Development indices: Abuja versus Lagos ― What says the data?


Nigeria is a country with one of the worst human development indices in the world, according to the United Nations Development Programme. Little wonder Nigerians have inevitably developed defence mechanisms and survival strategies to avail themselves the best livelihood possible. These mechanisms are social, financial and spiritual. And one of them ― often the most interesting ― is the battles on the social media.

The argument never stops, from who is a better player between Ronaldo and Messi to who is a finer singer between Beyonce and Rihanna. Sometimes, it is even taken across national borders and we debate topics such as whose jollof rice is sweeter: Nigerian’s or Ghanaian’s.

The previous week witnessed an unprecedented face-off on Facebook, between residents of Abuja, the federal capital territory, and Lagos, the Nigerian capital until 1991. The Facebook warriors in hot debate compared rates of traffic congestions, level of environmental pollution, city scenery, and so on. Someone even wrote that Abuja is better than Lagos because the former hosts  Presidential Villa.

But which city fares better between the two? Is it possible to put a definite end to this argument? If so, then what exactly  do the data say?

This report will be comparing Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory using development indices: poverty level, healthcare, unemployment and underemployment, education and so on. Other indicators such as traffic congestions, tourist attractions and aesthetics of the cities which were hardly considered in previous surveys are significant.

Note that Lagos has an estimated population of 12.1 million (though other estimates would rather place it at 21 million), and the Federal Capital Territory has a population of 3.1 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)


Considering the history of both places, it should be easy to guess which city has the higher poverty rate and which has the lower. Abuja had a fresh start and was created to serve as the home to the federal government and her agencies and departments. Lagos on the other hand has a much longer history, which is not altogether pleasant; and it has a wider spectrum of original inhabitants.

According to NBS 2005 Poverty Profile for Nigeria, poverty incidence in Lagos is 63.58 percent, while that of the FCT is 43.32 percent. The report further states that, based on a dollar per day purchasing power parity, poverty rate in Lagos would be 64.05 percent, while in the FCT it is 46.98 percent.


While according to the 2012 NBS Social Statistics in Nigeria, the FCT is said to have a higher unemployment rate (21.1percent ) than Lagos’s 8.3 percent, a different story was told in 2017. In a report published by the same body, unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2017 in Lagos is 17.8 percent, while in the FCT it is 15.5 percent.

However, the trend is reversed when considering underemployment. Underemployment rate in Lagos is said to be 15 percent and that of the FCT is 17.1 percent. The sum of both indices, as stated by the bureau, thus leaves us with 32.7 percent for Lagos and 32.5 percent for the FCT.


Certainly, healthcare is fundamentally a crucial part of societal welfare and human development. Bill Gates stressed this point during his recent visit to Nigeria, when he made an argument for more investments in the people through healthcare and education.

So which city has more healthcare facility? That’s a tricky question because they are not the same in terms of landmass and population, so one would naturally require more facilities than the other. The more appropriate question therefore is which city has more healthcare facility per a certain number of residents ― and the NBS answered this in the 2012 Social Statistics Report. While Lagos has 21 per 100,000 people, the FCT has 32.



One would think Lagos should have more cases of road accidents and death by road accidents considering its population density, but the statistics seem to suggest otherwise. Again, according to the NBS 2012 Social Statistics Report, the total number of reported cases of road accidents in 2010 is 588 in Lagos and 5300 in the FCT (nearly times ten).

Also, the number of people reportedly killed by road accidents in 2010 in Lagos is 152, while in the FCT the figure is 4065. Those reportedly injured were 1212 in Lagos and 18095 in the FCT. All these figures were supplied by the Nigeria Police Headquarters.


The literacy rate of a place speaks tons about how much primacy is placed on education and also how much progress is made. It usually refers to people who are 15 and above and can read and write. The NBS stated that in 2017 that the rate in Lagos is an impressive 96.3 percent, and in the FCT it is 78.84 percent.


Similar to the literacy rate index is the rate of primary and secondary school attendance. The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey of 2013 states that the primary school attendance ratio in Lagos is 70.4 percent, and in the FCT it is 74.4 percent. Moving to the secondary school attendance ratio, the figures for both cities drop: 69.0 percent for Lagos, and 68.2 percent for the FCT.


The previous indices on education only measure quantitative and not qualitative values. A great way to achieve the latter is by taking a look at the annual report sheets released by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), showing the performance of all states of the federation including the FCT.

The performance chart states what percentage of students who write the examination in each state passed in five subjects, including Mathematics and English. And according to figures released in 2015 on the May/June examination, Lagos was ranked 6th, while the FCT was ranked 14th.


Which city is the more beloved of foreign investors? Reports say it was Lagos, but not anymore (as from the first quarter of 2018). Data from the NBS shows that Abuja reported an inflow of $3.54 billion, up from the $2.68 billion reported in the fourth quarter of 2017, while Lagos reported a capital importation of $2.67 billion, up from $2.55 billion reported in the fourth quarter of 2017.


Finally, what is considered to be Nigeria’s greatest bane and menace: corruption. In a controversial report released in July, 2017, which said the Nigeria Police is the most corrupt government institution in Nigeria, we will also find answers to which city is better off according to indices of transparency.

The report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes done in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics rated Lagos as 35.1 percent in terms prevalence of bribery and the FCT as 28.5 percent. Likewise, the report said the frequency of bribery is 4.5 in Lagos, while in the FCT it is 4.2.


    If all these indices were considered equally and allocated a value of one, then Lagos would score a total of five (on the basis of underemployment, road safety, literacy rate, school attendance, performance in WASSCE), and Abuja also five (on the basis of poverty, unemployment, healthcare, foreign capital inflow, corruption). There is, therefore, a tie based on the indices considered.

    However, what is really important is not which city is performing better but the other truths derivable from this comparison, such as the poor literacy rate in Nigeria’s federal capital territory, worrisome rate of road accidents in the FCT, inadequacy of healthcare facilities in Lagos and so on. Ultimately, Lagos and Abuja are Nigeria’s most important cities, and they deserve our best efforts as government and a people.

    If we get it wrong there, how can we possibly get it right elsewhere?

    'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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