Over two years ago, the media was awash with fears that the 2016 national population census may not hold following the delaying release of about N17billion the National Population Commission, NPC projected for funding the exercise.
Established in 1988, the NPC we note, has the statutory powers to collect, analyse and disseminate population/demographic data in the country. It is also mandated to undertake demographic sample surveys, compile, collate and publish migration and civil registration statistics as well as monitor the country’s Population Policy.
It was against the foregoing background that the last national census was conducted in 2006 after which the commission surmised the number of Nigerians residing in the country to be about 140million.
Though the fact that doubts and protests always follow the release of census figures each time, we align with most Nigerians who hold the view that having a good idea of what our population is, remains the sine qua non to effective national planning in all its ramifications. Little wonder then, that in post-census years, adequate management of all forms of controversies thrown up becomes the burden of all.
However, we believe that the time to begin to make adequate preparation for Census 2016 is now; in fact, time is not on the country’s side in this lofty endeavour that attracts very positive results at the end of the day. And funding takes the front seat in such an exercise. It is however sad to note the statement by NPC’s chairman, Eze Duru-Iheoma that the N17billion required for the successful conduct of the census has not been released.
He told lawmakers when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Population in 2014 to defend the commission’s budget that the commission requested for N34.56billion as capital allocation in the 2014 budget, out of which the Budget Office approved N6.2billion. Accordingly, NPC said that the amount approved by the Budget Office was inadequate to carry out activities for the successful conduct of the 2016 census. He added that the construction of ICT centres across the 36 states of the federation would gulp not less than N5.7billion, and wondered why the Budget Office allocated only N203million for the ICT centres.
Despite the fact that the lawmakers promised to intervene in the matter, that has since become history as the promise belonged to the last National Assembly session.
The NPC boss raised the alarm penultimate week again when at a press briefing in commemoration of the 2015 World Population Day, he disclosed that the 2016 headcount for all Nigerians may not hold. He added that given the fears on ground with few months away, if indeed Nigerians want the conduct of 2016 national census, they must demand for it, just like they did during the recently concluded general elections.
We therefore call on the government to expedite action towards the release of that fund to quicken the process for the census. There is no way NPC can succeed without sufficient funding and support by all stakeholders. We also urge international donor agencies like the UNFPA, the World Bank and World Health Organization not to relent in their support to Nigeria.
Nevertheless, we believe all hope is not lost as the new set of lawmakers alongside the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would swiftly address the issue, even as we stress that there is need for adequate and early release of funds by the federal government for effective conduct of the NPC’s activities. We also challenge NPC to source for related support from international agencies in this regard.
Since the first enumeration census in the country was conducted in the colony of Lagos in 1866 till the last one in 2006, 15 population censuses have been done. But rather than yield reliable and accurate data, they had brought up more questions than answers.
We pray NPC gets the needed funds, and on time. After that, we would urge that adequate sensitisation on the need, modalities and usefulness of the census and complimenting publicity commence immediately.
We hold that this will be the clear signal that preparations for Census 2016 have truly started.