Thursday, August 17, 2006

Numbers and grids

There's something I don't understand about Abuja which might speak of a larger issue, I'm not sure. Given that Abuja is a new city, I don't understand the rationale behind the urban plan. I'm hugely in favour of gridded cities along the New York/Latin American/Roman model. They are easy to navigate, easy to plan and build in, and easy to maintain and make good capitals if one begins from carte blanche.

However, Abuja is a fiendishly difficult city to get to know. Many of the streets are crescents that loop back on themselves, so travelling along one road, you come across the same intersecting road at different points (very confusing). On the larger roads, there are many flyovers which look identical - its difficult to know which turning to take - it reminds me of the new town near where I am from - Telford - which is hideously difficult to navigate, let alone love.

In general, Abuja's street loop and swirl all over the place. After a couple of years, I have a modicum of understanding of Maitama and Wuse II, but get lost very easily in Garki and Asokoro. As for places further out such as Nyanya and Karo, or the satellite towns of Kubwa etc - forget it. Matters are made worse by the bizarre unfathomable numbering system. There's Area 1, 2, 3, 4 all the way up to at least Area 11 (perhaps there's an Area 12?) These don't appear on any maps of Abuja, but there are signposts here and there. Some of these Areas appear contiguous, others not. Then there are various Zones (I think up to Zone 6). I think that the Area areas refer to the earliest parts of the city, built over ten years ago. And I suspect that the Zones refer to areas within Wuse (oh by the way, there's Wuse I and Wuse II, but I've never heard of Wuse III so perhaps it doesnt exist). Its all very confusing.

Lagos, in contrast, is a much easier city to navigate, even though it is many times bigger. Lagos has a different problem: there are often only single routes to take between A and B - for instance if you are travelling from Ikoyi to Festac, or VI down the Lekki Expressway - there is only one road to take.

My suspicion that logical numbering systems are not favoured in Nigeria is further confirmed by the national TV network NTA. Instead of having NTA1, NTA2, NTA3, or NTA Abuja, NTA Ibadan (ie numbers for national stations and names for local ones) - they have NTA Channel 2 Station 5 etc. Its impossible to know which channel is national, which local and so on. Can anyone explain the NTA channel numbering system? How did it come about?

All the above might sound over-fussy and not a little nerdy: the insights of a former trainspotter (I confess I was - from the age of 10 to 12 - there was little else to do in my village but cycle 5 miles with a picnic of sandwiches with my friends and watch the trains woosh by). But perhaps also it refers to a structural illogicality, a planning weakness at work here? Or perhaps I am completely off the ball, and for instance the Abuja urban system has another source - in the deliberate complexities of Muslim urban design?

10 comments:

Chxta 4:32 pm  

Been to all the places mentioned: Lagos, Abuja, New York and Rome. Still prefer Abj. But then again...

kemi,  11:08 pm  

You think that's bad...
My visit to the land registry was a real eye opener.

While we are busy numbering homes on our estate 1, 2, 3, the land registry is storing them as Plot 121, 141, 150.
There is no referencing to match which plot to which house number.

To make it worse, people have built homes at both ends of the crescent. My house number is written on the wall as new 16b, Plot 161a and old 14b.

What the hell is a plot in the metric system anyway?

Shango,  11:55 pm  

Do you know where you are, or have you forgotten?

Nkem 11:41 am  

Are you talking about "planning" and "Nigeria" in the same sentence? There's barely any planning in Nigeria. And where there are planning regulations, a brown envelope scuppers it. Take Stelite Town in Lagos. It's supposed to be a storey building free zone, bungalows only. But mini-palace is erected everyday. Shame that.

ijebuman 12:22 pm  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ijebuman 12:31 pm  

Regarding NTA

It's actually called NTA2 channel 5 (not NTA Channel 2 Station 5)
The channel 5 part of the name refers to the VHF frequency it transmits on.

When it was set up in the early 80s, it was supposed to compliment the existing NTA station in Lagos - NTA channel 10. (just like the BBC set up of BBC1 and BBC2).

The naming convention is quite logical, in Lagos and Abuja where NTA has 2 stations it calls the additional stations - NTA2 and NTA Plus Abuja, while in the other state capitals it uses the name of the city or state.

for more on NTA stations
http://nigeriantelevisionauthority.quickseek.com/

Jeremy 3:52 pm  

thanks for the clarification Ijebuman but I still dont think its a very viewer-friendly way of naming stations..

Anonymous,  8:10 am  

Photos designed to put people of meat. Horrible to look at (still can't look at the second one, especially). I can see why a vegan would post this. Effective.

Kevin 12:57 pm  

MDZmultimedia's Abuja City Guide map has the areas and zones printed on it.

Areas are in Garki (Garki I specifically). Garki II was a later addition to Garki.

Zones are in Wuse I.

For added fun there are some missing areas, as far as I can remember they go something like 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11.

I suspect this is all related to the mangling that happened between the Plan and construction.

Don 2:36 pm  

I visited one office somewhere i wuse II where i saw Abuja street guide,coming to my computer system thinking that, i can get it too on net only to discover that I have to buy it online or something like that. can any one get me one? if yes,send to [email protected] thanks

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