Bumpy Road To 2018 Census


It appears all concerned authorities are prepared to deliver another headcount and housing census next year after two years delay in conducting the once-a-decade event. The last exercise was conducted in 2006, but luck of fund to conduct it ten years after, necessitating shifting it from 2017 to next year. Although the President is yet to issue a proclamation flagging off the exercise, the National Population Commission, NPC a body charged with the responsibility of conducting it has already embarked on the third phase of the enumeration area demarcation via satellite. That is not the only problem that stands in the way of conducting the exercise, funding is said to be another clog in the wheel that may hinder its smooth take-off. In that case, it is not certain if the exercise would actually be held since adequate fund has not been released. The exercise is estimated to gulp a whooping 222 billion Naira, but only a four-point-four billion Naira was so far made available.
Although the sum of 778 million Naira has been released for the third phase of the ongoing enumeration area exercise, it would all come to naught if adequate provision is not made for other components of the systematic headcount and the demarcation exercise using high resolution satellite imagery. With proper preparation and execution this time around, Nigerians should benefit from the statistics and relevant data from the exercise to enable the government plan all national development strategies effectively. It is also hoped that next year’s headcount, unlike the previous ones, would not be a subject of controversy, recriminations and outright rejection in some quarters.
If there is any thriving controversy in this country that kept on recurring like a bad coin it must certainly be the population census. The controversies surrounding it since 1921 have been responsible for the country’s stunted socio-political development. From pre-independence era to date more than eight head count exercises were conducted with the final result of each systematically disputed while the final figures of those conducted in 1962 and 1973 were rejected. It was evidently clear that the controversies generated after each exercise were associated with the strange or unusual political situation in the country. This condition is modified or limited in scope to representation in the parliament especially during the First Republic, and later as criteria for the demarcation of electoral wards and the creation of states and local government areas. That was more so, especially as the number of local governments in a state and its
population determine the amount of revenue accruable to it from the central coffers.

But these are not the real problems that aggravate the controversy; religion and ethnicity are major issues in Nigeria and some people are always hoping to use census figures based on them to justify demands for more recognition and power. However, it was on account of that contention people were continuously viewing population figures released by the National Population Commission with extreme skepticism. Therefore these characteristics that particularly belong to the Southerners, especially South-easterners make such claim very plausible. Accordingly, there is sufficient motivation to manipulate census figures as much as there are unholy desires to alter or inflate electoral results. It was gratifying to note that the consideration of religion and ethnic factors were not reflected in the criteria for conducting previous census exercise.

In the past, census figures that rightly favored Northern Nigeria were vehemently rejected by the south-eastern opposition leaders who maintained that figures attributed to their region by the Northern-led federal government were quite unrealistic and inaccurate because even livestock belonging to the natives were also enumerated as human beings. This allegation, though initially meant as impracticable joke during campaigns for 1964 elections by Chief Michael Okpara, the irrepressible premier of Eastern Region, other Igbo leaders later on dwelt on it with renewed vigor to ridicule the 1962 census results that supported North’s numerical superiority.

Recently, Eastern politicians accused the National Population Commission of falsifying the results of 2006 head count as well as that of others that preceded it. In fact, they actually insinuated that the figures allotted the North were not authentic but an admixture of human beings and beasts of that area. That position was consistent with sustained campaigns to disparage the North and to also precipitate a situation that will belie and disguise the true nature of its population ostensibly to cause a revision of the revenue it receives from the federal government’s statutory allocations and to reduce the tally of its parliamentary representations.
From the foregoing, therefore, it is hoped that biometric data to be obtain from next years census exercise would greatly de-emphasize its use for unpatriotic and mundane considerations, but would be deployed for other interests such as accreditation at polling units during elections, in the banks, drivers license and in capturing data for international passport. With proper conduct and planning of the next census exercise and a positive attitude from Nigerians towards its outcome , it is quite possible to avoid the dilemma and predicaments that attended previous head counts in the country.

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