorough survey. They therefore regurgitated and recycled speculated demographic impressions of arm-chair scholars that the Abuja area was the best part of central belt of Africa characterized by poor soils, poor agriculture, diseases-stricken, non-viable commercial activities, scanty population literally “empty” with at best nonentities living in insulated “sleepy” villages. That their findings were not based on empirical survey is very clear in their confused impressions, non-provision of the names of the settlements, and Balogun O. (2001:66, 145) erroneously assumed that Abuja now Suleja settlement is in the FCT. It can be argued that their reports w ere partly influenced by the attempt of the government to paint the picture that the acquired new FCT would be cheap in order to block the protest of Lagosians who argued that the new FCT would be very dear, and to get public acceptance for the relocation of the Federal seat from saturated, dear and congested Lagos to the cheap ‘empty’ and ‘virgin’ Abuja area. Fallacious conclusions were partly influenced by the hasty development of the FCT, as Shagari’s government started the project six years earlier than scheduled, and did not allow complete study of the demography of the area. The danger is that successive scholars continued to recycle the lies as they believed that anything published is a fact. Mediocre scholars continued from these conclusions and assumed that the ‘reluctant’ indigenes in the FCT constituted a problem. Government seized upon the elusive size of the indigenous population to procrastinate their resettlement and compensation. While it is true that the area lacked infrastructures, it was not dissimilar to the rest parts of the country, as the infrastructural development in the country since colonial times remained town-centered, and even quite inadequate that all Nigerian towns suffered from ‘subsistence urbanization’ characterized by rapid grow th w ithout commensurate economic and infrastructural expansion. Immediately the construction of the capital city started the d emography of the satellite tow ns in the FCT that accommod ated the teeming migrant w orkers became saturated and slummy due to the uncontrolled urban-urban and rural-urban migration into the FCT and scarce infrastructural development.
Thus, the FCT area since human civilization had not been
‘a no-man’s land’, ‘virgin land’ in ‘poor’ environment and unknown to the world, as some scholars reported. The demographic potentials here attracted people from the neighbouring regions and later the British who came to benefit from the resources. The region has always been significant to the regional and global economy and culture. Only that the direction of changes since the 19th century hit hard on the indigenous population.
It can be concluded with the following suggestions: The need to insist on a fresh in-depth feasibility study of FCT; need for intensive environmental impact assessment and interface consultation with the indigenes on how to adjust to the urban economy and cushion urban violence; need to keep to sched uled program and action plan in the course of implementing the FCT; need for a complete census of the indigenous population and valuation of their properties; need to review the compensation rate along-line the suggestions given in Filaba (2002: 28-53); and the need to consider the option of integrating the indigenes into the FCT as such would have ad vantage of d eveloping the agriculture of the undeveloped areas and link agriculture to other economic sectors, and as well avoid the costly resettlement projects.
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