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You are here: HomeOpinionTope Bankole: NEEDS FOR THE CONDUCT OF POPULATION CENSUS IN NIGERIA
Friday, 02 September 2022 00:00

Tope Bankole: NEEDS FOR THE CONDUCT OF POPULATION CENSUS IN NIGERIA

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In this recent time, the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Force s, His Excellency, Major General Muhammed Buhari( retd), has said it is a must to have National Census next year which in no doubt will help provide accurate data to facilitate socio- economic, political  planning and development amongst others.

 

Since 2006 when the National Population Commission (NPC) in Nigeria conducted the last population census under circumstances described as controversial in some quarters, knowing the country’s actual population figure has remained guesswork.

 

 

According to  President Muhammed Buhari, correct data through census will help the country in planning for the citizens noting Nigeria could rank third largest in the world by 2050, after China and India.

 

The country’s inability to conduct a population census in the last 16 years has created an information vacuum as the data from the last census conducted in 2006 has been rendered out of date for planning purposes. It has therefore become imperative for the nation to conduct another national census to produce a new set of demographic and socio-economic data that will provide the basis for national planning and sustainable development.

 

“Population is a critical factor in a nation’s efforts toward achieving sustainable development. People are both the agents and beneficiaries of the development process. Knowledge of the national population in terms of size, distribution and socio-economic characteristics is required for planning purposes. This, therefore, makes the conduct of census an essential governance activity.

 

 

“With a projected population of 216,783,381, Nigeria is the sixth most populous country in the world and the most populous country on the African continent. Due to the rapidly growing nature of the population and large proportion of the youthful population, Nigeria is also projected to be the third most populous country in the World by the year 2050 after India and China,’’ the president said during the  national stakeholders’ summit on the 2023 Population and Housing Census held at the State House, Aso-  rock, Abuja.

 

 

Reliable, credible, acceptable and successful census will help government in planning purpose for development, especially in boostering the social security programme that targets more vulnerable Nigerians.

 

However, hearing it directly from the heldsman of the country, will authenticate the need for the conduct of Census as urgent as it is. 

 

At a time like this when Nigeria is in dire need of accurate and reliable data to aid economic planning and development, the need for a population census to determine the actual number of people in the country cannot be over-emphasised.

 

This situation has given rise to speculations. While the Commission says that Nigeria’s population is 180million, other agencies (local and international) quote figures ranging from 190 to 200 million. If the NPC does not know the actual number of people in this country, who else would?

 

Population census is one of the most important undertakings in any country. It is important to both the individual and the government. It is important for planning and for economic and industrial development.

 

Census is a unique event. It tells us who we are. It is one occasion, once every ten years, when each and every one of us gets the opportunity to make our mark by putting on record who we are, where we are, what we do, what we have to offer and what our current situation is. It doesn’t matter if you are one day old or hundred years old, it doesn’t matter if you were born in rural or urban centre. We are all Nigerians.

 

 

Unequivocally, President Muhammed Buhari emphasized the need for the conduct of Population Census, said "The nation requires a new data set to drive the implementation of the recently launched revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development and other government policies. The 2023 Census data are also needed to tackle the security challenges bedevilling the country as it will give an overview of the population, where we are and who we are.

 

Buhari said that knowing Nigeria’s population and using the data to plan for the people and future generations remain a collective duty owed the nation.

 

“We must all resolve that this duty is satisfactorily carried out in the firm belief that what has joined us together as a nation and our common destiny are far stronger than the negative forces that tend to drive us apart."

 

Census will give a comprehensive picture of the social and living conditions of our people. Only a census can provide such complete detail right down to the smallest area and the results are an essential tool for effective policy, planning and decision making purposes. It provides the knowledge so that public resources can be shared evenly across the country and to ensure that services at local level are relevant to all the people who live there.

 

It is our duty as a nation to see to it that we produce population census results which have been thoroughly conducted, verified and appraised, and therefore acceptable, without any shadow of doubt, to all governments of the world and to all international bodies such as the United Nations and its agencies, the World Bank, etc.

