Nigeria’s culture of wastage: 2023 national population census

Since 1921 when the then Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Hugh Clifford conducted the first census during the colonial era, with the country’s population put at 18.8 million, the nation has been battling with the problem of conducting an  accurate and generally acceptable census.

There have been several abortive attempts to conduct a credible national population census after that with little or no success.

For instance, in 1962 the President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Prime Minister Alh Abubakar Tafawa Balewa administration census put the Nigerian population at 45.26m, but it was cancelled due to opposition from the North.

The 1973 national population census under Gen Yakubu Gowon as Military Head of State that put the Nigerian population at 79.76m was also cancelled due to opposition from the South.

The 1991 census that  estimated the Nigerian population at 88.5m was not an exception.

After that, it has been estimation galore by groups and individuals. While some say Nigerians are 100m people, others say we are over 200m.

So the question is where are we going from here? The latest and perhaps the most painful is the postponement of the 2023 national population and housing census, that a whopping sum of N190bn was earmarked and the exercise got up to 90 percent completion before it was suddenly postponed.

The National Population Commission (NPC) came out clearly to say that the postponement had no business with lack of funds, clearing the air on rumours in that direction. The reason we were told later was that it was too close to the 2023 transition (election) period. And who said census cannot go pari-passu with general elections?

A very lame excuse to either deceive or confuse the people, it turns out. What has happened to the N190bn allocated to the project? The current Federal Government, led by Sen Ahmed Bola Tinubu is one year old and no mention has been made of the aborted or postponed census.

Are we pretending that we don’t know the intrinsic value or benefits of census? In the USA, census is conducted every 10 years and the Government is meticulous about it.

A census allows a country or society in question to have accurate data on the population of its citizens for effective planning in all spheres of the economy. For example, a successful census avails the country the information on state of education, agriculture,health, housing, business, security and even disabilities.

Only when a country is armed with the accurate information on these sectors, can its leadership plan properly. A nation without data is a ship navigating on the high seas without rudder or compass. The result could be catastrophic. The country needs to know precisely how many its citizens are, how many are physically fit, how many are living with disabilities, among others.

In terms of economy, how many Nigerians are employed, doing businesses and number of unemployed? In the health sector, how many hospitals are operational, where are they located and their classes? Housing is yet a very big challenge to every government. Government can by the reason of the census, ascertain the existing houses in the country, their locations and population without shelter and so on.

These are some of the major issues the census intends to unravel and tackle. Nigeria is missing a lot by not conducting an acceptable national census since 1973. An exercise that will not ordinarily last for more than six months, has taken Nigeria several years to accomplish and still counting.

Is it only in Nigeria that people play politics or conduct elections? So why should our own case be different? It simply boils down to lack of political will which to us is not rocket science. The question on the lips of well-meaning Nigerians is what is the way forward?

The solution is simple and within reach. First, there must be that political will from the government of the day. Therefore, the Nigerian government must come out clean, if it is ready to conduct an acceptable national census.

A whopping sum of N190bn appropriated to the 2023 National Population and Housing Census must not be allowed to go down the drain like the previous exercises. Let the money be used for the purpose it was meant for and luckily the general election is over, so there is no more excuse.

Nigerians are waiting anxiously to a logical conclusion of the 2023 National Population And Housing Census. Anything short of that won’t be acceptable to Nigerians.

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