Nigeria is a country with a rich history and a diverse cultural heritage. From ancient kingdoms and empires to modern political and economic centers, Nigeria has played a significant role in shaping the course of African history. In this blog post, we will explore 27 historic buildings and structures, showcasing their cultural and historical significance and highlighting their importance to the people of Nigeria. Whether you are a history lover, a traveler, or just someone interested in learning more about this vibrant and fascinating country, this blog post is sure to provide you with an enlightening and enjoyable reading experience.
- The First-Storey Building in Nigeria
- Jaekel House
- Ancient Kano City Walls
- Third Mainland Bridge
- National Mosque
- The First Seaport in Nigeria
- Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport
- Cocoa House
- River Niger Bridge
- St George’s Hall
- Bodija housing estate
- National War Museum
- The Water House
- Mary Slessor’s house
- Oba of Benin Royal Palace
- Cathedral Church of Christ
- Gobirau Minaret
- National Arts Theatre
- The first and oldest hospital in Nigeria
- Lord Lugard footbridge
- Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Library
- Oldest Power Plant in Nigeria
- The Great Wall of Ijebu Ode Kingdom
- Mapo Hall
- The first Motorable Road in Nigeria
- Port Harcourt Refinery
- Captain Bower’s Tower
The First-Storey Building in Nigeria
The construction of the first-storey building in Nigeria started in 1842 and was completed in 1845. After completion, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther lived there with his family, and it was here that he translated the English Bible into the Yoruba language. This building is home to many historical relics, such as:
- The first cemented well in Nigeria.
- The first primary school in Nigeria.
- Nigeria’s oldest Bible, written in an indigenous language.
It is estimated that at least 2000 people visit every year. Read more about the first-storey building in Nigeria.
Jaekel House was constructed in 1898 and is one of the oldest buildings within the Nigerian Railway Compound Lagos. It is named after Francis Jaekel OBE, a former superintendent of the Nigerian Railway Corporation. The house is now managed and maintained by Legacy1995 to preserve the legacy of Nigeria’s earliest railway tracks, repair yards, and sheds. Today it houses a mini museum housing artefacts and mementos showcasing Nigeria’s railway history.
Visitors to the Jaekel House Museum can see British weaponry, miniature reproductions of trains, and other artefacts and photographs linked to the period’s civilian, political, and military life. Read more about the Jaekel house.
Ancient Kano City Walls
Kano, now one of the most populated cities in West Africa, was surrounded by the ancient Kano city walls hundreds of years before British colonists arrived in Nigeria.
The brown-mud wall stands thirty to fifty feet high and measures 40 feet thick and was constructed between 1095 and 1134 and completed in the middle of the 14th century.
The city of Kano was a center for Islamic studies and a thriving hub with abundant water and iron deposits at the time, so the leadership took extra security precautions by using the ancient Kano city walls to monitor all entry and exit and protect the city from outside invasion. Read more about the ancient Kano city walls.
Third Mainland Bridge
The Ibrahim Babangida Bridge, now popularly known as the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, is the longest in Nigeria, with a total length of 11.8 km. It was the longest in Africa until 1996.
Julius Berger constructed the bridge and a consortium comprising Impresit Girola, Borini Prono, and Trevi Group. The Ibrahim Babaginda administration then opened it in 1990. Read more about the Third mainland bridge.
The Nigerian National Mosque was built during President Shehu Shagari’s administration when Nigeria relocated her capital from Lagos to Abuja. It houses an Islamic center, a conference room, and a library within its walls. And there are also living quarters for the mosque’s Imam and other religious leaders.
The mosque has been open for nearly four decades and has a massive golden dome that is the most eye-catching feature. The mosque is open to the general public, non-Muslims, and tourists when congregational prayers are not being held. Read more about the Nigerian National Mosque.
The First Seaport in Nigeria
The Calabar Port was the first seaport in Nigeria and was built at Cross River, Calabar State. The port’s construction, renovation, and extension were carried out as part of the 3rd National Development Plan of 1975-1980 to upgrade the facilities to meet the ever-increasing demand of the Nigerian economy.
The port was also designed to be a strategic and easy access point for neighboring nations like Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. Today, the port is estimated to bring in roughly 12 billion Naira annually for the Federal Government. Read more about the First Seaport in Nigeria.
Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport
The international Mallam Aminu Kano Airport is the nation’s oldest airport, and it hosted the 1922 landing of its first aircraft. The airport was named after a prominent Kano-born Nigerian statesman, Mallam Aminu Kano, a nationalist, and politician. He was one of the few prominent Nigerian politicians who advocated for women’s equality and a fiscal system that favors high taxes on the region’s wealthy. As a result, many streets, a college, and an airport are named after him.
Mallam Aminu Kano airport is a major transit point for the annual Muslim Hajj to Mecca and a major connection point for air travelers from Northern Nigeria to major parts of the world. Read more on Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.
Cocoa House Ibadan
Cocoa House is the first skyscraper in West Africa. The 26-story building was built in 1965 and is located in the heart of Dugbe, Ibadan, Oyo State. It was initially called “Ile Awon Agbe” (House of Farmers).
The name was changed to Cocoa House for two reasons:
- It was constructed with cocoa exportation proceeds
- A cocoa tree was planted next to a water fountain in front of the building.
The Cocoa House was commissioned for use in August 1965 by the then Western Region administration. On its 24th floor, a museum displays early Yoruba artwork, clothing, kitchenware, tools of war, and way of life. Learn more about the Cocoa House Ibadan.
River Niger Bridge
The Niger Bridge, which connects Onitsha and Asaba, was completed in December 1965 by a french construction company called Dumez.
Nigeria’s economy was predominantly agricultural, so the bridge transported various agricultural products, which were initially transported across the River Niger and Onitsha using canoes.
Millions of people travel daily from Asaba, Delta State’s capital, to Onitsha and back via the iconic River Niger Bridge, which has become a symbol of national enterprise. The bridge connects Eastern and Western Nigeria and is 4,606 feet long and 74 feet high. Read more on River Niger Bridge.
St George’s Hall
St. George’s Hall is a two-storey building located in Lagos State. It is one of the iconic examples of colonial-era architecture in Nigeria today. It was founded in 1904 and was dedicated on July 1, 1905.
The ground floor is intended for use as a Banqueting Hall or a place for public entertainment. In contrast, the upper floor was reserved for purely Masonic purposes.
Although St. George’s Lodge owned the building, St. George’s Hall is Nigeria’s center of Freemasonry (English Constitution). However, it is now under the jurisdiction of the District Grand Lodge of Nigeria Eastern Constitution. Read more about St George’s Hall.
Bodija Housing Estate
The Bodija Housing Estate in Ibadan, constructed in 1959, is Nigeria’s first housing estate. All the houses in the Estate had all the basic amenities: light, water, garden, and gardens. The only difference in the houses were the architectural designs, the materials used, and the number of rooms in each structure.
Most of the houses in the area were then occupied by white-collar workers and professionals. Recently it was divided into Old and New Bodija, housing hotels, lounges, restaurants, shopping malls, and modern houses. It remains Nigeria’s first housing estate. Find out more about the Bodija Housing Estate.
National War Museum
The National War Museum was opened to the public in 1985 by the then Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, (Rtd) Major-General Tunde Idiagbon. It provides a good overview of the Civil War, which lasted from 6 July 1967 to 15 January 1970.
The National War Museum comprises three exhibition galleries — the Traditional Warfare, the Armed Forces, and the Nigerian Civil War weapon galleries. It also has an open-air museum divided into three sections — the Army, the Navy, and the Airforce.
Of the serenity and the memories the museum encapsulates, the site has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, with people visiting the place regularly to see the military artifacts, either for research or to relive memories of the time.
The Water House
The Water House, Lagos, is a 19th-century Brazilian Bahia-style architectural beauty situated on two streets, Kakawa and Candido Da Rocha, Lagos Island. Chief Candido Joao Da Rocha owned the residence. He was a Nigerian businessman, landowner, and creditor, and he also attended CMS Grammar School alongside Isaac Oluwole and Herbert Macaulay.
The lowest storey of the building is thought to be 131 years old, while the upper storey is around 73 years. Read more about why it is called the water house.
Mary Slessor’s house
Mary Mitchell Slessor was a Scottish missionary sent by the United Presbyterian Church to Nigeria in the 19th century. Her house, erected around 1880 in Akpap Village, Calabar, Cross River State, is one of the monuments dedicated to her memory.
