Mr. Festus Odimegwu
Patrick Ugeh and Tobi Soniyi
In a statement bound to raise dust and certain to conflict with the constitution, the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Mr. Festus Odimegwu, has said any Nigerian who is not captured in the next demographic survey beginning next year will not be recognised as a citizen of Nigeria, after the 2016 national population census.
Section 30(1)(2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “the President may deprive a person, other than a person who is a citizen of Nigeria by birth or by registration, of his citizenship, if he is satisfied that such a person has, within a period of seven years after becoming naturalised, been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than three years.
“The President shall deprive a person, other than a person who is citizen of Nigeria by birth, of his citizenship, if he is satisfied from the records of proceedings of a court of law or other tribunal or after due inquiry in accordance with regulations made by him, that - (a) the person has shown himself by act or speech to be disloyal towards the Federal Republic of Nigeria; or (b) the person has, during any war in which Nigeria was engaged, unlawfully traded with the enemy or been engaged in or associated with any business that was in the opinion of the president carried on in such a manner as to assist the enemy of Nigeria in that war, or unlawfully communicated with such enemy to the detriment of or with intent to cause damage to the interest of Nigeria.”
In addition, Odimegwu said two no-go areas in the last census – religion and ethnicity – would be included in the next one scheduled for 2016.
Odimegwu, who spoke at the second National Family Planning Conference in Abuja Wednesday, declared that the N600 billion needed to conduct the exercise, which would capture biometric data over five years, would be generated by the NPC from the sale of data to the private sector if the Federal Government cannot provide it.
“This is a commission (under his headship) where everything will work,” he said.
“You have to know religion and ethnic numbers for the country to work... We will raise money from the sale of data to the private sector to run the agency. The data base will help in national planning,” he added.
Noting that Nigeria’s population is an asset rather than a liability, as was being orchestrated at the second national family planning conference, Odimegwu said having an effective demographic system with biometric information would help in tackling the many problems of the country, including security, healthcare delivery, education and the economy.
Countering arguments that high population was an issue, Odimegwu said: “There is nothing in Nigeria that is better than our population... No great country is there without their population. That is why China, India and the United States are great.
“The issue is not the size of our population. The problem is the quality of people. If we take care of the quality of life, it will take care of the quantity. A PhD holder will have no need for 16 children.”
He said Nigeria could not develop if it continued planning as it does now, as it requires demographic data to plan properly.
For this reason, he said the NPC had set up a demographic data base structure, adding that they would produce reliable demographic data base that would cover 200,000 communities in the country.
“Anybody that is not covered in that census will not be part of Nigeria,” he said.
A five-year architecture for the purpose of gathering data had been approved by President Goodluck Jonathan, he further disclosed.
Odimegwu described the current situation where different government agencies conducted exercises to obtain biometric data was needless, saying his organisation is planning to have all of them pooled and managed by NPC.
Stating that the commission was going to work as a private sector organisation, he said: “If government is not going to give us money, we will raise money; we will adopt the private sector attitude, not civil service one.
“The system we want to employ will be corruption-free. We won’t tolerate mediocrity because of federal character.”
He decried the practice of the commission which deploys its 36 commissioners to the states where they collect salaries without working for the Nigerian state, saying it was a form of corruption.
For this reason, he had to order them back to the headquarters where they are now working, he said.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu said the issue of the quality and quantity of population was like that of the chicken and egg, since a large population without the means to cater for the people was a problem.
“When Eze has two children and his maiguard (security man) has 20, it is not good,” he said.
The theme of the five-day conference is Population and National Development aimed at improving access to family planning information and services in Nigeria.