Nigeria’s population is a key factor in the country’s economic growth and development. With a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. This large population presents both opportunities and challenges for Nigeria’s economic development.
A large population can provide a significant pool of labour and consumers, which can drive economic growth and development. Nigeria’s young and growing population, in particular, presents a demographic dividend, with the potential to drive economic growth through increased productivity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, Nigeria’s large population also presents challenges for economic development, including high levels of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. Addressing these challenges requires policies and investments that promote inclusive economic growth, job creation, and human development.
To leverage the potential of Nigeria’s population for economic growth and development, the government must plan and stetegise policies that will address the country’s unique demographic and economic challenges. And the first step towards attaining this objective is to organize and conduct a credible national census.
The importance of census cannot be overemphasized. A population census is at the centre of every planning activity and no meaningful development can be attained without taking into account population census data.
Historically, Nigeria has never had a concrete, credible census. Since independence in 1960 the country has conducted national head counts five times but with minimal success.
The 1962 census results were disputed on grounds of high malfeasance and politicisation. The refusal of the regional governments to accept the 1962 census results prompted the 1963 census exercise which critics claimed were arrived at by negotiation rather than enumeration. The result was contested at the Supreme Court which ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the administrative functions of the Federal Government. The 1973 Census result was not published on the grounds of deliberate falsification of the census figures for political and ethnic advantages.
Nigeria made another attempt to conduct a national head count in 1991 but failed to live up to expectations. Fifteen years later another census exercise took place in 2006 in which the country conducted a population and housing census for the first time.
However, like the ones before it the 2006 census was highly controversial and vehemently disputed by some state governments.
Ideally, a census should be conducted every 10 years. This period allows the government to capture the changes in structure and demography. The country is seven years behind its census schedule. A population and housing census ought to have been conducted in 2016, one year after the President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office. But, the government was unable to conduct the census due to the economic recession.
Nigeria is yet again set to conduct a national head count starting from May 3 through to May 5 as the country seeks to exorcise the demons that have haunted it for decades. There’s no gainsaying that the upcoming national census is a politically sensitive issue, as it has always been. We are just coming out of a very difficult and stormy election season and the atmosphere is still tense and tricky. The fact that national census result has the potential to impact the distribution of political power and resources among Nigeria’s diverse ethnic and regional groups, makes it more exuberantly feisty
The issue of headcount is always politically sensitive, as it involves determining the number of people in each state and local government area, which is used to allocate political representation and resources. There have been concerns that some states or regions may seek to inflate their headcount figures in order to gain greater political representation or access to resources.
These concerns are genuine. Previous censuses in Nigeria have been marred by allegations of manipulation, overcounting and undercounting. As a result, there is a high level of distrust among many Nigerians towards the census process.
Against this backdrop, the National Population Commission (NPC), the agency responsible for conducting the census, has taken several measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the upcoming census. Some of these measures include the use se of technology: The NPC has planned to use modern technology, including electronic data collection and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, to improve the accuracy and transparency of the census process.
Similarly, the NPC intends to engage Independent monitors and has invited local and international observers to monitor the census process and ensure that it is conducted in a transparent and accountable manner.
Besides the political dimensions, the next serious challenge that will almost certainly affect the exercise is the growing spate of insecurity in many parts of the country, which make it difficult to conduct the census in some areas, and could potentially limit the accuracy and completeness of the data collected.
Ethno-religious tensions could potentially arise during the census process, particularly in areas where there are historical conflicts or tensions between different groups.
Addressing these potential challenges will require a sustained commitment from the Nigerian government, the NPC, and other stakeholders to ensure that the census process is conducted in a transparent, fair, and inclusive manner. It will also require adequate funding, technical expertise, and public awareness campaigns to ensure that the census is accurate, complete, and reflective of Nigeria’s diverse population.