As Nigeria’s population hits 216 million by November, this year, making the country the sixth most populous country in the world, experts have warned that the current population growth rate has dire consequences if not speedily addressed.
They say there is a need for the government and all stakeholders to take urgent measures to address the situation.
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In its 2022 World Population Prospects released on Monday, the United Nations projected the global population to reach 8 billion by 15 November 2022, with China maintaining its lead.
The annual report prepared by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicted that India would topple China as the world’s most populous country in 2050.
The report, which was released in commemoration of World Population Day shows Nigeria also moved from the 10th most populous country in 1990 with 94m people to become the 6th most populous nation in 2020 with 216m people.
The country is also projected to become the 4th most populous with a 375m population by 2050.
The report says Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania will account for more than half of the global population in 2050.
While stating that its latest projections suggest that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, it said countries of sub-Saharan Africa were expected to contribute more than half of the figure to become the world’s most populated sub region.
It added that the world population projection would reach its peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s and to remain at that level until 2100.
It quoted the UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, as saying, “This year’s World Population Day falls during a milestone year when we anticipate the birth of the earth’s eight billionth inhabitant.
While saying that the global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, having fallen under one per cent in 2020, the World Population Prospects 2022 also states that fertility has fallen markedly in recent decades for many countries.
It states that, globally, more men (50.3 per cent) exist than women (49.7 per cent) in 2022 but the figure is projected to slowly be equaled over the course of the century thus by 2050, it is expected that the number of women will equal the number of men.
“The relationship between population growth and sustainable development is complex and multidimensional,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
“Rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combatting hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult,” he added.
Population of older persons increasing
The report indicates that the population of older persons is increasing both in numbers and as a share of the total.
It projects that the global population aged 65 years or above will rise from 10 per cent in 2022 to 16 per cent in 2050.
The report advises countries with aging populations to take steps to adapt public programmes to the growing proportion of older persons, including by improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems and by establishing universal health care and long-term care systems.
Experts warn of consequences
Dr Aminu Magashi Garba, Coordinator Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), warned that the country’s population would lead to food scarcity, fewer jobs, jobless youths and insecurity and hunger and poor health indices.
He said the way out is to invest in family planning to manage the population and also “Be innovative to use the ‘youth bulge’ to its advantage by keeping them engaged with productive jobs that will support economies such as Information Communication Technology (ICT) and agriculture.
He advised the federal government to redouble its efforts in its determination to achieve the Family Planning (FP) 2030 commitment.
The federal government formally launched the 2030 FP commitment in March this year, in Abuja.
Garba said apart from the recent launch of documents by the federal government, there were no tangible efforts by the government to ensure the FP 2030 is achieved so as to put the country’s population under check.
He said it was even more worrisome that 70 per cent of the over 200 million people in Nigeria were under the age of 30.
Prof. Emmanuel Lufadeju, National Coordinator of the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive Maternal and Child Health (RMCH), has said the implications of Nigeria’s population growth rate would translate to poverty if nothing is done to address it.
He said there is also the implication of unemployment, and poor resource utilisation, adding that the population was growing more than the resources could cope with.
“It is like if you put 20 people in a room where two people are supposed to stay; the implication is suffocation, congestion, poor transportation, power supply will not go round, food will be scarce unless something is done, there will be too many mouths to feed and many communities will lack water.
“These are basic needs of human beings, they will be deficient if the population continues to grow, and diseases and pandemics will occur,” he said.
On the way out, Prof. Lufadeju said citizens must be educated to have only the number of children they could care for, use modern contraceptives, space the birth of their children and make sure they are able to train their children in school.
“These are the things we are pushing, there is no way you can continue to have deliveries and having babies and the resources of the country will not be depleted. Because of bandit attacks, many families have left their farms, there is going to be a lot of hunger and malnutrition among children, especially among children under five. That is why we are working to arrest the situation in rotary,” he added.
Dr Ejike Orji, a reproductive health specialist, said Nigeria was experiencing demographic crises because of its high fertility rate.
He said the country’s population had grown tremendously in the last decade with a fertility rate of 5.3 as against the global fertility rate of 2.5.
He said, “The problem is that our fertility rate is high and it means we are producing more people than we can take care of at any point in time.”
Also, AHBN Meaningful Adolescent and Youth Engagement (MAYE) Working Group, called on governments at all levels and other critical stakeholders to put modalities in place to ensure that the youth in the country are productively engaged through the provision of qualitative education and skill acquisitions so that they can contribute to the socio-economic growth of the country.
MAYE Convener, Mrs Oyeyemi Pitan, said “We are calling on the federal government to maximise its bulging youthful population by improving on the quality of and access to education.
“The issue of recurrent strike action in the education sector such as the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) should be addressed once and for all. The youth should also be empowered and given the relevant skills to enable them to contribute to resolving national challenges.”
‘Poverty will rise’
Mr Paul Alaje, Senior Economist, at SPM Professionals Abuja, is unexcited about the projected rise in Nigeria’s population growth.
He said that based on Nigeria’s growth pattern and parameters in the past seven years and more, Nigeria’s poverty level would rise, more with the increased population of the magnitude projected by the UN body.
He noted that in economics, it is not the population that matters but what you do with it. We can say a population of 100 people is an overpopulation if they cannot feed themselves. But we can say 1,000 is not overpopulated because they are able to produce enough resources to cater for themselves.
According to him, what counts in a population is the productivity of the population.
He cautioned that Nigeria’s economy was largely consuming and wasn’t productive enough to be viable with 375 million by 2050.
Alaje stated that there was a huge infrastructure deficit and that the infrastructure that is available is not enough to cater for the less population particularly with the huge rural to urban migration because of the total lack of infrastructure in the villages.
He said he didn’t see Nigeria optimising its population like China, which lifted over 200 million out of poverty in 20 years, adding, “For Nigeria, in 20 years, we have more people dropped into poverty lane.”
Mr David Akwu, an economic analyst and lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said ordinarily, population should be an asset but in Nigeria’s situation, it is an unnecessary burden because a significant number of the population are uneducated and unproductive in the real sense of the word.
He said Nigeria must invest in education and discourage out of school children syndrome, especially the Almajiri system prevalent in the North.
He advocated birth control for all Nigerian parents.
‘Investing in human capital will guarantee a secured future’
Reacting to the development, the Executive Director of the Center for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CeFTIW), Umar Yakubu, said the implication of a rising population is enormous except Nigeria begins to invest in human capital development.
“As our population grows, we need to think about the future and the only way we can do that is to invest in human capital. The Implication is huge because it will put more pressure on our little resources as we can’t continue to be a mono-economy forever.
“As such, government at all levels must start investing in human capital and create more jobs in other sectors of the economy. For instance in agriculture, technology has made it possible to produce genetically modified crops, and this goes for other sectors.
“Our people are talented and we need to invest in them to deploy their ingenuity to solve our problems in the future,” he added.
By Ojoma Akor, Faruk Shuaibu, Chris Agabi & Philip S. Clement (Abuja)