From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Abia chapter, has appealed to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) not to interfer in the 2023 census to ensure the correct census figures for not only Abia State but the entire South East.
Speaking during the Abia State stakeholders summit on the 2023 population census, in Umuahia at the weekend, the said NLC chairman, Obi Igwe said he was making the appeal following what happened during the 2006 census when a pro-Biafra group dissuaded the Igbo from coming out to be counted.
Obi who said this contributed to the low population figure being ascribed to a state like Abia, pleaded for such not to be allowed to repeat itself.
He promised to mobilise the 45 trade union affiliates of the NLC in the state to come out and be counted during the exercise.
The Federal Commissioner representing Abia State at the National Population Commission (NPC), Chief Nwabuisi Nwanne, said those agitating for Biafra should not have any reason to disrupt next year’s census exercise in the state, since it was also in their interest.
“We had a situation in 2006 where a group agitating for Biafra sold a dummy to people in the state not to present themselves to be counted during that year’s census exercise as they were not Nigerians and that impacted negatively on the state population after the exercise as it made Abia be under-counted.”
Nwanne said the beauty of next year’s exercise was that even if any group was clamouring for a referendum for Biafra, the population the world body would rely on, would be that conducted by Nigeria.
“Even if any group agitating for Biafra is clamouring for a referendum, the population the United Nations will be relying on for such exercise, will be the one conducted by Nigeria and that is why everybody should come out and be counted instead of the other way round.”
Nwanne said to ensure a credible census figure, that for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the Commission was going to do away with paperwork but will be going digital, anchored on Personal Data Assessment (PDA).
Okey Ahaiwe, Chief of Staff (CoS) who represented Governor Okezie Ikpeazu at the summit promised that Abia State Government would support the NPC to ensure the success of the 2023 headcount in the state.
Ikpeazu commended the NPC for the synergy it established to drive the implementation of the Nationa! Population and Housing Census in Abia State.
He noted that with this level of commitment, all the grey areas surrounding the last census would be addressed.
“In line with the NOA’s mandate of public enlightenment, political and civic education, we will use our full structure and personnel in the 17 Local Government Areas to get the people involved to support the 2023 census.
“With our legacy in organising successful awareness campaigns on complex national programmes such as the Policy of Deregulation in the Downstream Sector, Diversification of the Economy, The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and COVID-19, you can see that we have the capacity to get those who are easily forgotten, involved.
“We are aware that the inaccurate population data contributed to uneven or lopsided development – and political marginalisation that exists among us. This does not have to remain so. We intend to change this using our available platforms, including traditional and non-traditional and our robust structure to create widespread awareness to motivate people and their families to get counted.”
The state director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okechukwu; chairman, Abia traditional rulers council, Eze Joseph Nwabekee; Abia CAN chairman, Apostle Emmanuel Agomuo; and Alhaji Musa Iro Okpemba, Chief Imam, Abia police command, all commended NPC for the summit.
They promised to mobilise their people on the need to be counted in the 2023 census.
In his lecture titled “Imperatives for the conduct of the census”, Prof Ebere Ukeje said the development cost of not conducting a regular census, outweighs the cost of conducting a census.