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.
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.
- 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.
- NPC blames change in government, recession
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.
In a mailed reply to Daily Trust’s inquiry on why Nigeria has not held a national census despite being four years behind schedule, the commission blamed the delay on change in government and economic recession.
“In 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 new regime of President Muhammad Buhari needed to settle down in office before embarking on a huge project such as a national census,” the Commission said.
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.
“The budget has been submitted for approval. However, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected some of the processes,” it said.
It revealed that the Commission had put in place the necessary machinery in motion for the conduct of the next census awaiting a Presidential Proclamation and funding.
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.
- Buhari intervenes
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N14.5bn for the NPC to complete its ongoing nationwide Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD).
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 Acting Chairman of the NPC, Dr Eyitayo Oyetunji, recently in Abuja at a press briefing for the commencement of the fieldwork for the 10th phase of the EAD exercise.
“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 said.
The acting NPC boss said there is no specific date for the conduct of the census, but the commission is ready to conduct it once approval is granted.
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.
The Director General of the Commission, Dr Ghaji Ismaila Bello, said the recent release of funds for the completion of the EAD is a clear statement that the nation is ready for the census and the president is in support.
He expressed gratitude to the president for appointing the remaining commissioners in the Commission to better position the agency for the next census.
- Recent intervention by lawmakers
On December 4, 2019, the House of Representatives tasked the federal government to conduct a national census before the end of 2020.
Ademorin Kuye (APC Lagos), whose motion led to the resolution, said the 2006 census data had outlived its usefulness.
“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,” Kuye said.
The lawmaker said 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.
- Significance of population data
The United Nations explains that the population and housing census represents one of the pillars for data collection on the number and characteristics of the population of a country.
“The population and housing census is part 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, told Daily Trust 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 handy 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.
The Federal Commissioner representing Kaduna State at the Population Commission, Abdulmalik Mohammed Durunguwa, said without accurate population data, there would be no economic planning.
Speaking on the need for a presidential declaration for the conduct of a national census, Durunguwa said Nigeria cannot continue to rely on population data estimates for policy making.
The commissioner pointed that for proper economic planning, Nigeria must have accurate data of births, deaths, demographic health survey, population and housing data.
- Mandate of National Population Commission
The National Population Commission of Nigeria was established by the Federal Government in 1988.
It has the statutory powers 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 Commission, which is also a constitutional body, is mandated by law to undertake periodic enumeration of the population through sample surveys, censuses or otherwise; establish and maintain machinery for continuous and universal registration of births and deaths throughout the federation and advise the president on population matters.
It is also mandated to publish and provide information data on population for the purpose of facilitating economic and development planning as well as appoint and train, or arrange for the appointment and training of, enumerators or other staff of the Commission.
- Endangered staff
The Commission said its workers are constantly exposed to hazards in the fields while executing the agency’s mandate of collecting and collating economic data for the country.
The Acting Executive Chairman of the NPC, Dr Tayo Oyetunji, said two employees of the Commission were kidnapped some time ago while collecting field data in Taraba State.
“The kind of work we do at the Population Commission is such that we cannot be paid the same salary with those who are in the office. 80 percent of our work is field work.
“If you go to the field and see some of the conditions in which our staff work, you will agitate for better pay for them,” Dr. Oyetunji said.
The NPC boss said the mandate of the commission was far beyond periodic population census as it transcends other responsibilities such as birth and death registration as well as other demographic surveys.
“Wherever human beings are, it is our business to collect data there.
“If they are living on mountains like in Taraba State, we will go to the mountains.
“We ought to be paid special allowances,” he said.
- Irregularity in birth, death registration
In October 2018, Daily Trust uncovered how the Commission was frustrating birth registration by charging applicants N4, 500 before issuing them birth certificates.
The United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) factsheet on birth registration in Nigeria reveals that about 70 percent of the 7 million children born annually in Nigeria are not being registered at birth.
A source within the commission told this paper in confidence that under a Public Private Partnership (PPP), the commission granted a private company the right to collect N3, 000 per birth registration on a sharing arrangement that favours the service provider more than the commission.
The arrangement was contrary to the message posted on the official website of the commission that “birth certificate is absolutely free of charge” and that it is issued to children from age zero to eighteen years.
However, during the 2020 World Population Day held recently, the acting Chairman of the Commission said the agency was in the process of digitizing the processes of birth and death registration.
Dr. Oyetunji disclosed that by the end of 2020, the digitization would have been complete, making vital registrations seamless in the country.
- CSOs speak on planned census exercise
The Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, told Daily Trust that the national census is definitely an important exercise used to collect data of citizens and key demographics in the country for the purposes of planning and development.
He said that it is something countries do on a regular basis to get the right information for planning with the goal of impacting the lives of citizens.
According to him, 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?
“For us therefore, it is not sufficient for the government to merely allocate billions to do a head count of citizens.
“it have the will to implement policies and programmes, which will address the existential conditions of citizens after it counts them?
“We make this point because even 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 is everywhere; despite this knowledge, we are yet to see bold and ambitious policies to address those issues.
“Our position therefore is that the 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,” Zikirullahi said.
On his part, the Convener, Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr. Tunde Salman, told Daily Trust that the move was a welcome development.
He also said that the amount approved for the enumeration areas demarcation is not too much considering the size of the country and also the fast-growing settlements across the country that had to be mapped.
“Given the size of the country, the money is not too much, but what we want is value for money.
“The country has become bigger, thus the need for more money to carry out the assignment due to new places and the need to do proper demographic.
“And it is even going to benefit other agencies of the government.
“The money is therefore justifiable because there are new areas that need to be enumerated, but there is the need to do proper demographic and ethnographic assessment of the areas.
“The way out is for the National Population Commission (NPC) to be transparent and accountable to win the confidence of the people.”
He noted that the institution of census tribunal can also be exploited if the need arises, adding that the exercise should be done before the 2023 General Elections so that other government agencies like INEC and NBS can also benefit from it.
On her part, the Executive Director, Mothers And Marginalized Advocacy Centre (MAMA Centre), Chioma Kanu, said that the government’s census plan is a welcome development.
According to her, it is the organization’s anticipation that the exercise will adequately capture and segregate the vulnerable groups who are continually marginalised in various governments’ development efforts.
“Adequate capturing of the groups will project their needs and expectations and inform appropriate planning not only by the government but also development partners.
“We are also concerned over the whopping amount allocated hitherto to similar exercise like the National Identity Card Management (NICM) which was initiated to perform such function but has not been effectively utilised in ascertaining the nation’s population data.
“We demand adequate surveillance to ensure judicious utilisation and accountability of the proposed fund.
“We also hope the new enumeration will address existing gaps and challenges that NICM failed to achieved,” Kanu said.