Census and Other Matters

Today, May 23rd, is my birthday. Unlike quite a few of our government officials, I will not do a false declaration of age! I am 52 today. Thanks be to God.

May 23, 2016 – May 23, 2017

So much has happened in the past 1 year, between my 51st and 52nd birthdays – the recession, my humble self being appointed as the Editor of this esteemed publication, the DSS raids on the Judges, the proposed sale of national assets that did not seem to take off, the proposed loan of $30 billion that also seemed to fade into obscurity, Donald Trump being sworn in as the 45th President of the USA, Honourable Justice Walter Samuel Nkannu Onnoghen GCON being sworn in as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Magu not being confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC, Rtd Col Ali and the Customs Uniform saga with the Senate, the suspension of Senator Ali Ndume from the Senate for 180 days, Lawyers being nominated for the position of Supreme Court Justices, President Muhammadu Buhari travelling on at least 3 medical vacations (the ear ache trip, the one in January and this present one), Vice President Osinbajo as acting President twice, stolen/mysterious loot being recovered in all nooks and crannies of the country, the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr Babachir Lawal (also known as “who is the Presidency?”) on allegations of a contract scam in connection to grass cutting of the IDPs, the suspension of the DG, NIA, Ambassador Ayodele Oke in connection with the mystery of the recovered “Osborne Dollars”, release of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu on ‘bail’ after almost 2 years in detention, the freeing of 21, then 82 Chibok girls by Boko Haram, the rehabilitation or renovation of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport runway, the nullification of the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution by the Court, the outbreak of meningitis in some parts of the country, hopefully not the re-emergence of the Ebola epidemic in Democratic Republic of Congo (the Governor of Zamfara may say its a punishment from God against Kabila for refusing to hold elections!) and the deaths of David Bowie, Fidel Castro, Muhammad Ali (the Greatest), Obi Okwusogu, SAN, Fred Agbaje, former Supreme Court Justice, Niki Tobi, Nigeria’s 6th Inspector-General of Police, Etim Inyang and Major General Adeyinka Adebayo (former Governor of the Western Region). The list of occurrences is endless.

Urgent Need for a Credible Census

Just as so much has happened, a lot more has not occurred. I was in the office the other day, having a discussion with one of my colleagues, Chinedu, and we both agreed that Nigeria was in dire need of a credible census, so that for example, certain myths like whether there are more people in the North or South and whether there are more Christians than Muslims or vice versa would finally be laid to rest.

The first census that took place in Nigeria was in 1886. The United Nations recommends that countries ought to carry out a census every 10 years. It is essential, imperative that countries have accurate statistical data of their citizens, for good planning and development, that is, knowledge of demographics, knowing how many men, women, boys, girls, age brackets, religion, tribe, educational qualifications, employment, marital status etc for urban and budget planning, rural development, health and educational planning, proper apportioning of constituencies and seats for the national assembly, transportation and housing needs, to mention but a few reasons for the need for a credible census.

About the National Population Commission (NPC)

The NPC was established by the Federal Government in 1988. It was reconstituted in 2011. It has a Chairman and 37 members, representing each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. The NPC’s establishing statute is the NPC Act, 1988 (see also

Section 153(j) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria). Presently, the Chairman of the NPC is Chief Eze Duruiheoma, SAN, while the Director General is Dr Ghaji Ismaila Bello

Myths that need to be Laid to Rest

Chinedu, who is from Enugu State, believes that even if the land mass in the Northern part of the country, is larger than that of the Southern part, there are more people in the South than the North. Over the last 50 years, people have come to blows on this argument alone, and it is high time that it is laid to rest.

My own experience is that I travelled from Kaduna to Maiduguri some years ago with my friends, husband and wife. We went by road and it was quite a long journey. Over 6 hours. What struck me was that, along the way, sometimes we went for 1 hour without really seeing people on the road, just a couple of thatched roofed huts for many miles. A few years ago, however, my husband and I travelled from Lagos to Offa to attend a relative’s funeral. The road was densely populated throughout our 5 or so hour journey, especially the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Chinedu also believes that just as Kano may be densely populated, so also are Lagos and Ibadan! That of all the cities in Nigeria, Lagos has the largest population.

The 2006 Census

Many cried out that the 2006 Census was a fraud, with inflation of the population in the North. The census put the population of Kano State at 9,383,682, while that of Lagos was said to be 9,013,534! It worked out that the population density of the Fulani/Hausa 9 states for every kilometre you travel, was higher than the rest of Nigeria. How can this be? I personally travelled through some of those states, seeing no one along the way for long periods. Furthermore, the 2006 census, just like that of 1991, did not include questions like religion and ethnicity. How ridiculous! For the record, it really does not matter to me if there are more people in the North than the South, or vice versa, what matters to me is having a reliable, unambiguous and accurate population figure, for the various reasons that I have already outlined.

What am I trying to say? Instead of all these needless, endless debates, assertions, speculations and counter-speculations, we need to ascertain the true position of our population. How can we achieve this goal? By conducting a credible census with the appropriate questions included in the questionnaire. Chinedu also felt that as long as the Director General of the National Population Commission (NPC) is of Northern extraction, we would never get an exact canonical position of things. Is Chinedu right My dear readers, what do you think? Do you agree with Chinedu on this particular point? Kindly, let me have your views on this issue, and that of the census issue as a whole. Thank you.

Festus Odimegwu and NPC

Chinedu was particularly bitter that someone whom he considered to be eminently qualified for the job, Festus Odimegwu, was relieved by former President Jonathan of his job as Chairman, NPC, due to nothing more than political reasons, especially because of attacks from the Northerners, including a then Governor of one of the largest Northern States. Chinedu feels that Odimegwu had a wholesome and unimpeachable blueprint for the upcoming census, which obviously did not go down well with some people, who maybe did not want the truth to be revealed.

Some Suggestions for Conducting a Credible and Successful Census

That said and done, we concluded that discussion by identifying some issues that need to be addressed in order to conduct a credible census:-

– Disabusing the minds of the populace and our politicians that census is not an ethnic or religious battle for supremacy and dominance, and orientating people about the advantages of a credible census, its aims and objectives; disabusing the minds of our people regarding superstitions, eg about counting the number of children a person has (won o kin ka omo fun olomo!)

– Healthy allocation of funds in the budget for the census exercise

– Proper planning (not the slap dash emergency preparations that are usually made)

– Proper preparation with modern geographical techniques, location maps etc

– State of the art equipment which will be able to foil any attempt of multiple counting of one individual, biometric census

– Good transportation system, especially to ensure access to the remotest parts of the country (location and identification of all parts of the country before the census is undertaken)

– Using skilled and educated people as census officials

– Proper training of census personnel

– Employment of ample female census personnel who will have access to women in ‘purdah’. Possibly, sending them for training in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia to learn how the census exercise is successfully conducted for women in purdah over there

– Conduct of a mock census in advance to serve as a test run

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