From: FRED ITUA, Abuja
A human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has revealed that previous censuses conducted since the amalgamation of the northern and southern regions of Nigeria, have always been manipulated to favour the north.
“All the censuses we have ever had in this country have always been manipulated. They have never reflected the true population of Nigeria. This is the only country in this world where the population in the dry region is higher than those in the wetlands,” he said.
Ozekhome was reacting to a recent statement made by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, wherein he called on the chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC) to shelve the conduct of the proposed 2018 national census.
According to Dogara, politicians would take advantage of the 2018 census exercise to inflate figures so as to manipulate the outcome of the 2019 general elections.
But addressing newsmen in his office, on Wednesday, Ozekhome said it was wrong for states “laying the golden eggs to have fewer local government areas.”
He said: “This is because of our attachments to national resources. Look at this. The old Kano Was divided into Kano and Jigawa States. As I speak, Kano State has 44 local government areas, while Jigawa has 27. National resources sharing is based on this.
“Let us look at Bayelsa. Bayelsa lays the golden egg, but it has only 8 local government areas. If Bayelsa lays the eggs, where is the justice in this country when those who do not lay the eggs get the lion’s share?
“When Dogara is afraid of census before 2019 elections, I sympathize with him. He knows that census is an explosive matter in this country. The former chairman of National Population Commission (NPC) said previous censuses were false, he was sacked because certain parts of this country did not like what he said.
“I agree with the Speaker that the census should not be held. The 2019 elections are almost here. Let the census be held after the 2019 elections. If its held, it will be manipulated by politicians. The same politicians can even use the census exercise to disrupt the conduct of the 2019 general elections.”
Ozekhome also reacted to another statement credited to some northern leaders, who recently called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to implement resolutions reached at the 2014 National Conference, held in Abuja.
He described those calling on President Buhari not to implement the resolutions of the Conference report as hypocrites. He said the northern leaders participated in the conference and were part of the decisions reached by over 450 delegates drawn from every part of the country.
“It was a battle royale at the 2014 National Conference. At the 2014 National Conference, we made over 600 recommendations. No one was forced to adopt any report. We disagreed during the conference and almost exchanged blows.
“It is alarming when you see participants of that conference coming out to say that they have rejected the outcome of the exercise. Every segment of Nigeria from the six geopolitical zones were represented at that conference.
“We cannot take our unity for granted. It needs to be nurtured. We need to go back to fiscal federalism. The over 600 recommendations of the National Conference which President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will put away in the archives, is unfortunate,” Ozekhome added.