An idle and largely illiterate population is a disaster waiting to happen
The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) recently urged member states to sensitise communities on the need to reduce the number of children in a family in order to enhance economic development and reduce migration.

Mr. Marcel de Souza, President of the commission said in Abuja that the demographic growth in the sub-region was not beneficial to economic development. “Our sub-region is under pressure, migration is increasing and the same goes for terrorism. We need to change this situation and for us to change, we need to create conditions for the youths to stay home. We need to take a step and sensitise people on the need to have a good control of our families. We must sensitise women in our sub-region to make sure that there is a limited number of children that can be taken care of”, he said.

We agree with the ECOWAS president on the need to control our population within the sub-region essentially because a bulging population that is not backed by development is a disaster waiting to happen. It is all the more instructive that while the number of poor people continues to decline in other regions of the world, Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries currently account for half of the global poor, basically as a result of people that are not planned for.

According to a recent World Bank report, East Asia, in 1990, accounted for half of the global poor, whereas some 15 per cent lived in sub-Saharan Africa. But by 2015 forecasts, this was almost exactly reversed: sub-Saharan Africa accounted for half of the global poor, with some 12 per cent living in East Asia. “Poverty is declining in all regions but it is becoming deeper and more entrenched in countries that are either conflict-ridden or overly dependent on commodity exports,” the report said.

Experts therefore warn of the dire consequences of this uncontrolled population growth. The prognosis is that there may come a time when it would be difficult for us to feed the ever increasing number of people, hence the need to avoid the type of crisis recently witnessed in some African countries. At the current annual growth rate of 3 per cent, the United Nations projection is that in 20 years’ time Nigeria’s population could reach a staggering 300 million from the present estimate of 180 million. In fact Nigeria is today rated among the fastest growing countries of the world. Ordinarily this should be a plus for us but with the way things are, it is not.

We understand that there are those who would, especially for religious reasons, not want to hear any argument about population control. And there is also a compelling argument as to how population could be a positive force but in our context today in Nigeria, it is not. While we therefore respect the position of the religious lobby, we must reiterate our stand that an idle (and largely illiterate population) such as we breed in Nigeria today is a disaster waiting to happen. It is a simple economic fact that population over-growth that is not matched with commensurate development in the socio-economic sector and education for the citizenry can only breed chaos.

Much as we do not wish to engage the nation’s two major religions 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 in ways that are ecologically sustainable. Unless policy makers begin now to focus their attention on how to avert this ticking time bomb the consequences could be devastating and very difficult to reverse.