Abuja: Home of cheap cabs…

Abuja in the evening... from UD's office

Nigeria’s fast-growing capital, and the obvious political headquarters of Nigeria, has many sides. I keep discovering more about this city everyday, but can’t seem to keep my fingers and thought from the cheap cabs, today. For reasons best known to the Swiss embassy, I had to make a trip to Abuja today. (I can’t help wonder when I face the reality of how embassies are relocating to Abuja… it used to be early morning cabs to embassies, but its now early morning flights…). But that is not the important part of this entry. Come with me on a journey…

If you visit Abuja.net, you will be met with this interesting descrip[tion: “The very character of Abuja has been shaped by the two renowned rock formations around it. These are the Zuma Rock and the Aso Rock. The former is referred to as the ‘Gateway to Abuja’ and the Federal Capital Territory begins at its base, where the state of Niger ends. It is also reported to be the exact geographical center of Nigeria. The Aso Rock is located at the head of Abuja and the city extends southwards from the rock”. Just take another quick trip to Wikipedia’s Abuja page and you’ll enjoy the rich history and many faces of the city. But let me share this from the source:

“Abuja, estimated population 1,078,700, is the capital city of Nigeria in western Africa. When it was decided to move the national capital from Lagos in 1976, a capital territory was chosen for its location near the center of the country. The planned city was located in the center of what is now the Federal Capital Territory. Abuja officially became Nigeria’s capital in 1991. Abuja is located at 9°10′ North, 7°10′ East (9.1667, 7.1667).”

Just today, I read a local newspaper and could not help wonder if Abuja will soon wear the toga of my favourite city — Lagos. Crowded, yet with enough space for all. Crazy, yet sane. I just love that city! Maybe that should be the next blog topic… but trust me that it may not be, as its tough to think like this when you’re in Lagos. The report said that Abuja’s de-facto Mayor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, put Abuja’s annual population growth in tens of thousands and its population as standing between 3- and 6-million. But that is still not the story of the day…

Cabs in Abuja are cheap. And that’s where I’m going… Noting that cabs cost an arm and a leg in other major cities in Nigeria, one keeps wondering if the Abuja cab guys drive on the same fuel. Could Lagos traffic be the reason for the relatively high prices? I wonder… but anyhow you see it, Abuja cabs are cheap. During my first trip in 1999, I paid N80 (about 60c) for each cab ride. A few years after that (2002), it was N100… and then it rose from that to N120. Now, it varies between N150 and N200 (depending on what you’re wearing and where you’re headed). But at that, these cabs are cheaper than elsewhere in Nigeria… Port Harcourt, Lagos, just name it. And to think that these cities are not as “central” and “powerful” as Abuja, I wonder…

I just hope the cab owners don’t read this 😉 And I must not fail to mention that the price is not the same when you’re on your way from the airport. Cabs will charge you N3,400 for a ride from the airport into town (a distance of about 30 minutes depending on how deep into the town you’re driving). And they now — oops, we — now have “Rufai cabs”. They are green, modelled after London cabs, green and (you-can-bet) more expensive. As much as I love the colour, I still can’t seem to change from the cheaper (and some equally clean) cabs. Abuja, home of cheap cabs…

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