EditorialTHEWILL EDITORIAL: Getting the 2023 National Population Census Right

THEWILL EDITORIAL: Getting the 2023 National Population Census Right



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Smarting from the bungled 2023 General Election, which, arguably, failed to meet the expectations of most Nigerians, despite the initial assurances and much-flaunted preparations, the Federal Government is set to conduct another population census. Scheduled to hold between May 3 and May 7, 2023, according to plans released by the National Population Commission (NPC), this year’s headcount is expected to be a detailed enumeration of the country’s population. It will be the sixth population census to be conducted in Nigeria since independence.

Already being flaunted as the first digital census to be conducted in the country, a whopping N190 billion has also been earmarked for the national exercise, thus making it the most expensive headcount in the history of Nigeria. And just as the bungled general election was hyped for its innovation, especially with the introduction of the Bimodal Integrated Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS), the 2023 National Census has also been receiving some rave previews as the NPC has also been flaunting its readiness and preparation for the exercise.

Good as all of these may sound, it is sad and worrisome that Nigerians are not too bothered about the exercise, especially with the disappointment that the general election has turned out to be. Despite the immense benefits in the exercise for national planning and development, the lack of trust and total disbelief in government policies and programmes is about to rub off on the national headcount which is coming at a time when the Federal Government is still struggling with trust and faith in its policies.

It is really unfortunate that an exercise scheduled to start in just about a month is yet to be fully bought into and embraced by the majority of Nigerians, who appear more concerned with daily survival than a national exercise that they fear would also be bungled, given the experience with the general election. Originally scheduled to hold between March 29 and April 4, 2023, the exercise was shifted because of the governorship and state assemblies elections held by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) across the country.

According to the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), Nigeria’s population as of 2023 is estimated at 216 million. We are therefore not in any way doubting the importance of the exercise that is about to commence as a population and housing census (PHC) is not only of great relevance to the economic, political and socio-cultural planning of a country but also helps to gather detailed data on the size, structure, distribution and socio-economic and demographic characteristics of a country’s population as required for policy intervention and monitoring of development goals.

However, we are of the view that things must be done right this time and must be seen to have been done at the same time. Nigerians have had enough of nasty arrangements thrown at them as if they have no choice in a system that celebrates mediocrity and encourages nepotism instead of competence. The issue of uncontrolled movement and migration into the country, especially from neighbouring countries, is capable of distorting figures and this might also pose a great challenge to the credibility of the exercise if urgent steps are not taken to arrest the situation.

Close monitoring and effective patrol of the nation’s borders are key at this point in time, just as effective monitoring must be ensured for all NPC officials that will be involved in the headcount. Enough lessons must have been learned from the failures of the elections as a guide against a repeat in the national census.

As Nigerians continue to explore opportunities and challenges for their country’s democratic future, in the face of obvious leadership failures in the recent past, we call on the Federal Government to use the forthcoming census in redeeming its much battered image by getting the exercise right. The exercise must not be politicised in any way and figures must not be tampered with or political gains.

The fact remains that the Muhammadu Buhari Administration owes it a duty to give Nigerians a credible housing and population census before its tenure ends in May as there can be no excuse for this exercise to be bungled like the general election despite all the hype and the whopping amount of money already allocated to it. Failure to achieve this will be a double disappointment for millions of Nigerians who had expected much from the outgoing administration.

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