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16 years’ Census Vacuum renders 2006 Census Irrelevant – Rev Fr Dyikuk

by Christiana Gokyo, Jos

It has been observed that the inability to conduct census in the last 16 years in Nigeria has created an information vacuum and tendered data from the last 2006 census irrelevant for national planning.

While preparation for the 2023 census is at advanced stage, 98 percent of the total land area of the country has been demarcated into enumeration areas. With further delay, it would affect the products there due to rapidly changing environmental landscape and settlement patterns in the country.

This assertion was made at the weekend by Rev Fr Justine John Dyikuk, who is Lecturer, Department of Mass Communications, University of Jos, Nigeria, as well as Senior Fellow, International Religious Freedom Policy, Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), Washington DC, while presenting a paper at a Stakeholders Summit on the 2023 Population and Housing Census recently in Jos.

He was optimistic that, “In neutralizing these misconception educational campaigns, there is the need for adequate preparation and planning, adequate utilization of funds (N178-182b – 31 December 2021.).

He said, the data would assist the Federal Government in poverty reduction and youth empowerment programmes and improvement of the living standards of the people.

He observed that, the upcoming census would attract profound International Support from development partners/countries in providing technical assistance, materials support, and funding for the exercise.

Rev. Fr Dyikuk observed further that, the next census is one huge investment the nation, and must be made to launch Nigeria into the path of economic prosperity through proper planning and optimal allocation of resources.

According to him, the Summit (held on 11th August, 2022), was to ensure that key stakeholders are fully aware of any precise technologies and procedures being initiated specifically for the conduct of a reliable census.

He said, the essential role of citizens is to coordinate with the enumerators, and all must uncompromisingly safeguard the integrity of the exercise, namely, “Everyone is counted once and in the right place.” 

He stressed that, the recent successes recorded by the gallant and Armed Forces in the fight against insurgency and the technical defeats of Boko Haram and the successful conduct of the general educations, in 2019, show that the census can be conducted.

“The 2023 census will be insulated from the 2023 general educations, which will be conducted between February and March, 2023, while the census will come a month later – in April – when the results will be released before May 29th, 2023, when the tenure of this Administration will expire. The results will provide a new basis for the succeeding administration to take off,” e said.

Rev. Fr Dyikuk opined that, “A population and housing census is a total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic, social and housing data, pertaining at a specified time, to all persons in a country or in a well delimited part of the country.”

He noted that, the 2006 census created data gaps in global population, which does not do credit to the nation’s reputation, adding that, Nigeria is the seventh most populous nation on Earth and will be the third most populous country after China and India, in 2050, going by the current rate of growth.

“The current economic recession and the COVID-19 Pandemic has reduced Federal Government’s revenue, ensure quality and accuracy online international best practices,” he disclosed.

Rev. Fr Justine John Dyikuk explained that, the UN recommends doing a census every 10 years, while Nigeria has one of the fastest growing populations, with a growth rate of 3.2 percent and estimated population of over 200 million. This would capture the essential dynamics of such a rapidly growing population.

While declaring the Summit open, Governor Simon Lalong, who was represented said, “Population data is critical to development planning, and any government desirous of achieving development strides needs to know how many people requires basic amenities such as light, water, schools, housing and health facilities and education.

“No county relies solely on its estimated population because such estimates ignore the demographics unearthed by census data, which are needed for national planning purposes.

“It has become imperative for the nation to conduct another national census to produce a new set of demographic and socio-economic data that will provide the basis for national planning and sustainable development,” he stated.

He said the population is a critical factor in a nation’s effort towards achieving sustainable development, adding that, the people are both the agents and beneficiaries of the development process.

“Knowledge of the national population in terms of size, distribution and socio-economic characteristics is required for planning purposes. This, therefore, makes the conduct of census an essential governance activity,” he said.

“With a projected population of 216,783,381, Nigeria is the sixth most populous country in the world and the most populous country on the African continent. This is due to the rapidly-growing nature of the population and large proportion of the youthful population. Nigeria is also projected to be the third most populous country in the world by the year 2050, after India and China.”

“However, despite Nigeria’s high ranking position on the global demographic map, its population censuses have been conducted irregularly and at intervals longer than the United Nations’ recommended 10 years,” he noted. 

“The irregular and long interval of census-taking in Nigeria has denied the nation the huge benefits of comprehensive baseline data for evidence-based decision making,” Governor Lalong disclosed.

The governor stated that, there is the need to ensure that further implementation of programs are targeted at vulnerable populations and ensure they leave no one behind, adding that, their administration requires a new data set to drive the implementation of the recently launched revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development and other Government policies in the State.

According to him, the 2023 census data is also needed to tackle the security challenges bedeviling the country, as it will give an overview of the population – where they are and who they are.

“The Plateau State Government is convinced that, the National Population Commission has the commitment and capacity to deliver the nation a reliable, credible, acceptable and successful census, with the deployment of technology by the Commission to ensure the conduct of the first fully digital census in Nigeria, as the census methodology will enhance the data quality, inspire the confidence of the Nigerian people and acceptability of the census results,” Lalong stated.

The governor added that, “Ordinarily, conducting a population census is a national event that is the ultimate responsibility of every national government; but census-taking cannot be left to National Population Commission or the Federal Government alone.”

Therefore, he solicited the support of critical stakeholders, including the various ministries and departments of the state government, local government councils, traditional and religious institutions, civil society organizations, private sectors, media, development partners, donor agencies and the general populace for successful conduct of the 2023 census.

“Knowing the population of Plateau State and using the data to plan for the people and future generations is a collective duty we owe this nation, and we must all resolve that this duty is satisfactorily carried out in the firm belief that what has joined us together as a nation forces that tend to drive us apart,” he stressed.

“We must, therefore, resolve to divorce politics from census and consider it as a purely statistical exercise that will provide veritable tools for planning and sustainable development,” he urged.

Speaking earlier, the Commissioner, National Population Commission, Plateau State, Hon. Cecilia A. Dapoet, said, “The goal of the Stakeholder Summit is to broaden state level to support the conduct of the 2023 Census by creating public awareness on the conduct of the 2023 census, including imperatives methodology and timeline.

“It is to also promote robust and informed conversation on the processes and procedures for the 2023 census and to solicit the cooperation and support of state level stakeholder for the conduct of the census.

“It would also provide a platform to offer clarification and received feedback and suggestions on salient issues and concerns related to the conduct of the 2023 Population and Housing Census,” she stated.

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