The alarming growth of Nigeria’s population is something that the government at all levels and all well- meaning Nigerians need to be worried about.
The country’s population growth currently stands at 2.7 per cent as against the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of just 2.01 per cent.
Speaking on the floor of the Nigerian Senate recently, Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce asked, “What’s our population control policy? Does anybody care how many children we have? Does anybody care how many we ought to have? How many children make up an economy functional, nobody cares. So, we all talk about issues to avoid what is truly important, population control policy.”
We also join Sen. Murray-Bruce to ask, does Nigeria have a population policy? What is the government doing to control the country’s population growth? Are the leaders just waiting for the doomsday? It is an open secret that there is an urgent need for pragmatic policy reforms in order to prevent the negative impact that this uncontrolled population might have on the nation.
Delivering a keynote address at The 2nd Vanguard Economic Discourse held in April last year, the Chief Executive Officer of Augusto and Co, Olabode Augusto said: “It is a myth to say that our population is strength. I believe that our population is only strength if it is well educated, if it is healthy, if the economy in which they reside has the capacity to provide them with jobs and the people living in the households earn good income and are able to afford the goods and services provided by businesses. In my opinion, the biggest problem we have in Nigeria is our population – uncontrolled population growth. That’s my own personal view and I will explain why by putting things into context.
“When we got Independence in 1960, the population of Nigeria was 46 million, the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was 52 million – 6 million people more than us. By 2015, the UK moved from 52 million to 62 million, Nigeria moved from 46 million to 185 million. That’s not the end of the story. In another 55 years, by 2070, the UK will be 80 million while Nigeria will be 550 million. This projection is by Population Pyramid, these are not my numbers.”
What this projection means is that there will be increase in demand for schools, for health care services, for food, for employment and more pressure on the existing infrastructure and something drastic has to be done.
According to the World Poverty Clock, created by Vienna-based World Data Lab, at least three million Nigerians slipped into extreme poverty between November 2018 and February 2019, which brings the number of people living below poverty line in the country to about 91 million.
The issue of unemployment is a calamity waiting to happen. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the unemployment rate rose from 18.8 per cent it was in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018.
The country currently has about 13.2 million out- of- school children, who roam the streets every now and then begging for alms while their mates are in school.
The high rate of crime in the country coupled with high rate of unemployment, which stands at 23.1 per cent and according to the projection of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, may rise to 33.5 per cent by next year and the high rate of insecurity across the length and breadth of the country, are all pointers to the fact that the country’s population is a liability and not an asset.
We admonish the Federal Government to place premium on quality education. This will help the country to have a population that can drive her economy and contribute to her economic development. Investment in human capital will put the country on the same scale with countries like the United States of America, China, Brazil, and so on. The quality of the population of Nigeria will be central in determining whether the country’s population is an asset or a liability.
Also, it has become a child of necessity to incorporate population control in the country. Population control must enter the political agenda of Nigeria irrespective of religious beliefs.
More so, before the enactment of any policy, those in authority must first of all study what China, India and Singapore have done in this respect and tweak to reflect the realities of Nigeria’s environment. Families should not be encouraged to just replace themselves by having a maximum of two children. There must also be incentives to encourage people to comply and penalties for those who fail to comply.
Family planning should be institutionalized in the country. We advocate that couples who have more than three children, should be made to pay development tax to the government for the inconveniences that the “extra” children they bring into the world will cause the nation.
Furthermore, we urge the government to ensure adequate and proper remuneration of workers by channeling its spending properly. The country is already in a population explosion mess and what is needed now is a way out. So, by paying workers adequately, the impact will trickle down on the larger population of the country and ensure an empowered population.