By Fred Doc Nwaozor
Today, Tuesday, July 11, the global community is commemorating the 2017 World Population Day. The day is an annual event observed on July 11 every year to raise awareness on global population issues. The event was solely established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the year 1989. Its establishment was inspired by public interest on July 11, 1987, which was the day the world’s population reached approximately five billion people.
Population is the overall number of people or animals in a particular locality, while population census is concisely defined as an official survey of the total number of persons or animals of the same specie coexisting in a given arena. Similarly, it can further be described as the summation of all the organisms of the same group that are inhabitants of a certain geographical area as well as possess the capability of interbreeding.
Nigeria is generally regarded as the most populous black nation in the world with about 170 million people. However, like many other nations, there is no exact figure of the country’s population, owing to several challenges and constraints. It is pertinent to acknowledge that this phenomenon negatively affects the workforce of any country involved, thereby disrupting its socio-economic and political strength. In view of the aforesaid assertion, it is imperative for Nigeria to take serious measures towards ascertaining the exact number of Nigerians as well as ensure that the growth of that population is adequately controlled. So, as the nation awaits her next population census, come 2018, the National Population Commission (NPC) is expected to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that nothing but absolute success is recorded during the awaited exercise.
The census in question, which had its Enumeration Areas Demarcation (EAD) done in 2016, was statutorily meant to take place in year 2016), since the last one successfully held in 2006. The exercise is required to be carried out once every ten years. This very lapse implies that either the census wasn’t properly captured in the 2015 budget by the immediate past administration or that the money budgeted for the project was misappropriated by the said administration. Whatever occasioned the loophole, the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari ought to ensure that the aberration does not repeat itself.
In the same vein, there is a compelling need for rigorous awareness campaigns on the project. I want to firmly disabuse the mind of the concerned authority of the notion that every Nigerian is currently aware of the forthcoming exercise. We must take into cognizance that not every citizen of this country, likewise other developing nations, is privileged to listen to the radio, watch the television, read the newspaper/magazine, access the internet or the social media, as the case may be. In view of this, I want to notify us that at the moment, at least, about 35% of Nigerian adults are yet to be informed of the awaited 2017 population census.
To this end, I implore the NPC to employ all the needed avenues with a view to ensuring that no citizen of the country is sidelined as regards information. They should work with the various telecom firms towards issuing regular bulk SMS to the teeming Nigerians. Even at that, not everyone has access to a cell phone; thus, in addition to electronic and print media, we must involve such other means of information dissemination as street awareness rallies, town-hall meetings, and what have you. Town hall meetings would encourage the traditional rulers or town union leaders to engage the services of their respective town criers, thereby enabling door-to-door awareness mechanism. Against this backdrop, collaborating with other relevant corporate bodies including the National Orientation Agency (NOA), civil society groups, religious institutions, and schools, among others, would be very helpful.
Inter alia, contrary to the De-facto method of enumeration that’s intended to be used by the NPC during the exercise, which is not unusual compared to the previously conducted ones, I strongly insist that the De-jure method of enumeration would be more reliable and accurate for the exercise. The latter, if utilised, would unarguably enable the personnel to acquire the clear picture of every citizen of the country, thereby enabling the commission (NPC) to arrive at a holistic conclusion.
The De-facto method is the enumeration of individuals where they are found during the census, regardless of where they normally reside. Whilst, the De-jure method is the enumeration of individuals where they usually reside, regardless of where they are on the day of the census. Suffice it to say that the former involves head-count, contrary to the latter which mainly involves house-count.
The De-facto method unequivocally showcases that there’s a tangible probability or tendency of not counting every Nigerian as long as the exercise lasts. For instance, if Mr. A wasn’t found at his place of residence when the census officials came around, there is also a strong possibility of not locating/finding him at other residences or institutions he is affiliated to throughout the exercise. It may be that when they would visit his/her home in the city, he/she would be at his/her village home, and vice-versa.
Besides, that is no assurance that all Nigerians resident abroad would be available during the census because every Nigerian in the Diaspora wouldn’t be able to sacrifice whatever he/she is doing over there for the sake of the exercise. Even if based on their patriotic nature, they eventually unanimously wish to return home in order to be counted, obviously that’s no guarantee that they will all be able to afford the required flight ticket. And, we are not unaware that the census officials won’t travel abroad to ensure that every one of them is duly counted. These, among other crucial and sensitive factors, are required to be seriously taken into consideration.
The fact remains that every Nigerian, both at home and abroad, needs to be counted because there’s a tendency that one who’s based abroad might decide to return to Nigeria the month after the census, and thereafter become a permanent resident of the country. Of course, we are very much aware of the socio-economic implication of such a decision, especially in a situation where the person in question was not counted during the census.
The De-jure method, which involves house-count, would definitely ensure that every member of a given home or family irrespective of where he/she resides or is based is duly counted during the census. People shall be counted based on their respective states of origin; in other words, the houses to be visited shall be those that are owned by only the indigenes of the affected state. This approach would also enable us to acquire the exact number or statistics of persons that hail from each state of the federation. During the census, the NPC officials need to request from those present at the houses visited the documents that indicate the authenticity of the membership or citizenship of the absentees or those residing abroad, as the case may be, such as birth certificate, LGA’s certificate of origin and/or evidence of schools attended.
This implies that the proposed De-jure method, which is result-oriented, wouldn’t be only more accurate and reliable but cost/labour effective. In fact, there’s need for the apt authorities to extend a hand of fellowship to the cognoscenti towards attaining a hitch-free and successful 2018 population census in Nigeria.
Above all, we have been reliably informed by the NPC that only its staff would be involved in the exercise. This is a wonderful and welcome idea. But, the commission is required to use every means to decisively warn its personnel or any concerned body to steer clear of any form of unpatriotic act including cheating and indolence while the counting lasts.
Nwaozor writes from Owerri