 

The current problems with the population census in Nigeria continue due to current issues regarding religious, tribe and political redistricting in the country. The issue of determining the population of Nigeria has been a very contentious issue since 1866 and establishment of the total population in the country, in each state and local government area has been mere speculations.

 

The reason for this is not far-fetched. People believe that population is a political weapon. The higher the number, the more government amenities an area will stand to attract. Higher population figures lend credence, among other reasons, to the demand for more seats in parliament, more local government areas and more states for a particular tribe or region.

 

Therefore, it becomes expedient for people to inflate the figures of their communities, LGAs and states and attempt to deflate those of others. These are the reasons behind the tension that has continually trailed Nigeria’s attempt to answer the simple question of ‘How many are we?’ through a population census.

 

This irregular and long interval of census taking in Nigeria has denied the nation the huge benefits of comprehensive baseline data for evidence-based decision-making. "Deployment of digital technology in the 2023 National Population and Housing Census will ensure effectiveness and more accuracy in the figures." President Muhammed said.

 

Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who was represented by the Special Adviser to the President, Dr Habiba Muda Lawal in a meeting sometime in 2020, said the country had a population growth rate of 2.3 per cent, and would likely be the third most populated country in the world by 2050.

 

She said the 2023 Census would be the first fully digital population and housing documentation and the outcome would be useful for planning and budgetary allocations.

 

However, the national census did not hold as scheduled in 2016 and has not been held since then.

 

The census conducted in 2006 by the National Population Commission (NPC) revealed that Nigeria’s total population was 140.43 million people and by 2016, when Nigeria was due for another census, NPC’s estimates based on the last census showed that the country’s population had risen to 193.39 million people.

 

 

In 2020, the NPC estimates that Nigeria’s population will hit 210.39 million people in early 2020, while the United Nation estimates the country’s 2020 population will be 206.14 million people at mid-year.

 

 

However, Nigeria is four years behind the official schedule for a national population and housing census.

 

The country was due for another national census in 2016, being 10 years after the last one was conducted in 2006.

 

It is a truism, that in Violation of United Nations’ recommendation

Nigeria is still relying on population data obtained from a national census 14 years ago and estimates based on the same data for policy making in patent violation of the United Nations’ (UN) decennial conduct of censuses.

 

The UN recommends a census enumeration at least once every 10 years, and once every five years for even better data, rather than simply relying on estimates and projections alone.

 

 

The National Population Commission (NPC) is the Federal Government’s agency saddled with the responsibility of conducting periodic national population and housing censuses in Nigeria.

 

On October 1Oth, 2020, going by the United Nations decennial conduct of censuses, the next round of census in Nigeria was scheduled for 2016.

 

However, this could not happen because there was a change of government.

 

 

The NPC said the President Buhari-led government fixed a new date of 2017 for the census, but this could not hold also as the world went into a partial economic recession due to fall in oil prices.

 

While the economy recovered, the Presidency directed the Commission to submit a revised census budget with a timeline which was  submitted for approval. However, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected some of the processes.

 

 

 

It should be remembered that, the NPC was established by the Federal Government in 1988 to collect, analyse and disseminate demographic data in the country.

 

It is also mandated to undertake demographic sample surveys, compile, collate and publish migration and civil registration statistics as well as monitor the country’s Population Policy.

 

 

The Acting Chairman of the NPC, Dr Eyitayo Oyetunji while admonishing President Buhari's intervention for approving N14.5bn for the NPC to complete its ongoing nationwide Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) in October, 2020.

 

The EAD is the process of delineating the entire land area of the country into small geographical and demographic units called Enumeration Areas.

 

The EAD is a preparatory exercise for the actual census.

 

The breakdown of the N14.5bn approved for the EAD included an instant N10bn in 2020 and inclusion of N4.5bn in the 2021 budget for the completion of the exercise as part of the preparations for the next census.

 

This was revealed by the then Acting Chairman of the NPC, Dr Eyitayo Oyetunji  in Abuja at a press briefing for the commencement of the fieldwork for the 10th phase of the EAD exercise.

