Nigeria is conducting a new national census in May 2023. This is coming 17 years after the last national census was conducted in 2006. A whooping ₦869 billion ($1.88 billion) has been earmarked for the exercise; a sharp contrast to the $266 million of the last census in 2006. But the questions are: Will National Population Commission use this opportunity to put to rest all the controversies surrounding Nigeria’s population especially in Nigeria? Are the expectations of a credible census going to be met with this exercise?
At an estimated population number of about 220 million, some people especially in Nigeria doubt the population of Nigeria. This is a stellar opportunity to put that doubt to rest with credible numbers. The credibility of 2023 census includes not allowing any form of influence from politicians. Nigeria’s population is one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and is expected to double by 2050. The median age of Nigeria’s population is 18. With so many young people and low contraception prevalence, exponential population growth is a defined outcome.
Conducting a national census in Nigeria is almost like conducting a presidential election. How is that so? you may ask. Politicians with dubious intentions for control struggle to influence favorable numbers for political control and distribution of revenue by the numbers attached to their constituencies as politics they say is a game of numbers. “Census is politically relevant because of its use for delineation of constituencies and revenue allocation”.
Censuses seem to be related to elections in the sense that they both deal with numbers of people even though for different purposes and situations. The yearnings for credible elections by Nigerians led to the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the just concluded Nigerian elections. BVAS was introduced to checkmate electoral fraud by way of accreditation of real voters and transmission of results from polling units to the IREV portal where the public was supposed to access results in real-time. Human error termed ‘glitch’ was deliberately introduced by INEC as transmission of results from BVAS to IREV was made impossible from INEC back end for hours, giving room for the manipulation of results which became evident by the multiple mutilated results on the IREV portal, days after the election. This calls for special attention to the digital census that will be embarked on by the National Population Commission from May 3 to May 5, 2023.
In lieu of the BVAS for INEC, the National Population Commission will be employing Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) devices to capture information on all buildings, households and persons in different enumerated areas. The question on the lips of many is, “Will deliberate human errors be introduced to tamper with the process or end results of a credible census in Nigeria? Nigeria is desperately yearning for a credible census to put an end to all past controversies and help her with accurate data for policy-making geared towards solving social problems and achieving the SDGs. We are counting on National Population Commission to uphold the yearnings of Nigerians for a credible census data. Past censuses in Nigeria have always raised controversies especially the 1973 census which ended with the result being canceled.
The National Population Commission has been planning for years for this census and we believe that we will have a good headcount. It stated that questions related to religion and ethnicity will not be included in the data collection materials for the Nigerian 2023 census. This is a great idea as past censuses have generated ethnic, religious and political controversies. Ethnic and religious biases have done much harm to competence, justice and the unity of Nigeria.
The forthcoming 2023 digital census is the next big national activity. It is the duty of every citizen to cooperate with the enumerators and functionaries from the National Population Commission to ensure that everyone is counted and no one is left behind. With the cooperation of all citizens, the 2023 digital census will provide quality data for national planning and development for the Republic of Nigeria.