Sequel to the decision by the Federal Capital Territory Administration to relocate the Abuja City Gate to a new site, an international architectural design competition was organized. Pursuant to this, and in accordance with the rules guiding international design competitions, the Authority selected a Jury of experienced persons through the various professional bodies and international organizations. The Jury was inaugurated by the Executive Secretary, FCDA on 3rd June, 2009.

The jury was given a period of two weeks from 29thJuly, 2009, the date of opening of the bids, to adjudicate and report on the submissions. The jury concluded its assignment on the 12th of August, 2009.


The jury had its first meeting on the 15th June, 2009 to chart the course for its assignment. The Jury selected its chairman, and commenced the setting up of parameters for the assignment. The jury resolved to:

a.)  Study the brief of requirements given to the contestants.

b.)  Invite experts in finance, heritage and the theory and critic of architecture to refresh its mind with the determinants for assessing a design.

c.)  Visit the site.

d.)  Develop a scoring criteria template.


2.1 Expert input

Prof. Bayo Amole of the Department of Architecture, Obafemi Awolowo University and Dr. William Qurix of the Department of Architecture, Ahmadu Bello University were invited to present papers on the criteria for assessment of architectural design. Mr. Segun Awolowo, Secretary for Transport FCT, spoke on the transport network to and from the site. Mr. Yusuf Abdallah Usman, representative of UNESCO, and also member of the jury, presented a paper on Heritage and the Criteria for nomination to World Heritage list.

2.2 Scoring criteria

The jury developed scoring criteria, for the use of its members in scoring the expected submissions. The criteria covered the following components: compliance with brief, concept, functionality, sustainability, aesthetics, expression, utility, heritage, structure, bankability and special attributes.


Suggestions were made to the Competition Organizing Committee on the most appropriate way to receive, handle and open the expected submissions. A secure store was identified in the Department of Public Building of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), and its door was modified to facilitate the dropping of submissions by the contestants. The door of the store was double locked, with one set of keys with the Procurement Department of the FCDA, and the other with the Public Building Department.

The jury also designed a format for the recording of submitted entries when opened. With these preparations, the stage was set for the day of closure of submissions.


The deadline for the submission of entries was 12.00 noon of 29th July, 2009. In line with the principle of transparency and in compliance with the requirements of the Procurement Act of 2007, invitations were sent out by the Competition Organizing Committee to stake-holders, media houses, NGOs and relevant government functionaries to witness the opening of the entries. The event took place at the Executive Hall of the International Conference Centre. Most invited guests were seated by 11.00am, and by 11.30am the Competition Organizing Committee together with representatives of the FCDA Procurement Department, the Press and NGOs left the Hall for the collection of the entries immediately the 12.00noon deadline was reached.

Two submissions were found in the store, and brought to the venue under security escort for opening. The two entries were then opened and recorded before the audience. Thereafter, the Deputy Director, Capital Procurement, FCDA, handed over the two opened entries to the Chairman of the Jury.


The two entries are coded 1313KJ and JO2009. Highlights of each of the submissions are as follows:


5.1 Entry No. 1313KJ

Entry No. 1313KJ submitted the following:

-       four A1- size sheets,

-       two ring files containing the submission report.

-       two CDs, one covering the drawings laid out on the four boards, and the other covering the contents of the submission report in the ring files.

The main feature of this submission, the portal gate, as described in the report, is based on the concept of the “Landing Eagle”. The eagle is identified as the symbol of unity and strength for Nigeria. The gate also symbolizes the Yoruba, the Fulani and the Igbo ‘Igwe’ caps.

Some other features of the proposal are the tunnel and underground parking which were created purposely to facilitate unimpeded movement of traffic on the expressway as well as free the functional areas of major vehicular movement.

The observatory tower is to be a landmark, from which Abuja can be viewed, and it will also be seen from the City. It is designed to host a revolving restaurant, and provide an observatory platform, while symbolizing the ‘Arewa Knot’ when viewed from the top. It is also meant to provide security/surveillance station, and it carries solar panels as an energy source. There is also a cable car access to the tower from a nearby hilltop.

