There is need to check the population growth as it could mean big trouble for the country

The current population of Nigeria is 186 million based on the latest United Nations estimates documented last March 22. And with that, Nigeria ranks number seven in the world and a population that is equivalent to 2.48 per cent of the global total. Against the background that the population density in Nigeria is 205 per square Kilometre, the authorities should be worried, especially when the median age is 18 years and at a time all other critical indices of development do not look good.

Ordinarily, that the nation’s population growth continues to bulge could be a plus. But with the way things are in Nigeria today, it is not, essentially because these basically are numbers for which no preparation is made and for that reason, add little value. Experts have warned of the dire consequences of this uncontrolled population growth that is not backed by development. The prognosis is that there may come a time when it would be difficult for our country to feed the ever increasing number of citizens that we breed.

As we have reiterated in the past, some people may dismiss such predictions as mere Western propaganda aimed at keeping developing countries from having large population. They could point to China and India as countries with huge populations harvesting demographic dividends. Yet what is often discounted is that for decades, China kept its population in check with its one-child-per-couple policy while Indian encourages some form of family planning. In any case, an idle and largely illiterate population such as we breed in Nigeria today is not likely to be of much benefit for our country in future.

We are not unmindful of cultural and religious practices and beliefs that frown at any talk of population control and therefore regard any suggestion in that direction as heresy. However, it is logical that population growth that is not matched with commensurate development in the socio-economic sector and education for the citizenry can only engender the kind of crisis that we are already experiencing in our country today.

Indeed, it was no surprise that Nigeria ranked prominently among countries that could not meet the 2015 target date of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programme. Our country failed to achieve the set goals in such critical areas as job creation, food security, universal basic education, provision of shelter for all and poverty eradication. Here then is the underlying fear in the face of the current exponential population growth that cannot be matched with a sustainable infrastructure and social services.

On a positive note, we also understand that at a time when the populations of many countries in Europe and Asia are ageing, Nigeria’s young population could be a demographic advantage. But that is only if the policy makers can design appropriate policies in that direction. First, we need to invest massively in education which is critical for the future. There is also the need for development in infrastructure so as to ensure sustainable support for such bulging population. For instance, clean water is a finite resource everywhere in the world and more so in our country where access is not guaranteed for the vast majority, especially in the rural areas.

Much as we do not wish to engage some die-hard adherents of the nation’s two major religions in a needless debate on the issue of population and birth control, it is nevertheless appropriate to warn of the danger ahead. There is no doubt that a sustainable society is the one with moderate population growth that enables its members to achieve a high quality of life. Unless policy makers begin now to focus their attention on how to avert this ticking time bomb, the consequences will most likely be very devastating for our country.