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Reps push for conduct of census


Jan. 14, 2020

The House of Representatives has passed a resolution giving the National Population Commission (NPC) ultimatum to release the timetable for the nation’s population census latest by 2020. PHILIP NYAM reviews the proceedings at which the resolution was passed
he question of population census in Nigeria has always been controversial and complicated. After almost 60 years of independence, the nation is yet to get it right in the conduct of its census.
Most population headcounts conducted after the exit of the colonial masters have not yielded the desired results as the outcome had always been contested due to religious, ethnic and social cultural factors.
Consequently, there is no official figure of the exact population of the country. It will be recalled that the British colonial masters conducted census in 1866 and subsequently in 1871, 1896, 1901, 1911 and 1921. All these exercises were however conducted in the Southern Protectorate.
The first census that included the Northern Protectorate was conducted in 1952. However, the first census after independence was conducted in 1963, which gave an officially recognised result of a total population of 55.6 million.
The 1973 census was characterised by disagreements even from among members of the then Census Board regarding the veracity of the figures. There was also another census in 1991, with the last exercise being that of 2006.
The 2006 census had put Nigeria’s population at 140 million. Since then, there has been no population census. In other words, the nation’s policy plans and implementation are based on approximation as the exact population of the country is still far from known.
It was as part of efforts to correct this anomaly that the House of Representatives in December 2019, passed a resolution, urging the National Population Commission (NPC) to come up with a feasible timetable for the conduct a national census not later than year 2020.
In adopting the motion sponsored by Hon. Ademorin Kuye (APC, Lagos), the House also urged the Federal Government to provide necessary logistics for the conduct of a national census in 2020 as a way of ending the uncertainties surrounding Nigeria’s actual population.
The lower chamber consequently constituted an ad-hoc committee to liaise with the National Population Commission (NPC), the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning and the National Bureau of Statistics to work out modalities on how to conduct a census in 2020 and also to liaise with other foreign donors for necessary support for the exercise.
Leading debate on the motion, Hon. Kuye noted that holding of a population census is an important national assignment because its figures are critical for national planning and it is for this reason, among others, that most countries of the world carry out this exercise once every 10 years.
He observed that without a census, and an accurate data of the number of people in a given country, no government can provide adequately for its citizens as government requires data to know the number of children being born, the number of schools and hospitals that would be needed, how many workers are in a given town and how many foreigners are in the country for proper provision of infrastructural facilities.
The lawmaker noted that most times, Nigeria’s population is predicated on projected figures provided by foreign organisations like the United Nations “thus making planning extremely difficult in the absence of a population census, which the National Population Commission (NPC) would have been ready to conduct every 10 years, as is obtainable in other countries, but it is now left to the whims and caprices of the government.”
Kuye recalled that since the first census which was held in Lagos in 1866, there had been a trend towards a better planned and more reliable census exercises as subsequent census exercises took place in 1869, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1911, “but were limited to Lagos and its environs and some parts of the Southern Protectorate”.
Continuing, Kuye stated that the 1952/1953 census was the first modern, national and carefully planned census; however, its outcome was not generally accepted as it was not conducted simultaneously throughout the country.
The Lagos lawmaker observed that other population censuses that took place at various times between 1953, 1962/1963 and 1973 were well planned. He, however, expressed concern that the last national census was conducted in 2006 and until it becomes mandatory to conduct a census at given intervals like elections, “Nigeria will continue to have delays in organizing national census.”
Kuye, further noted that he was aware of the extreme importance of conducting another census to ascertain the country’s actual population in order to do away with projected figures, a development that will enable the government to plan better for the citizens.
According to him, “if adequate measures are not put in place where population census is conducted periodically at least once every 1 0 years, Nigeria will be lacking in the statistical data of its citizenry either politically or economically.”
He disclosed that “in 2016, the World Bank estimated Nigeria’s population at 186 million and the United Nations, also in 2017, put Nigeria’s population at 180 million with a growth rate of 2.7 per cent and prior to that in 2016, the former Director-General of the National Population Commission (NPC), Alhaji Ghali Bello, had estimated Nigeria’s population to be 182 million, with a growth rate of 3.5 per cent.”
He also informed that the National Assembly, had in 2018, called for the postponement of the proposed 2018 population census on the ground that such an exercise, coming on the eve of the 2019 general election, could end in chaos.
While acknowledging that Nigeria has a dynamic economy and a large population, which is expected to double in the next two decades, he reiterated that 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; cognisant that lack of accurate data on the population of Nigeria has been affecting national planning and development at all levels.”
The motion was seconded by Hon. Adekunle Alabi (APC, Oyo), and was unanimously endorsed by the House.
In his contribution to the motion, Hon. Shina Abiola Peller (APC, Oyo) stated that a comprehensive census provides the much-needed data for proper planning of government policies and infrastructure provision and should be supported by all means.
Despite passage of the resolution, the NPC is yet to make any pronouncement concerning the planned census two weeks into the New Year.
But with the House due to reconvene from its Christmas and New Year holiday in two weeks’ time, it is expected that the lawmakers will take up the matter with relevant government agencies and stakeholders to ensure that the resolution is complied with.
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