Above the tunnel, coming from the airport, the VIP car park and the tower are linked to the public grand stand by a ceremonial arcade. To the south of the arcade, are located three geodesic domes, housing the reception block, shopping mall and a 5-star hotel. To the north is the cultural arcade, consisting of three clusters of thirty six (36) huts one for each state to establish its presence by exhibiting their art and craft. To the extreme east, the public grand stand is linked to a cenotaph of ‘the unknown soldier’ by pedestrian route.

The rest of the site is proposed for large expanse of gardens. The report proffers a financial proposal and a cost estimate.


5.2 Entry No. JO2009

Entry No. JO2009 enclosed in its submission the following:

- 4 copies of A1-size drawings.

-7 copies of ring bonded project summary and financing.

- 1 electronic copy of the entry on a CD.

In this submission, the fundamental feature of the proposal is the abstract concept which leaves its interpretation to various schools of thought. The concept allows the 10-lane Airport Expressway to continue uninterrupted as planned, by placing the activities on the northern and southern axis of the site, respectively referred to as ‘formal’ and ‘casual’. The two sides are linked with a cable-stayed foot-bridge with the tower on the southern side.

The abstract form with its pylon and structural cables suspending the bridge can be seen as an immense loom, metaphorically weaving together Nigeria’s different peoples into a single fabric. The cable suspending the bridge can be used to display an array of flags, either of the Nigerian States, African or world nations. The form of the gate also evokes the traditional Nigerian bow harp with its gentle curves and strings. The cable-stayed pedestrian bridge, the tower and the shell roof covering the reception hall are painted in lateritic colour to blend with the laterite clay pavers used on the walking surface of the bridge, both reminiscent of terra cotta Nok sculptures found in the earth around Abuja.

The formal side on the north axis provides for reception area, formal plaza, viewing terrace, cascading water-fall, car park and botanical gardens. The casual side on the southern axis provides for the tower, open-air amphitheatre, commercial plaza, gymnasium, playing fields, children zoo, car parks and photovoltaic veil as an alternative energy source. The two sides are further connected through two vehicular tunnels on the eastern and western sides.

This proposal gave an elaborate financial proposal, but did not give the estimated cost of the project.



The jury commenced close door assessment of the entries the same day it was opened. The first six (6) days (30th July to 4th August) were devoted to reading and studying of each of the submissions by each member of the jury. The next three (3) days, (5th to 7th August) were spent receiving reports from each member of the jury and brain-storming on the qualities and shortcomings seen in each of the entries. The sessions afforded every member the opportunity to fill in the gaps of his perception, against the perceptions of others. The sessions were very revealing and educating, considering the nature of the professional callings and wide range of experiences of the jury members.

Thereafter, individual members scored each entry as deemed appropriate. The average of the scores of all the members became the accepted score of the jury.


The jury appreciates that each of the submissions largely met the requirements of the client and have created a gate by their concepts. However, each of them should have given more information on their proposals. The evaluation of the jury based on the scoring criteria is as follows:

7.1 CONCEPT (Uniqueness, Suitability of purpose and Creativity)

Entry No. 1313KJ interprets the abstract form of the ‘landing eagle’ as its concept, an object under which Nigerians have found expression in terms of unity and achievement. However, in terms of uniqueness, elements used are common sights across the world. Taking any of them as an object of association may not create an immediately discernible land mark for Abuja worldwide. From the point of view of suitability for purpose therefore, this entry falls short of providing a unique concept that would be a landmark of international recognition. The scheme in its entirety lacks any obvious creativity either in its individual components or as a whole.

Entry No. JO2009’s choice of form and the creative utilisation of the topography are unique. The scheme seems to be tailored specifically to fit the site. This entry interprets the cable-stayed bridge as a large loom which has been aligned to the true north-south axis on which the different peoples of this country are woven into one fabric to produce the entity called Nigeria. This addresses the issue of depicting Abuja as a symbol of national unity.


7.2 FUNCTIONALITY (Inclusiveness, Circulation & Spatial Relationship)

The thoughtful inclusion of the thirty six (36) States; the different challenging experiences occasioned by the use of various (low and high-tech ) designs to deal with isolated or groups of structures; the pedestrianized environment by Entry No. 1313KJ, are good attempts at addressing inclusiveness. On the other hand, the diversion of the Airport Expressway through the tunnel has excluded a large number of commuters from even a casual on-the-move feel of the entire development.   Underground car park is limited, pedestrian connection from the underground to the surface is restrictive.   However, the isolation of the vehicular traffic from the community has improved the appreciation of the spatial relationships of the structures.

