It is laudable that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of N10 billion to the National Population Commission (NPC) for continuation of Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) in 546 local government areas in the country. Not less than 228 Local Government Areas had earlier been demarcated across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The President also approved an additional N4.5 billon to be included in the 2021 budget for the completion of the exercise as part of the preparations for the next census.
Acting Chairman of NPC, Dr. Eyitayo Oyetunji, who made the disclosure, added that the President’s intervention is an indication that government is working towards a hitch-free census. Oyetunji who did not state when the next census will commence, stressed that with the approval, the President has demonstrated understanding of the role of data, especially demographic data, as the bedrock for informed development planning and allocation of resources, facilities and services.
EAD is the process of delineating the entire land area of the country into small geographical and demographic units called Enumeration Areas. It is a preparatory exercise for the actual census. A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population by a country. The United Nations (UN) recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years. Without proper delineation of the population units, a reliable census cannot be obtained.
We commend the President for making the necessary monetary approval for the enumeration exercise. We urge that the money approved for the project be promptly released taking into consideration that without proper enumeration, no reliable census can take place.
Conducting an accurate census is one area Nigeria has consistently failed as nation. Even before the attainment of independence in 1960, previous census figures in the country had been controversial. Aside the relatively acceptable 1921 census, subsequent enumeration exercises have always been tainted by one flaw or the other. The 1929-1931 enumeration was completely inaccurate because of the economic depression of the time and poor understanding of the exercise as a basis for taxation, leading to riots in some parts of the country. The exercise did not take place in 1941 because of the Second World War. Census was conducted in 1962 but the results were rejected and considered incorrect, hence the 1963 head-count. This time the results were accepted by the government, but still rejected by the regions. In 1973, another enumeration took place but the results were not published. The last detailed census in Nigeria was in 2006, which put the population of the citizens at 140,003,542. Since then, the country’s population figure has been an issue of estimation. This does not give room for adequate planning and development.
Data from census are important in research, planning, and national development. Accurate census also helps in delineation of electoral constituencies and allocation of slots for representation in the parliaments. It also serves for administration and extension of good governance to the people. Without reliable census, sustainable development cannot be carried out in the country.
The starting point in achieving an acceptable census is in getting an accurate Enumeration Area Demarcation. It is good that the government is revisiting the issue. We call on the agencies involved to do all that is required to ensure that the country gets an adequate and reliable census. Let the states, local government areas and Nigerians be carried along in the exercise. There is need for public enlightenment on the exercise. Let government work with international organisations for a seamless exercise. The bottom line is setting a template that will ensure a reliable census.
Above all, the exercise must not be politicised. The last census exercise was unduly politicised. To ensure for accurate census, there is need to de-emphasise the use of population as a basis for revenue allocation and political advantage. Those things that made previous head-counts questionable should be avoided.
With the UN recommended 10-year frame for countries to conduct census, the exercise is overdue in Nigeria. As the country moves towards another census, everything needed to make the exercise work must be put in place.