History of Arewa House

Historical Background of Arewa House

The Centre for Historical Documentation and Research: Arewa House came into being in 1968 when it was established by the Interim Common Services Agency (ICSA) an Organ Controlled by the Governors of the then Six Northern States. At inception it started as History of Northern Nigeria Project Committee under the Chairmanship of late Alh. Ali Akilu which was later taken over by late Alh. Liman Ciroma in 1971 when the former died.

The terms of reference of the committee were:

1) To arrange to write a history of Northern Nigeria from about 1900 to date”.
2) To repossess and store all records relating to the history of Northern Nigeria. Safe-custody and future use”.
3) To draw up a plan for establishment of a museum on the premises of No. 1 Ex-Ministers’ quarters.

As the committee worked it came to a realization that it needed a permanent research institute to document and research into the history and cultures of the people and societies of Northern Nigeria.

The function of the Centre was to include:

1) Preservation and management of all centralized collection of historical material relating to the North
2) Organization of post-graduate historical study for all those who required it as part of their training, for example, University Lecturers in various fields, senior history teachers in Northern States colleges, senior information and cultural affairs officers in State Governments, research staff of state institute of historical studies, etc.
3) Development of research in the hisThese and several other functions were articulated in the committee’s report of September, 1972, for approval by the Governors of the Six Northern States during their meeting of 6th October, 1972. It was also during this meeting that the Governors approved the establishment of a permanent centre of historical documentation and research in Kaduna.

The Governors, at the suggestion of the committee, appropriately named the centre “AREWA HOUSE”. The Governors confirmed the siting of the Centre in the residence of the late Premier of Northern Region, Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto. This was done in recognition of this great man’s vision and untiring efforts to unite the entire people of the North, regardless of their ethnic and religious differences. As a matter of fact, throughout the period of the crisis, from January 1966 to January, 1970, his memory provided elements of correction for the people of Northern Nigeria. His house in Kaduna provided a rallying point to the people. In order to raise the centre to an international standard, the Governors assigned more buildings and land to the committee and made a further grant of $50,000 for the capital and recurrent cost of the centre down to September, 1973. It was further stressed that the Centre would continue to be financed and administered by the Governments of the Northern States for, in addition to its roles, the purpose of assisting them in finding solutions to the problems of their governments. The great importance which their Excellences attached to the development of the Arewa House as a permanent institution is clearly shown in the ICSA reports.

As a research centre, the Governors continued to recognize its affiliation to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In order to perform its role properly, a number of innovations were introduced. The essential feature was the making of a provision for a Board of Governors, with a representative appointed by the industrialized nations of the non-African World, interference which, paradoxically, is often welcomed and encouraged by “modernizing interests within African society itself. For a full understanding of the forces at work in the evolution of Nigeria society, therefore, an assessment of the nature, motivation and impact of such interfering influences must be made. And again this can only be done by historical study. It is to provide facilities for advanced historical study orientated in this way that Arewa House is established. More specifically, Arewa House is intended to provide facility for the formal training of university teachers and research workers in the field of historical studies. Thus the bulk of the work done there is to be for Higher Degree of the Nigerian Universities. It is particularly hoped that in addition to post-graduate students of Ahmadu Bello University, graduate assistants and other academic-staff in training from the newly founded universities will be encouraged to use these facilities also. Again, because of the accepted importance of historical study for advanced work in many fields of the social, moral and pedagogical sciences, the facilities being developed at Arewa House will be of value to post-graduate students in a wide range of disciplines. Already students reading for Higher Degrees in Administrative Studies and in Sociology have benefitted from the use of these facilities.


Arewa House has a long history of work in the area of Arabic/Ajami manuscript preservation and has initiated many programs for the procurement and preservation of Arabic manuscripts. Nigerian Arabic Manuscripts Project (NAMP). This started from a National Conference on Preserving Nigeria’s Scholarly and Literary Traditions and Arabic Manuscripts Heritage in 2007 with a grant from the US Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. Followed by two workshops on the Conservation of Arabic Manuscripts held at Usman Danfodiyo University Sokoto, and National Archives Kaduna 2008, subsequently conferences and training follows. The activities of NAMP have led to a strengthening and more intense collaboration with