Entry No. JO2009 has made a good statement on inclusiveness through the provision of exquisite reception area, the amphitheatre, parks, gardens, pedestrian ramps and a drive-around. The integration of the Airport Expressway into the concept allows commuters a feel of the environment as they pass through. The entry has provided for a more efficient and flexible circulation network for both vehicular and pedestrian movements. Access and parking have been adequately provided from whichever direction one approaches the site. While the spatial relationships within the formal and casual sides are efficient, interconnectivity between the two across the highway still remains a challenge.

7.2 SUSTAINABILITY (Energy Efficiency, Water Consumption, Operating Cost & Environmental Impact)

In the area of energy efficiency, Entry No. 1313KJ will require massive power consumption if only to keep the underground facilities powered even during the day, and sustain the mechanical installations therein. In relative terms, this scheme would have negative environmental Impact especially in the area of altering the topography by first tunneling, removing Flora and Fauna.

In the event of a disaster affecting the tunnel, there is a likelihood of serious disruption of movement between the airport and the city.

By integrating the Airport Expressway into its scheme, Entry No. JO2009 appears to take advantage of the expressway lighting thereby reducing its power requirement. The energy budget for the lighting of the area covered by the expressway through the site is therefore not part of the project budget.

Entry No. JO2009 utilizes the topography creatively and adds water fall to complement the existing environment. The design is more open and in case of emergency, it will be possible to isolate trouble areas for evacuation.

Both Entry Nos. 1313KJ and JO2009 submissions have not given adequate information to assess water consumption and operating costs. These are some of the areas the winning entry needs to address.

7.3 AESTHETICS (Visual Impact & Form and Massing)

In the Entry No. 1313KJ, the components are loose and weak, resulting in an uninspiring development with low visual impact, weakening the strong ‘sense of arrival’ required of a city gate.

Aesthetically, the form and massing of Entry No. JO2009’s components are compact with strong visual impact brought about by the semi-abstract composition of its elements and choice of colour. The overall visual attribute effectively blends the green and hilly natural setting with architectural and engineering forms thoughtfully placed and dramatized. The blue falling water with various sky settings as backdrop creates an ever dynamic and scenic picture of the gate development resulting in a strong sense of arrival.

7.4 EXPRESSION (Symbolism, Identity, Perception and Environmental & Cultural Relevance).

Entry No. 1313KJ appears to be disjointed by locating the portal gate just before the road vanishes into the tunnel, thus preventing commuters from feeling the rest of the city gate environment.

In Entry No. JO2009, the gate’s main element - the composite structure of the cable-stayed foot bridge and the reception building, in its abstract conception and earth hue is symbolic, and has a clearly identifiable attribute. In the configuration of the project, the environment created distinctly sets itself as a zone of special activity within its neighbourhood. Furthermore, the structures proposed have been very comfortably and creatively married into the environment with limited disruption of the natural landscape.

UTILITY (Energy, Fire, Sewer and Security).

Both entries have not given enough information to allow for fair judgment under these headings.

7.5 HERITAGE (Potentiality for listing as world heritage)

In Entry no. 1313KJ, the general idea behind the design concept is typical of many landmarks in Abuja and environs. It is therefore not authentic. However, the provision of clusters of round huts for the display of art works and crafts from the thirty six states of the federation enhances the cultural credentials of the design. The shape of the geodesic dome as a calabash ladle placed upside down suggests a synthesis of international trends with Nigeria’s cultural heritage. On the other hand, the security, environmental, health challenges, etc posed by the tunnel reduces its tourism appeal.

The abstract nature of JO2009 makes it amenable to different interpretations therefore retaining general appeal for all. There is also an imaginative use of local design. For instance the structural cables of the pedestrian bridge could be seen as an immense loom or the strings of a musical instrument commonly found in all parts of the country thus significantly achieving symbolism. The terracotta colour used is culturally relevant.

Forms are authentic therefore possibly attributable with outstanding universal value thereby attracting international tourism.   Its good circulation also makes it tourism friendly.

