The British Empire Library

Into Africa And Out - Northern Nigeria 1956 - 1962

by David R Ball

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Richard Barlow-Poole (Northern Nigeria I947-68)
Town Planning in the old colonial days was done by the district administration. One example is the layout in Argungu town made by Max Backhouse of an avenue leading up to the Emir's palace. Professional town planners in Northern Nigeria only arrived in the 1950's. David Ball took over from the lirst town planner, Rollinson, in 1956.

District Officers, and officers in other Departments, are often asked "how did you spend your time?" David Ball's description of his working life and leisure time during his six years on contract provides an excellent answer, very well illustrated with 44 coloured plates from the author's own photography. The book is all the better because the author does not shun using personal names which makes it all the more interesting. Even in 1959 Residents could regard town planning as a rough and ready science. "Resident Ilorin here. We shall need a new town near the Bussa dam. We think about 30,000 people. Can you come down next week, find a site and plan it?"

After Independence long term development plans began to be prepared. The first, a report on the Twenty Year Development Plan for Metropolitan Kano, was prepared by B.A.W Trevallion SPDip, MTPI, ARIBA, loaned to the Government of Northern Nigeria by the British Department of Technical Cooperation under the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan. This Report was followed by one in 1966 on the future planning of Kaduna Capital Territory by Max Lock and Partners. David Ball, after he had left Nigeria, bumped into Gerald King, Max Lock's partner in the UK, who told David of the Kaduna contract and asked whom they should talk to. "Better than that," David said, "I'll come with you". David was actually joking but Gerald King took him seriously. In the event, Max Lock said they were sorry but their expenses wouldn't run to take David along.

One subject in David Ball's book which is particularly appropriate is the tribute he pays to his domestic staff. His Audu was with him for all six years "and was one of the men I have ever met". He played no small part in David Ball's success. Town Planning Officers up to 1966 were always members of the Survey Division in the Ministry of Land and Survey. The Survey Department was a fairly small department compared to, eg the Agricultural, Medical and Police departments, but they were a closely knit organisation with their own offices and residences in Kaduna South. It is remarkable that they manage to have an annual Northern Nigerian Survey Reunion where numbers are around 40-45. A fine achievement. It is hoped that the definitive account of their story The Geographic Labourers of Arewa - The story of the Northern Nigerian Survey, edited by Malcolm Anderson has also been published by the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum Press.

British Empire Book
David R Ball
Nazeden Press
0 9541327 1 8


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