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OPINION: How Government Can Get Nigerians Ready For 2023 Census

THEWILL APP ADS 2

December 05, (THEWILL) – According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“A population census is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a time, to all persons in a country or in a well-delimited part of a country.”

Periodic national population and housing census is a policy thrust by the government aimed at improved good governance, effective and efficient national strategic development planning, projections and decision-making processes.

United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) further emphasised that census data are critical for good governance, policy formulation, development planning, crisis prevention, mitigation and response, social welfare programmes and business market analysis.

Establishing the accurate number of citizens is a sure way of defining and determining who gets what, where, when, why and how.

A typical national census is imperative for determining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to sectoral and national growth index, planning and governance strategy. Census figures to a large extent drive very important economic and political decisions such as revenue sharing formula, budgeting benchmarking and legislative representations in Nigeria.

The essence goes beyond head counts to arrive at certain numbers or figures. Census serves as a potent policy tool for measuring human, societal and economic indices and the progress of nations. The intrinsic importance of the exercise is tied to the outcome intended to drive national plans and projections. In light of the above, the National

Population Commission (NPC) has concluded plans to carry out the fifth national population and housing census of Nigerians come April 2023.

This is coming 16 years after the last one held between March 21- 27, 2006. As a rule of thumb, the United Nations recommended national census take place after every decade interval.

However, the commission said that; “lack of resources and political transitions were responsible for the inability of the country to conduct population census for 16 years.” The decision of the government to conduct another census after over a decade and a half to determine the exact number of Nigerians, which has been regularly put on estimation is highly commendable.

However, for the planned exercise to achieve the desired results, the government has a duty and responsibility to effectively water the ground with adequate information and diligent planning.
The government at all tiers has to invest in raising the consciousness of Nigerians on the general importance of the census. The minds of citizens have to be prepared and supported with vital education and knowledge.

One question agitating the minds of people is: How can the government get Nigerians ready for the census? The answers are not far-fetched.

First, allowing the citizens to take ownership of the project, consent

and buy-in, need to participate and benefits accruing thereof is

essential. Projects succeed when people see them as theirs and are aware of

the value it adds to the community and their general well-being. Suffice it

to say that; citizens’ active participation in the census exercise and

processes is crucial for the government to achieve set goals.

Second, the need for the deployment of effective mass media campaigns on

constant education, information and sensitisation of the public on the

essence of the population and housing census is crucial. The potency of

the mass media to reach out to large audiences and simultaneously

also should be leveraged in mobilising Nigerians. This should be

based on messages compelling and capable of inspiring positive action

from the target audiences. The role of the media in setting agenda for

the public through education, information, entertainment and

sensitisation on topical national issues is also fundamental.

Third, there should be deepened partnerships and genuine collaboration

between the government and traditional institutions. The traditional

rulers occupy strategic positions as custodians of the peoples’ culture

and beliefs. They have age-long tested channels of conveying credible

information to the people which is required to convince them to

cooperate and actively participate in the census.

Fourth, the involvement of religious institutions and leaders alike as flag

bearers to shape and sharpen a deeper understanding of the import of the

exercise deserves encouragement. The positions taken by leaders of the

two major religions on issues of national importance are more or less

sacrosanct and binding on adherents. With such influence at their

disposal, it will not be out of place to engage them in opinion moulding

and guide them on decision-making on the census.

Fifth, field sensitisation activities like road shows, street campaigns, community sensitisation and advocacy visits to major stakeholders are vital ingredients for the census to succeed. This ensures aggressive community, stakeholder and street mobilisation of citizens, who ordinarily may be lukewarm or ignorant. It helps to deliver prompt messages through influencers and cultivate closer relationships with the people at the grass root level.

Sixth, the appointment of desk officers for evaluation of concerns and responses arising from queries on census and provision of feedback mechanisms should be in place. Hotlines for citizens’ engagements, emails IDs and other channels for direct contact with the commission when need be are necessary.

Seventh, the selection and employment of census ad-hoc staff are paramount. This will empower the teeming unemployed youths and distract many from engaging in societal vices even if it is momentarily.

Ad-hoc staff for the exercise should be individuals resident within a given community with adequate knowledge of the norms of the environment. People seeing their own as enumerators give comfort and relief of some sort and remove suspicion of the intentions of the exercise.

Meanwhile, according to the Bureau of Statistics, the 2006 census population figure stands at 140.43 million. Kano State has the highest number of people with 9.4 million, followed by Lagos State with 9.1 million. Abuja – the FCT, is at the bottom of the population ladder with 1.40 million.

The census figure presented showed that the male population in Nigeria is put at 71.34 million, which represents (50.8 %)
of the population while the female population is 69.08 million,representing (49.2%).

Currently, the World Bank’s estimate of the country’s population has climbed to 211.400 million as of 2021. The nation, unfortunately, has been planning and working with a population figure adopted sixteen years ago.

With the above scenario, adequate planning for development remains a mirage. The National Population Commission has assured Nigeria that it
will “conduct an accurate, reliable and acceptable census that will drive the country towards sustainable national development in 2023.”

NPC relies substantially on all Nigerians for triumph. Therefore, all
hands must be on deck for the project to succeed.