Journal of
Geography and Regional Planning

  • Abbreviation: J. Geogr. Reg. Plann.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2070-1845
  • DOI: 10.5897/JGRP
  • Start Year: 2008
  • Published Articles: 391

Full Length Research Paper

The paradox of post-colonial urban growth in the city of Zaria, Nigeria

Sani Ma’aruf
  • Sani Ma’aruf
  • Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Environmental Design, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 20 October 2018
  •  Accepted: 17 December 2018
  •  Published: 31 January 2019


Post-colonial urban growth and expansion is spiralling in Nigerian cities, marked by a curious lack of planning in the newly developed areas despite an initial impetus during the colonial administration for some measure of formal regulation. This paper attempts to examine the character of the phenomenon and its contrasts with the foundation laid for modern formal town planning during the colonial era in Nigeria. It examines these trends using the city of Zaria in Northern Nigeria. This shows the transition in the development of the form and structure of the city from pre-colonial period to the present and how weak public institutional structures as well as policies have led to the creation of an uncontrolled environment, which leaves most new developments in the city unplanned. A review of this case study reveals that Zaria, a large and historic city with pre-colonial roots, was established as one of the medieval Hausa Cities. Its structure includes a tripartite form, representing elements from pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial town planning precepts. The ancient city reflects a traditional settlement setting based on traditional principles of organisation in walled cities. The colonial settlement areas are represented by the European Reservation Area, established to accommodate staff of the British colonial administration at the beginning of the last century and the native areas to accommodate native African settlers. Each of these colonial components had been formally planned using modern town planning principles though of a different genre in each case. What followed those colonial developments after independence in 1960 is an array of uncontrolled outgrowth in the periphery of each of these units that has become the albatross for planned development in the city. The paper reveals weak institutional controls in land administration and the resultant informal access to land and its development as the main factors leading to the observed trends and argues that it represents a paradoxical situation that betrays the foundations laid earlier for modern town planning.    


Key words: Town planning, Nigeria, colonial, Hausa cities.