Preparing for the next population census
Preparatory to the next population census in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved the sum of N10 billion towards smoothing the processes leading to the conduct of a successful counting exercise in the country. The Acting Chairman, National Population Commission (NPC), Dr Eyitayo Oyetunji, who disclosed this in Abuja at a press briefing on the commencement of the 10th phase of the Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) exercise, explained that the commission has been implementing the exercise in phases due to paucity of funds.
Dr Oyetunji said the 10th Phase of the exercise, which was due to hold between October 5th and 29th, 2020, inclusive of training and fieldwork, would be conducted in 33 local government areas spread across 25 states and the FCT. The states are Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Plateau, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Rivers and FCT. The EAD, which precedes the real census, determines the success of the census.
The NPC boss said President Buhari also approved the inclusion of N4.5 billion in the 2021 budget for the completion of the exercise as part of preparations for the next census. “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”, Oyetunji said. The NPC is responsible for producing data about the Nigerian people and the country’s economy.
Developmental experts argue that Nigeria’s protracted underdevelopment is rooted in the lack of proper population figures for the country. This, they say, accounts more than corruption and ethnicity for the country’s under-development. Adequate population figures, for example, on the number of school-age children enable government to forecast the number of schools it requires over a given period.
Knowing the size of the country’s population is important for proper planning. Population statistics constitute a basic requirement for achieving national development. Some of the useful data gathered from census helps government to, among others, forecast the country’s needs such as hospitals, housing, food, water and electricity. Similarly, national population data obtained from population censuses play an essential role in estimating environmental impact on population growth, use of water, land and other resources.
Census data also reveals the standard of living of citizens, number of unemployed persons, and the number of taxable adults. Besides, the deficits revealed in the country’s infrastructure by population figures help to draw government’s attention to critical areas of development. They also attract the attention of international donor agencies, who conventionally provide humanitarian interventions to developing countries. Data generated from population census is also used to determine who gets what, when and why in the Nigerian federation. This partly explains why people sometimes attempt to inflate or falsify population census figures. States with limited access to natural resources tend to see the population exercise as a means to bridging the gap created by absence and/or inadequacy of natural resources.
Population is at the centre of every planning activity. No meaningful development takes place without population census data. Population census is conducted in Nigeria every 10 years. The period allows for capturing the changes in structure and movement of the population. Since independence, population head counts have been held in 1953, 1963, 1973 and 2006; which was the last census exercise in the country. The next was supposed to have come up in 2016 but was postponed to 2018 and was further postponed without any definite date fixed for the exercise. Demographers say Nigeria’s population grows at an approximate rate of three percent a year; meaning that the country’s population is doubled every 22 years. Today, Nigeria is believed to have a population of about 200 million people.
In order to allow for proper planning, we advise government to define the exact period during which the next census would take place. This should be done in earnest because it would become another subject of political controversy if it gets close to the next general elections due to hold in 2023.