Last month, Nigeria rolled out the drums, in an unending ritual, to celebrate its 56th independence anniversary. There were congratulatory messages, dances, march past, military parades, lectures and inter-denominational services preaching national unity.
But some issues remained the same: there were pretensions of a united country and the mantra of “one Nigeria” which is very distant from the reality on ground.
Looking at our estimated population, multi-ethnic composition and abundant mineral resources available, Nigeria was destined for greatness. But the progression rate has been stunted by forces of retrogression.
For a long time now, Nigeria has lived under the false impression of having a credible population census that gave the current figures of over 150 million or an estimated figure of 182.2 million people in 2015.
What we have had are manipulated figures, lacking biometrics and a total absence of a credible and reliable population census figures.
Starting from the 1963 population census exercise conducted by the Tafawa Balewa government both the southern and northern parts of the country made bogus claims to higher population figures. While the south was said to have presented figures that proved that the south was more in number, an alarmed Balewa government conducted a verification exercise and suddenly found additional 8 million people in the north which showed that they had greater numbers of people.
Accusations that official population figures had been rigged dates back to the 1960s. Apart from the ones earlier conducted under colonial rule in 1911 and that of 1921, considered the most comprehensive while that of 1952/53 was described as the most elaborate. Disputations of the population census figures continued with the 1962 census which was cancelled. The 1963 exercise as noted above was not generally acceptable while the trend continued under subsequent civilian and military regimes.
In the run up to independence, the British government was accused of skewing census figures to favour the north.
The census conducted subsequently in 1973 was so controversial it was annulled and no figures was published. The same fate befell the 1991 census which was disputed and equally annulled in spite of the huge financial commitment to the exercise.
The developmental challenges facing Nigeria today is firmly rooted in a dubious population census figures released by the National Population Commission (NPC) which puts the North-west at 35,786,944 million, North-east, 18,971,965 million, North-central, 18,841,056 million, South-west 27,511,992 million, South-south 21,014,655 million and South-east 16,381,729 million
Dominance Anchored on Fraud
Nigerians are familiar with fraudulent activities associated with census exercises in Nigeria ranging from opening the borders to allow massive influx of foreigners who pose as Nigerians and are counted as Nigerians, deliberate efforts of state governments to compromise census officials to spike population figures, the insistence on the use of state of residence as against state of origin in filling census forms and the humourous inclusion of animals as part of the human figures.
The outcome is that Kano and Lagos states which the 2006 exercise put at above 9 million or more accurately (17 million according to a survey conducted by Lagos State government) are the most populated states. But Kano has 44 local government councils as against 20 for Lagos. Kano’s 44 local government councils equals or outnumbers the entire South-east geo-political zone. The number of constituencies in the state outnumbers Lagos and the South-east.
With the contested figures of the zones in the north, 80 percent of federal appointments, armed forces, paramilitary organisations and the federal civil service are occupied by core northerners in violation of federal character principles not even in the ratio of the above mentioned figures.
For example, a research carried out by Africapolis – the African arm of e-Geopolis, a global study of urban populations, which is supported by the Agence Française de Dévelopement said: “Unfortunately, it is not possible to give a firmly reliable estimate for the total population of Nigeria. The 2006 census cited a population of around 140 million. The most commonly cited figures today are from the World Bank, and they are extrapolated from that headcount. It reports that 168 million people were living in Nigeria in 2012, which on the basis of 3% growth rates would suggest a population of around 178 million in 2014.
“But because the census figures are so unreliable, neither senior Nigerian politicians such as (former)Senate President David Mark nor the former head of the organisation that ran that census, Festus Odimegwu, are willing to declare confidence in the last census.
One of the researchers, Dr Potts, agreed that it was “almost certainly an over-count”.
That implies that today’s statistics – taken from faulty figures – are equally misleading.
“These figures are just guesstimates. Nobody knows whether the population is 120 million, 150 million, 200 million – no Nigerian, not the NPC, the UN, the World Bank,” Odimegwu explained to Africa Check. “Unless you conduct a proper census, which has never been done without political interference, it is not possible to know,” the report captured on Africa Check, said.
Population as a Development Tool
The importance of accurate demographic data in a nation’s development cannot be overemphasized. This aids realistic planning of social services and distribution of resources to states and local governments. Census exercises have failed in Nigeria owing to poor funding, poor planning, poor preparations and lack of proper training of personnel. Beyond these, census exercises have failed largely because of the linkage between it and revenue allocation and political representation.
With a perpetually corrupt leadership, relying on revenue allocations based on falsified census figures little or no attention is given to adequate plans for health, education, transportation, agriculture and energy requirements of the population.