Initially, the home was a two-bedroom mud house with a veranda, a store, and a parlor. In 1889, Mr. Owens, a missionary carpenter, was commissioned to construct a more permanent structure for her. The walls were composed of iron sheets with wooden doors and windows.
The Mary Slessor House is a historical site in honor of the missionary in Ekenge, Calabar, Cross River State. Read more about Mary Slessor’s house.
Oba of Benin Royal Palace
The Oba of Benin’s Palace is located in the heart of Benin’s ancient city. It was built by Oba Ewedo, who reigned the ancient Benin Kingdom between 1255 AD and 1280 AD. Oba Eweka II (1914-1922)rebuilt it after the original structure was destroyed during the War of the British of 1897.
Today the Royal Palace of the Oba of Benin is dedicated to celebrating and preserving Benin’s rich culture. It is a holy place because it has housed a long line of divine rulers. From there, the Oba oversees the kingdom’s affairs with the assistance of the chiefs, religious specialists, court officials, and attendants. It is the most prestigious site in Benin. And one of the most popular tourist attractions in Benin City, Edo State. Read more about the Oba of Benin Royal Palace.
Cathedral Church of Christ
The Cathedral Church of Christ is a stunning structure located in the heart of Marina Lagos. It is the Church of Nigeria’s oldest Anglican cathedral. Its foundation stone was set in 1867, and the Cathedral was dedicated in 1869.
The Cathedral houses what was formerly Nigeria’s largest organ, built by Oberlinger Orgelbau and renovated by Harrison & Harrison in the early twenty-first century. The relics of Rev Dr. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the Anglican Church’s first African bishop, were transported to the Cathedral in 1976. As a memorial to him, a cenotaph has been erected. Learn more about the Cathedral Church of Christ, one of Nigeria’s most historic buildings and structures.
The 15-meter-tall Gobirau Minaret which was once the tallest building in the state was built during the reign of Sarkin Katsina, Muhammadu Korau (1398-1408 AD), who was Katsina’s first Muslim king.
While it was originally built as Katsina’s central mosque in the early 16th century, it was turned into a school after Katsina had evolved into a significant commercial and intellectual center in the North. Over time, It grew into a prominent center of higher Islamic learning. Read more about the Gobirau Minaret.
National Arts Theatre
The National Arts Theatre is a majestic structure built in 1976 in preparation for the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC)to be a focal point for the celebration of Nigerian art and culture during the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo. The theatre has an auditorium that can seat about 3,000 people and a conference hall that can seat about 800 people. Learn more about the National Arts Theatre located at Iganmu, Lagos state.
The first and oldest hospital in Nigeria
The Sacred Heart Hospital located in Abeokuta, Ogun State is the first and oldest hospital in Nigeria. It was established by the Society of African Missions of the Catholic Church in 1895.
The Roman Catholic Mission through Reverend Father Coquard established the Sacred Heart Hospital. While the hospital was initially located at Itesi, Abeokuta, in 1971, Archbishop Aggey relocated the hospital to Lantoro. The historic hospital continues to operate as a 300-bed facility thanks to an expansion and several notable developments. Read more about the first and oldest hospital in Nigeria.
Lord Lugard footbridge
In 1904 Lord Lugard built a footbridge that connected his residence to the rest of the colonial Zungeru. The bridge over the Kaduna River was named after him, hence Lugard’s Footbridge. The bridge is made of iron and other supporting building materials such as handrails, wire gauze, and beams. Following the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates in 1920, the bridge was reconstructed and moved to Gamji Gate, Kaduna.
Learn more about Lord Lugard Footbridge.
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Library
Situated within the campus of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, the library was established in 1981 to offer reliable bibliographic support for research purposes. The library can accommodate about 1000 readers and contains 161,672 books, 3442 journal titles, and 2,117 serial titles. It is known for its open access and library resource database containing journals and e-books from various disciplines such as Agricultural Engineering, Medical Science, Environment Technology, and Management Sciences.
Learn more about the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Library.
Oldest Power Plant in Nigeria
An alternate source of electricity production was sought owing to the use of just two 60 kW generators to produce energy. This led to the commissioning of the Ijora Power Station in 1923. The plant is one of the country’s oldest and was constructed in four stages with an original capacity of roughly 20 megawatts (Mw) of energy using steam turbines and coal-fired boilers.
Though power generation in Nigeria has become widespread, the Ijora Power Plant is Nigeria’s first modern power plant. Read more about the construction of the Oldest power plant in Nigeria.