Clearly defined boundary and the provision of buffer zone complies with the requirement of world Heritage centre. This will also protect integrity and enhance conservation management.

The features and activities which convey the significances of the entire design, make it suitable for wide variety of public functions including festivals. For instance the amphitheater is like a big village square. There is provision for other features that can cater to some special cultural requirements of visitors.

There is however the need for safety assurance of the pedestrian over the bridge. This may also improve the visual impact to enhance general expression and authenticity.

7.6 STRUCTURE (Constructability, Choice of Technology, Maintainability, Choice of Materials & Economy)

In the entry 1313KJ the tower with rotating observatory, the Geodesic Domes, the tunneling and other proposed structures present additional construction challenges that would demand more time, energy and resources.

The underground facilities of 1313KJ require special attention especially in the areas of vertical movements, ventilation, drainage, security and the maintenance of the huge concrete deck on which the City gate is sited.

The disadvantages of entry 1313KJ in the areas of constructability, choice of technology and maintainability, have eroded the economy of the entry.

Even though the Cable Stayed Foot Bridge in entry JO2009 seems challenging, the technology and expertise are available and documented. The bridge tower is the most challenging when considering constructability, because of the height, size and tapering form towards the top. However, the technology to execute it is available.

Major maintainability challenge of this option is the tower, the shell structure of the reception area, and the cables of the foot bridge. The degree of maintainability depends on what materials are used.

Both entries pose similar challenges in terms of choice of technology.

7.7 BANKABILITY (Phasing options, Financing Plan, Financial Sustainability)

Entry 1313KJ proposed financing the project through International Donors, International Finance Organisation, Capital Market, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or Private developer interested in BOT for the Hotel, Shopping Malls, Landscaped gardens, Restaurants, Cultural Arcade, etc.

There is no clear elucidation in the methodology by which the above options can be implemented.


The entry proposed four phases for development where the Tunnel, Portal gate, Ceremonial Arcade and VIP parking as Phase1; Cultural Arcade, Civic ring, Cenotaph, Reception block, Gymnasium, Kiosks and Clinic as Phase 2; Underground parking, Cable car, Hotel, Shopping Mall, Recreational parks and Landscaping as Phase 3 and Future Subway and Future Commercial Development as Phase 4.


The 1st phase which is expected to cost over N90 billion will, by its nature, have to be borne exclusively by government. While the second phase costing is about 25% will have a mixture of government plus private suite. The costs of the other 2 phases are expected to be borne by the private sector.


In the case of JO2009, Financing model is the modified concession contract which proposes the use of Revenue streams comprising variable user fees based on break even charges which will be used to cover loan operating expenditure and also fixed unitary payment by government to cover cost of investment.


It also proposed a Special Purpose Vehicle to be set up with a life span of 25-30yrs when the property reverts back to the government.


The land is to be considered as a social investment for public benefit with all government levies being waived.


Federal Ministry of Finance is expected to set up a Debt Service Reserve Account (unconditional guarantee) while the FCDA is expected to set up a Revenue Guarantee Trust Account where the monthly unitary payment will be made. Amortization of the Assets is over the period of the loan.


Construction period is proposed to be 5 years with no taxes during the period. Overall cost of the project is not given.


There is no clear cut phasing structure to the project, but made statements is respect of additional facilities like hotels which are to be provided later.



Having given due consideration to the above attributes of the two entries, the jury averagely scored Entry 1313KJ 40.45%, while Entry JO2009 scored 59.76%. The jury therefore hereby declare entry Coded JO2009 as the winner of the competition.

May I seek your permission to request the Director of Procurement, FCDA to please produce the sealed envelops containing the identity of the entries so that the name of the winning firm can be announced.



May I at this juncture on behalf of the jury, extend our profound appreciation for the confidence reposed on us to adjucate on this important assignment. I personally thank the individual jurors who despite some differences in our individual philosophies and theories in architectural judgment, set aside our personal egos and converge our opinions on objectivity, leading to a consensus of opinion.

We wish to express our appreciations to the Competition Organizing Committee for the support they gave and the professionalism they exhibited during our closed door sessions. The two submissions will be displayed for the public here in the VIP Lounge for the next two weeks.




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