The United Nations once offered to assist Nigeria conduct a credible and reliable census considering the ethnic differences and a history of failed head counts but it was turned down by the forces of retrogression in order to hide the truth. Nigeria still lacks accurate data about population size, its distribution, mortality and fertility rates, migration and emigration, sex, marital status, structure for planning purposes in respect of age groups, religion, shelters to be provided for and plans for building schools etcetera.
A Colonial Legacy of Fraud
If Britain entrenched population census fraud that is threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence, should it not benefit Nigeria, to embrace the reality of the 21st century by conducting an internationally acceptable head count that could put the strength of its population to good use as is obtainable in China and India? Must the country be perpetually consigned to neo-colonialism?
In any case, those who are ready to fight with the last drop of their blood to ensure a perpetuation of the fraud are already facing the constant that is change other than the parochial change that is after their heart as we appear incapable of tackling crime with modern technology owing to the absence of a forensic database, neither are we able to confront food insecurity with agricultural policies loaded with fraudulent figures.
Do we even have counter-terrorism methods or close to equipment designed to curb oil pipeline vandalisms and bombings in spite of the trillions allocated over the years on the basis of falsified census figures?
A thief soon looks round and wonders where all the loot he amassed over the years are located, finding none and unable to see the impact on society is left with high poverty rate (74 per cent in North-east and North-west presently), insurgency and militancy.
There have been disparate attempts to build biometric databases at the Nigerian Immigration Service for visas, Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), the National Identity card started by late Head of State, Gen Murtala Mohammed and now managed by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) as well as the sim card registration by telecommunications companies as ordered by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
President Buhari recently directed a harmonisation of all the sectoral databases but how far this would go remains to be seen.
Nigeria Needs N222bn to Conduct 2018 Census
By United Nations recommendations, every country should conduct a population census every 10 years. With the sluggish movement of the present administration, the target is already missed and the new target year is 2018.
At a recent meeting with the Senate committee on National Identity Cards and National Population Commission, Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC),Eze Duru Iheoma, told Nigerians that the commission needed N222 billion to conduct an accurate, reliable and acceptable population and housing census slated for 2018.
He said the amount would cover the pre-census, census and post-census expenditures.
“For the census we proposed, I want to give you some background information. In preparing for this census, since 2015, we have regularly hinted that given the resources, we will be prepared to do a census in 2016.
“We stated how the resources should be made available. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Then, of course, we submitted a budget at that time,” he said.
The Senate committee advised the commission to seek the funding assistance of international donor agencies in view of the precarious economic situation in the country in order to execute the exercise. The committee also urged NPC to commercialise issuance of birth and death certificates as well as vital data to the public and private sectors in order to generate more revenue.
Speaking during a recent debate on the need to conduct a credible census exercise, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, warned the population commission against embarking on a controversial exercise.
“I want to thank the sponsor of the motion; as we approach the next census, we must take advantage of the development in technology and make the results of the exercise acceptable.
“All the previous exercises have been disputed. We want this exercise to count; every Nigerian must be counted and no one should be counted twice.
“If we do this, we will be able to plan,” Ekweremadu said.
Will President Buhari’s government that has played up ethnicity and religious bias in his appointments so far (95-5 per cent) be able to conduct a credible census exercise that would be acceptable to the rest of Nigeria?
It is important that Nigeria accepts the initial request by the United Nations to get involved in organising a credible census exercise for the country in order to move the nation forward.
Without a credible, verifiable and globally supervised population census exercise, Nigeria would remain stagnant and threats to its corporate existence would remain.
One North and the Mass Murders
We were regaled in Nigeria about one monolithic north. Some sections of the north have hidden under this slogan that expired after the civil war to continue to dominate and occupy every available position without consideration for the danger it poses to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
We have had cases of two graduates who were employed in Enugu and Bauchi at level 8 on the same day. Two years after the Bauchi graduate is already on level 12 and is moved to the federal civil service in Abuja. Within five years, he’s close to director in the federal civil service.
But his counterpart in Enugu is still at level 8, some years later while his colleague is already on level 15, he is at level 12 and should he move to the federal civil service, he is demoted to level 10!
The deliberate killings of thousands of innocent women, children and men, who are christian minorities in Chibok, Borno State, Agatu, Benue State, persistent killings in Southern Kaduna, Shiite Muslims, Biafran agitators in the South-east over the years can hardly be swept under the carpet unless they are satisfactorily addressed. There are also the other Hausa populations, who are neither Christian nor muslim, who have been shut out of Nigeria without any amenities in those areas that are not known to Nigerians. The blood of the innocents are crying for justice. There must be justice! And time is running out for system manipulators in Nigeria.