From Fred Itua, Abuja
Nigeria’s estimated 200 million population figure, yesterday, sparked a row on the floor of the senate as Seriake Dickson faulted claims by Aishatu Dahiru that the population of Mubi (one council in Adamawa) was higher than that of Bayelsa’s eight local government areas combined.’
Trouble started when the lawmaker from Adamawa State made the comment while leading her debate on a Bill for an Act to provide for the legal framework to establish the Federal Medical Centre, Mubi.
Dickson countered that the size of Bayelsa – the physical land mass and the water bodies – was three times bigger than some states in the country. He countered that the sponsor could make her case without reference to Bayelsa.
He said: “People keep telling us about the population of Nigeria. Who conducted the census? Who verified the figures people are claiming? Who counted the number of houses and those who live in villages? Do we have a verifiable data in this country to confirm the true population figure of Nigeria?
“Bayelsa is bigger than four states combined in Nigeria. But because we were unlucky, we only got right local government councils. That doesn’t mean that we are less in number. It only means that we didn’t have a military person in power to give us more.
“Nigeria doesn’t have a credible population figure and we should stop peddling fake numbers that have not been verified by anyone. That reference to Bayelsa was most unfortunate.”
Dickson was interjected by the senate president, Ahmad Lawan, who said intentions of Binani was misconstrued by Dickson.
“Apparently, I have to guide this contribution because you have made your point and, giving our standing orders, we shouldn’t impute improper motives on the submission by our colleagues. The discussion is not on the population of Bayelsa or population census conducted before; we should rather concentrate on the main focus, which is on the establishment of a Federal Medical Centre.
“I agree that there are many questions people will like to raise, but I think the essence of this debate is to focus on the general principles and the merits of the Bill,’’ Lawan said.
Notwithstanding, Dickson reiterated his point that “debates and submissions must be based on verifiable facts. Dahiru referred to population figures which are not verifiable. The basis is not explained. I only rose to enlighten and contribute without prejudice to the merits or demerits of the Bill; that the factual premise that she has put forward as a reason or one of the reasons why this Bill should be considered is faulty.
“That should be expunged; it should not form part of it because it is not factual; it is incorrect,’’ Dickson said.
While advancing argument in support of her Bill earlier, Dahiru said Mubi, with total land mass of 506.4km2 and population of 759, 045, has nine neighbouring local government areas.
“This together with the population of Mubi North makes it 2, 089, 540 people (very much higher than Bayelsa’s eight Local Government Areas, with a population of 1, 704, 515).
“Nonetheless, this historic town has suffered from government neglect in terms of federal presence, especially in the area of tertiary healthcare delivery,’’ she said.
The senate president referred the Bill to the Committee on Health to report back in four weeks.