The Great Wall of Ijebu Ode Kingdom
To the southwest of Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria, is a thick crimson, 100-mile-long, 70-foot-tall man-made defense wall known as Sungbo Eredo. According to archaeological studies, the Sungbo-Eredo structure, constructed to surround the entire Ijebu Kingdom, was built by locals between 800 and 1000 AD. The wall was a 16,000km long network of walls that were partially hidden under the area’s rainforests and partly covered by patches of moss.
According to popular belief, it was named after the Ijebu noblewoman Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo, long before the start of the trans-Atlantic trade and contact with Europeans. Sungbo’s Eredo has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since November 1, 1995. Read more about the great wall of the Ijebu Ode Kingdom.
The Mapo Hall is located on Mapo hill, also known as the Oke-Mapo. It is the most prominent of Ibadan’s other seven hills, serving as a physical reminder of colonialism and the resiliency of the people of Ibadan.
The ancient colonial-style Mapo Hall includes a small museum that displays antiques such as the chains used to confine tax evaders and old remnants of executive power during the colonial era. In modern-day Ibadan, the hall has witnessed the coronation ceremony of 24 new kings in Ibadan land. The pictures of all Ibadan Kings (Olubadans), who have ruled the city, are also displayed in the hall. Learn more about Mapo Hall.
The first Motorable Road in Nigeria
In about 1904, Lord Fredrick Lugard attempted to construct the first mule road between Zaria and Zungeru, the first attempt in the history of road construction in Nigeria. Before this, most pre-colonial Nigerian roads were mere bush paths or well-beaten tracks in the bush.
In 1906, work on Nigeria’s first motorable road began. It linked the city of Ibadan and Oyo town and was proposed to ease the transport of agricultural goods and persons between these two communities. The construction of the road was spearheaded by Lord Lugard as well. Read more about the history of the first motorable road in Nigeria.
Port Harcourt Refinery
Port Harcourt is a coastal city in southern Nigeria and is home to the Port Harcourt Refinery. It was built shortly after Nigeria’s independence by the Shell-BP Petroleum Development Company. The Port Harcourt Refinery is Nigeria’s first oil refinery and is located at Alesa Eleme. It is divided into two units: the old and new refineries. The old refinery opened in 1965, and the new refinery began operations in 1989. Learn more about the Port Harcourt refinery.
Captain Bower’s Tower
Bower’s Tower, built atop Oke-Are, the highest of Ibadan’s seven hills, has been in operation since 1936. The tower was named after Captain Robert Lister Bower. Captain Bower was the first British resident in Nigeria appointed by Queen Elizabeth in 1893 with the responsibility of ending the hostilities between the various Yoruba kingdoms.
The historical tower is 60 feet tall and 11 feet square, with two entrances and around 47 spiral stairs leading to the tower’s summit, from where visitors may enjoy a 360-degree view of Ibadan.
The breathtaking view from the top of the tower allows visitors to see several significant landmarks, including the University College Hospital (UCH), University of Ibadan Clock tower, Cocoa House, Dugbe Market, Agodi Gardens, Mapo Hall and Lekan Salami Sports Complex. Read more about Bowers tower.
Honorable Mentions include:
- Zuma Rock
- Benin City Wall
- Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove
- Obudu Cattle Ranch
- Ile-Ife Museum
- Gbong Gwom Jos Palace
Conclusion of the historic buildings and structures in Nigeria
Nigeria has a rich history and cultural heritage, as evidenced by the numerous historic buildings and structures scattered throughout the country. From the ancient kingdoms of Benin and Ife to the colonial-era buildings of Lagos and Calabar, these structures offer a glimpse into the past and a sense of pride for present-day Nigerians. While some of these buildings are well-preserved and open to the public, others are in need of restoration and preservation efforts. Regardless, they all play a vital role in showcasing the country’s diverse and fascinating history.
In addition to the historic buildings and structures that have stood the test of time, Nigeria’s present-day construction industry is also thriving. From modern skyscrapers in Lagos to the development of new infrastructure projects across the country, the construction industry is a major contributor to Nigeria’s economic growth. While it is important to preserve and honor the country’s rich history, it is also crucial to continue building and developing for the future. As Nigeria looks towards a bright and prosperous future, the combination of both historic and modern construction will undoubtedly play a significant role.