Nitty-gritty of 2023 census in Nigeria


The National Population Commission (NPC) has concluded its plans for population and housing census in the country this year, thereby appealing to Nigerians to make themselves available for counting during the exercise.

The census which was originally scheduled to hold in March is now billed to hold from May 3-7, 2023.

The exercise is expected to help the government and other agencies with accurate data to work with.

According to the commission, a lot of resources and efforts have been invested to ensure that the exercise is credible and successful.

The Chairman, National Population Commission, (NPC) Nasir Kwarra said, “Census is a national event and is the responsibility of every citizen to participate by presenting themselves to be counted. The Commission will no doubt need the support of all stakeholders to deliver to the country credible and reliable data it can use for sustainable development planning.

“Over the years, the Commission has invested considerable time and resources in planning for the census by drawing from its rich institutional experience spanning two censuses and a pool of tested professionals to give the nation a truly digital and scientific census that will generate data for planning within the context of our present realities.”

Kwarra noted that the Commission has not stopped engaging in activities that would ensure the exercise is successful.

“The Commission has made significant progress in preparation for the census. We have completed Enumeration Area Demarcation, conducted two pre-tests and trial census, trained facilitators for the census and other preparatory activities are presently going as we speak.

“These efforts have laid the groundwork to ensure that the census succeeds and is implemented according to best practices. In addition, the commission has developed a Census Strategic Plan and Implementation Strategy detailing a whole range of activities to be carried out in the pre-census, actual census, and post-census stages,” Kwarra revealed.

Dr Garba Abari, a member of the Publicity and Advocacy Committee on 2023 National Population and Housing Census, has confirmed the new date of commencement on Sunday in Abuja.

“The 2023 National Population and Housing Census will be conducted digitally to ensure credibility and efficiency, Garba Abari, who also is the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), has said.

According to him, “This is one census that is going to be different from previous ones. To enhance the credibility of the exercise, this census is going to be digital.

“In the house listing and numbering, the National Population Commission (NPC) has perfected the space and got the point much beyond what google has done in the mapping.”

He claimed that in terms of specificity and the correctness of the capture of every house and hamlet in Nigeria, NPC has gone far beyond what google had done.

“We may not say that we are absolutely 100 per cent correct, but 99 per cent of all houses, structures within the enclave of Nigeria’s territory had been captured digitally, far beyond what google can provide in terms of specificity.”

The digitalisation of the exercise is expected to enhance credibility, ensuring accurate data, in response to modern technology, in line with global practice.

He said, “Digitalisation will enhance the credibility because there is a common template for the exercise and that is all that will be sent to the cloud.

“The previous census was looked at from the prism of one region is larger than the other; one state is bigger than another, one local government is bigger than another, one senatorial district is bigger than another. This made us to miss out on the whole essence and the most important element of the programme, which is getting sufficient data for planning.

“But the 2023 census is going to be a scientific census; a digital census that responds to the reality of today, responds to the information and technological revolution; it is a census that is aimed at bringing in credible, acceptable, open and transparent force,” he said.

The national head count across 774 local government areas of the country is expected to cost a whopping sum of N869 billion.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, claimed that out of the total of N869 billion ($1.88 billion) required for the census, government has only committed about a quarter of the sum.

Agba who was at a high-level partners’ engagement in Abuja said the census would be conducted in partnership with various development partners, including the United Nations Population Agency (UNFPA) and (EU), among others. According to him, UNFPA would provide significant technical and financial support and also manage a basket fund established for the redemption of pledges.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed has attributed the postponement of the census to the rescheduled governorship and state assemblies elections and a memo presented by NPC, seeking some software to allow them to conduct the census in May this year. According to the Minister, they sought council’s approval for a contract to procure software for the census at the sum of N2.8 billion.

Nigeria’s population is estimated at about 216 million, according to UNFPA. Projecting statistically, if the country continues in its current trajectory, there will be a 100 per cent increase in its population by 2050, reaching up to 400 million people.

