Human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, has claimed that all the population censuses conducted in Nigeria since the almagamation of the northern and southern protectorates have always been manipulated in favour of the North.
He spoke on Wednesday in reaction to the recent call by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, for the chairman of the National Population Commission, NPC, to shelve the proposed conduct of the 2018 national census.
Dogara was of the view that politicians will take advantage of the census exercise to cook up figures and manipulate the outcome of the 2019 general elections, hence the need for the exercise to be shifted.
Addressing newsmen in his office, Ozekhome said “When Dogara is afraid of census before 2019 elections, I sympathise with him. He knows that census is an explosive matter in this country.
“The former chairman of National Population Commission (NPC) said previous censuses were false, he was sacked because certain parts of this country did not like what he said.
“I agree with the Speaker that the census should not be held. The 2019 elections are almost here. Let the census be held after the 2019 elections. If its held, it will be manipulated by politicians. The same politicians can even use the census exercise to disrupt the conduct of the 2019 general election.”
The Senior Advocate further pointed out that it is wrong for states “laying the golden eggs to have fewer local government areas”.
“Let us look at Bayelsa. Bayelsa lays the golden egg, but it has only 8 local government areas. If Bayelsa lays the eggs, where is the justice in this country, when those who do not lay the eggs get the lion’s share?” he asked.
Ozekhome said further, “All the censuses we have ever had in this country have always been manipulated. They have never reflected the true population of Nigeria.
“This is the only country in this world where the population in the dry region is higher than those in the wetlands.
“This is because of our attachments to national resources. Look at this. The old Kano was divided into Kano and Jigawa states. As I speak, Kano State has 44 local government areas, while Jigawa has 27. National resources sharing is based on this.
The Constitutional lawyer also reacted to another statement credited to some northern leaders, who recently called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to implement resolutions reached at the 2014 National Conference, held in Abuja.
He described those prodding President Muhammadu Buhari not to implement the resolutions of the Conference report as hypocrites, asserting that the northern leaders participated in the conference and were part of the decisions reached by over 450 delegates drawn from every part of the country.
According to Ozekhome, “it was a battle royale at the 2014 National Conference. At the 2014 National Conference, we made over 600 recommendations. No one was forced to adopt any report. We disagreed during the conference and almost exchanged blows.
“It is alarming when you see participants of that conference coming out to say that they have rejected the outcome of the exercise. Every segment of Nigeria from the six geopolitical zones were represented at that conference.
“We cannot take our unity for granted. It needs to be nurtured. We need to go back to fiscal federalism. The over 600 recommendations of the National Conference which President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will put away in the archives, is unfortunate.”