President Goodluck Jonathan
By 2025, Nigeria’s population would be 229 million, The Economist, a London-based magazine in London, has said in a recent report. If the various sectoral ratings accorded the nation are anything to go by, there is the need for Nigeria’s leadership to start serious preparations to cope with the burgeoning growth in the future, writes Okoh Nkiruka
The Economist magazine ‘Pocket world figures 2013’ came up with some interesting statistics recently. In the report, the magazine revealed that Nigeria is set to become the fifth largest country in the world going by its population growth, with an estimated figure of 229 million people by 2025. The publication also placed the country in the 13th position amongst countries with the highest fertility rates.
Coming just before the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, which placed Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt nation in the world, the need to take the Economist’s report more seriously is however imperative.
If going by the assertion from the Director-General of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Mr Jamin Zubema, that the growth rate of the nation’s population was 2.3% per annum and that the current population of the people resident in Nigeria is to become about 167 million; if a comparison is made with the 2006 report of the commission which put the nation's population at over 140 million people, it is evident that the projections made by the Economist Magazine is spot on.
With the looming reality of the implications of these estimations and projections on the nation's socio-economic activities, the questions that come to mind are legion. For instance, what steps should the government and people take to curb the population boom? In terms of policies and legislations, what agenda are being drawn up to help cushion the effects the population boom will have on all sectors of the economy?
The Nigerian economy is presently not running at full capacity as there is a lapse on the part of government to meet the needs of the people. Combining the current population statistics of the country with almost a hundred million more people will lead to a state of chaos by the year 2025 if government is not fully prepared.
The lofty objectives of Vision 2020 seek to place Nigeria amongst the 20 largest economies in the world, able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena, given the country’s considerable resource endowment and coastal location. Indeed, there is great potential for a strong economic growth in Nigeria.
However, it might remain in theory as Nigeria’s history of economic stagnation, declining welfare and social instability has continued to undermine development for most of her 52 years as an independent nation, making the race to meeting Vision 2020 goals almost a pipe dream.
What the Nigerian economy needs to do to cushion the effects of the population explosion as projected by 2025, analysts believe, is to place more emphasis on critical sectors of the economy and make them functional in tune with the pending reality.
The role of agriculture is crucial in any development strategy Nigeria decides to adopt because changes in that sector can have significant socio-economic effects in the development of the country. As a major employer of labour and income earner, increase in local food production, both commercial and subsistent farming and reduction in import as well as paying attention to comparative cost advantage, would go a long way in stabilising the economy.
In addition, farmers should be encouraged on how to plough back profits to further expand their businesses, make them self-sufficient and on the long run, major employers of labour.
The health sector is currently bedevilled by so many factors that have deterred it from serving its purpose. Issues such as incessant strike, inadequate medical equipment, congestions in hospitals and poor staffing have led to a drain in the quality of service delivery.
Unfortunately, these problems are not only limited to government-owned hospitals; in fact, some privately-owned hospitals are glorified sickbays, both in the urban and rural areas.
Government, analysts believe, can help in the construction of more comprehensive health institutions and provide well trained personnel and modern equipment, especially in the rural areas, and ensure periodic trainings of these medical personnel to keep them abreast of interventions in the medical field.
Although, some state governments have taken up the challenge as it were, such interventions cannot even cater for the immediate needs much less the projection of 2025.
The National Health Insurance Scheme is laudable but should be reviewed to benefit a larger number of people. More companies and private businesses should be encouraged to set up accounts with hospitals to enable their members of staff to have access to good medical care.
Sensitisation programmes and campaigns should be embarked upon to encourage citizens that the responsibility of their health rests solely on them and should therefore take the issue seriously.
As a matter of necessity, government should encourage birth control. Taking a cue from China’s two children policy, it is believed that if the Nigerian government adopts a similar policy and follows it through, it would go a long way in curbing the population growth.
This is particularly important because if the current lapses in the health sectors are fixed and better health institutions established, Nigeria will be able to handle the challenges that might arise from the health sector come 2025.
The education sector in Nigeria, like other critical sectors of the national economy, has not fared better. This can be linked to the fact that the regulatory system in the sector is largely ineffective and this is reflective in its curriculum.
The collapse of the inspectorate divisions of the federal and state ministries of education and failure by regulatory bodies including the National Universities Commission, the National Board for Technical Education and the Universal Basic Education to check widespread irregularities in the institutions under their respective supervision depicts the ineffectiveness in the system. Corruption, infrastructural decay, over-bloated parastatals, incessant strike and inconsistency in policies are other factors that have contributed to the decay in the educational system in Nigeria.
It is no wonder, therefore, that most Nigerian universities now produce graduates who lack basic skills in their chosen fields, making it difficult for them to get employment. Mass failure in both the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations is a reflection of the decay in the education system.
However, with the impending population explosion, analysts are of the view that the best way to revive education is by solving those issues that threaten to destroy the educational system, chief amongst which is de-emphasising paper qualification and placing emphasis on content and competence.
Another all-important sector is infrastructure which is in a sorry state in the country. For Nigeria to attain enviable growth level, it must therefore undertake complete overhaul of its infrastructure. It must revamp the decaying transport sector as a major player in the economy- from road, to rail, water and air transportation.
As a result, government must improve the railway system to ease the burden on the roads. Although, green light has been accorded the Lagos rail mass transit system and Abuja light rail network, the commitment must transcend the level it is now if it must contain The Economist’s projection of a scary population figure by 2025.
Most importantly, the energy sector is fundamental to driving growth across a number of infrastructure in all sectors of the economy.
Although, Nigeria’s refocusing of her infrastructural drive is commendable, such efforts are not in any way close to what is obtainable in civilised climes.
Above all, the issue of security is sacrosanct. The threat to national security, from militancy to armed robbery, kidnapping, assasination and the Boko Haram sect, has risen, majorly because of population boom and the scramble for limited resources.
And despite attempts by government to contain the daily increasing menace, the scourge has not abated, thus fuelling fears that government is not in position to secure the lives and property of the citizenry.
The estimated population growth by 2025 will naturally come with more of such challenges and in every sphere of the economy. This is why The Economist’s report should give policy makers some headache.
Like Albert Einstein once noted, “today’s problems cannot be solved with the same level of consciousness that created them”. Thus, there is the need for conscious effort between policy makers and the citizenry to prevent the threat that the projected population figures bring in its wake come 2025.