Some citizens have expressed concerns over the administration’s insistence on conducting this massive project of a national population and housing census few weeks to the end of its tenure.

Apart from the underlying benefits of census, NPC has spoken up, claiming that, “the 2023 Census will be Nigeria’s first digital census and will change how the census is being conducted in Nigeria before now.”

The approach began with the demarcation of enumeration areas covering the entire territorial space of Nigeria using mobile handheld device and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and satellite imageries to create the digital census maps.

Talking about the importance of census, the NPC maintains, “A Population and Housing Census is of great relevance to the economic, political and socio-cultural planning of a country. Reliable and detailed data on the size, structure, distribution and socio-economic and demographic characteristics of a country’s population is required for policy intervention and monitoring of development goals.”

Prince Agba revealed that 885,000 persons would be trained to conduct the dual-purpose census; population and housing. The training of these persons, the minister said, would be held before the census.

He said 773 local government areas have been demarcated with the exception of Abadam Local Government Area in Borno State where he noted that residents were not very receptive to the personnel.

He went further to say that government had however, adopted a hybrid enumeration strategy, stating that other areas with similar challenges include Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State and other localities in Zamfara State.  In any case, on their part, the census planning committee assured that its security and logistics committee had all it takes to handle the situation.

In effect, funding, security and manpower are critical and pivotal inputs that would define or undermine the success of a viable national population census. The general feedback from various stakeholders indicate that rushing to hold such a project may not be in the best interest of the country at this political transition period. Some suggest it would have been best left for an incoming administration to deal with.

This notion probably informed the House of Representatives’ suggestion to put off the population enumeration. In May 2021, the House of Reps had asked NPC to suspend the planned population census, until the country stabilises.

Some people have argued that conducting population and housing census in the current economic recession will only waste the hard earned resources of the country as the outcome will be inconsequential.

Meanwhile, NOA has urged Nigerians to participate fully in the exercise so as to avail the country of the benefits that can be derived from the population and housing census. “Nigerians, please remember you count, so come out and be counted. Census is for all of us and census is for development and development is all we need.”

While highlighting the importance of census to national planning and development, he emphasised the need for accurate figures that would be credible and acceptable, saying “in this day and era, we cannot be planning on the basis of conjectures.”

The NOA boss said that the technology to be deployed for the exercise would facilitate its credibility and acceptability.The technology to be deployed will make it difficult for anyone to manipulate the process.

It’s very correct that there is a lot of challenges against the conduct of census at this time. But when one considers what the country stands to benefit if successfully conducted, it becomes overwhelming and compelling.

The benefits of census include knowing the size of the population. A census is helpful in finding out the number of people who live in the country and the structure of the society.

It helps in determining the number of people who can pay taxes in a country, which helps to estimate the amount of revenue that can be obtained from the tax sector.

Census helps to forecast the country’s economic needs, such as: electricity, housing, food, etc.

We can also use census to determine the number of unemployed citizens and the standard of living of the citizens in the country. This goes with revealing the level of manpower, that is, people who are working in a country. If it is high, the economic development of the country is guaranteed.

Again, it’s a tool to formulate economic policies. For example, revenue formula can be based on demographical figures. Government estimates the number of emigrants and immigrants through census.

To determine population density, we need head count. Census plays an essential role in giving detailed information on the population density. The information obtained from the census assists the government to distribute resources. For example, areas densely populated get more resources than areas that are scarcely populated.

Census data gives an idea of what kind of social amenities should be provided to particular areas. Social amenities such as hospitals, housing, water, electricity and others are cited through the help of census.

Census assists  governments and international agencies in helping needy countries in terms of grants and aid.

As we engage in population census come May, we believe that Nigeria stands the chance of  sorting a major part of its national puzzle with data guiding its resource allocation, revenue estimation, formulation of economic policies, provision of social amenities, and determination of population density.