 

According to Eyitayo, “This milestone development underscores the President’s understanding of the role of data, especially demographic data as the bedrock for informed development planning and allocation of resources,” 

 

He revealed that the 10th phase of the EAD will be conducted in 33 local government areas spread across 25 states and the FCT from October 5 to 29.

 

The states include Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Adamawa, Bauchi, and in Borno, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Plateau, Kogi, and the FCT.

 

Others include Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers.

 

At this juncture, putting things in place since this while in preparation for when the approval  will be given by the President.Now, that, 2023 has been set for the conduct of census  in our dear country, Nigeria.

 

 

I strongly believe that, the, necessary authority especially NPC boss will ensure all hands on deck for  a successful conduct.

 

 

To all Nigerians, we must be aware that Government requires data to know the number of children being born, the number of schools and hospitals that will be needed, how many workers are in a given town and how many foreigners are in the country, for proper provision of infrastructural facilities.

 

 

Nigeria has a dynamic economy and a large population which is expected to double in the next two decades and census is a pivotal and necessary tool for the growth of any emerging society, which in turn informs decision-making at all facets of public and private sectors.

 

 

 

Taking cognizance recognition the United Nations explains that the population and housing census represent one of the pillars for data collections on the number and characteristics of the population of a country.

 

“The population and housing census are parts of an integrated national statistical system, which may include other censuses (for example, agriculture), surveys, registers and administrative files.

 

“It provides, at regular intervals, the benchmark for population count at national and local levels.

 

“For small geographical areas or sub-populations, it may represent the only source of information for certain social, demographic and economic characteristics,” the United Nations stated.

 

An economist, Muhammad Ali, sometime revealed that population data form the basis of socioeconomic interventions, delineation of constituency, polling units allocation, better sense-making of economic data, security/policing especially police station creation, citizens identification, national planning and management, and private sector investment decisions.

 

“We do not truly know the number of rural and urban unemployment, number of people engaged in farming and other occupational distribution, age and gender distribution etc.

 

“Therefore, a well conducted census would point out these issues and help in better national planning and development,” the expert said.

 

Ali, who lectures at the Prince Abubakar Audu University Anyigba, Kogi State, said population data allows for understanding of indices like birth rate, death rate, female to male ratios, which are critical indices that could be used to guide government policies and private investment decisions.

 

“Population data could have been handled to not only the government but the private sector in decision making.

 

“However, a situation where the data on population cannot be said to be accurately available, it becomes difficult to make meaning out of the growth process,” he said.

 

The expert said even in budgeting, there is what is called per capita budget which is total budget divided by population and where data on head counts are not available, understanding how much is budget to individuals in the country becomes difficult.

 

 

It is pertinent to point out that planning for development with the aid of population census without the most fundamental fact – the number and characteristics of the people, – is tantamount to chasing the shadows. The proposed population census should serve as an opportunity to right all the wrongs in our population data collection system.

 

In my advise, the future population census, should be placed on the quality of the population – how the skills and abilities of people can be improved and how their motivations and values can be modified for the specific purpose of development efforts.

 

The way out is for the National Population Commission (NPC) to be transparent and accountable to win the confidence of the people.

 

The institution of census tribunal can also be exploited if the need arises, the exercise should be done before the 2023 General Elections so that other government agencies like INEC and NBS can also benefit from it.

 

Census is not an end in itself, as the fundamental question is: how is the government creating bold solutions to address the challenges faced by citizens?

 

Therefore, it is not sufficient for the government to merely allocate billions to do a head count of citizens, but, has the will to implement policies and programmes, which will address the existential conditions of citizens after it counts them.

 

It should be noted that, without a census, it is not a hidden fact that Nigeria has the world’s highest number of poor people, and highest number of out of school children.

 

The data are everywhere; despite this knowledge, we are yet to see bold and ambitious policies to address those issues.

 

 In writing this position paper, census is welcome so long as it is backed by the will to use the outcome for planning and for solving the problems faced by the country’s population.

 

Census should therefore not be an end in itself; that is the only way to justify the billions to be spent.

 

 

'Tope Bankole (ZIO).

 

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