• Figure not tenable, says lawyer
Bimbola Oyesola; Fred Itua, Abuja, with agency reports
The population of Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is pegged at an estimated 198 million, according to the National Population Commission (NPC).
NPC Chairman, Eze Duruiheoma, said this in New York, yesterday, when he delivered Nigeria’s statement on sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration at the 51st session of the Commission on Population and Development.
Nigeria currently ranks the seventh most populous country in the world.
As of 2016, the World Bank said Nigeria had an estimated 186 million people.
Duruiheoma said urban population is growing at an average annual rate of about 6.5 percent, and added that that teenagers, women of child-bearing age and the working-age population, are more engaged in urbanisation.
“The recent World Population Prospects predicts that by 2050, Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world.
“Over the last 50 years, Nigeria’s urban population has grown at an average annual growth rate of more than 6.5 percent without commensurate increase in social amenities and infrastructure.
“It grew substantially from 17.3 in 1967 to 49.4 percent in 2017.
“In addition, the 2014 World Urbanisation Prospects report predicts that by 2050, most of the population–70 percent–will reside in cities.
“The 2010 Human Mobility Survey Report revealed that 23 percent of the sampled population were of more females than males.”
Duruiheoma said an estimated 1.76 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are from states in the North East.
According to him, existing urbanisation trend, coupled with IDPs in cities, pose critical challenges to securing sustainability of our cities.
He said just as in other developing countries, Nigerian cities host widespread poverty, under-employment and unemployment at an average of 18.4 percent, citing the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2017 report.
In an interview last year, NPC Director General Ghaji Bello, said the commission might conduct census in 2018.
He had said the proposed census would cost an estimated N272 billion.
“Ordinarily, it ought to have a cycle of its own and that cycle should be five years or 10 years.
“We should have conducted the last census in 2016 but for a variety of reasons outside the control of the population commission, we were unable to do it,” he had said.
The last census was conducted in 2006.
Meanwhile, National Coordinator of Advocates for Peoples Rights and Justice, Mr. Victor Giwa, has faulted the census figure.
He said since no official census exercise has been conducted since 2006, the figure released by NPC cannot be tenable.
“NPC is the legal commission that keeps records of all the births of the citizens in Nigeria. They should ordinarily have the records of Nigeria. The last population census was conducted 12 years ago. The records he quoted is presumptuously about 30 per cent correct. He is giving the figure of what is available to him as chairman of the commission.
“That can’t be the legal census of Nigeria. Our capacity to know the true records of the number of people we are in Nigeria is still very weak. They have not conducted any recent census to have arrived at that figure they gave. The figure is faulty and it won’t work. The records are questionable since there is no proper records,” said Giwa.To the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and Organised Labour, the Federal Government has been unable to gainfully deploy the country’s population to grow the economy.
In separate reactions, OPS and Labour stated that the figure coming from the NPC should be accepted as the official figure for the present population of the country.
Director General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Segun Oshinowo, said before NPC’s figure, estimates of Nigeria’s population was being bandied by some analysts as 200 million.
“If it’s now being confirmed, the difference is almost very close and we can as well accept it as the official figure for now”, he said.
He, however, noted that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country has little significance to the nation’s population.
The NECA director general said although Nigeria is just out of recession, it would have been able to forge ahead economically and consolidate on its development if it could make use of her population growth effectively.
“We are not able to provide an environment to engage our productive population between the age of 18 to 35 maximally.
“When we are talking of growth, we must factor in the unemployment rate in the country. Millions of our youth are not gainfully engaged and the result is the social problem we are experiencing in the area of insecurity. We are supposed to have demography dividend from the increase, but, what we have is a disadvantage.”
In his reaction, Issa Aremu, a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers (NUTGTWN) also said Nigerians must believe NPC’s figure.
He said Nigeria’s high population is an asset, and implored the federal government to deploy it for the economic advancement of the country.
“We must translate the quantity to quality population through education, employment and investment in their health and well being. Nigeria is still small compared to China and India.”
Also, National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Supo Ayokunle, through his media aide, Pastor Bayo Oladeji, said the association has nothing at stake is in the new population figure since it is not a religious affair.
Said Oladeji: “It will be hard for CAN to react to something like this. Something like this should be referred to non governmental organisations under CAN. These are the things they should be reacting to and putting on the front burner. CAN is not a political party. Since the issue of religion was not added, what will I be discussing? We have nothing at stake here.”