PAULETTE ORJIME, Abuja
Population Association of Nigeria (PAN) is calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to consider making a proclamation for the conduct of a National Population and Housing Census in 2018 and provide for the necessary support for the smooth conduct of the exercise. In a statement obtained by Daily Champion in Abuja and endorsed by Prof. Peter Olasupo Ogunjuyigbe , President, Population Association of Nigeria, PAN, noted that in line with the United Nations Recommendation, the next census ought to have been conducted in 2016, being 10 years after the 2006 Census.
However, further delay in the conduct of the next census beyond 2018 may undermine the planning process of the nations march towards sustainable development.
PAN reiterated that no country can make any tangible progress towards sustainable development without timely, reliable and accurate census figure. For any developmental planning, census figure is paramount.
Population is dynamic and with the continuous inter-play of migration, mortality and fertility, population of an area will witness either an increase or decrease. So it becomes imperative for all nations to conduct census regularly.
PAN noted that in spite of the recent proclamation of National Assembly towards the conduct of another census in 2018, there is nothing on ground to show that government is committed or is on the same page with National Population Commission.
The Proclamation by Senate to have another census in 2018 is still waiting for the assent of the President without which international agencies are not likely to declare their own support for the exercise.
PAN acknowledged the dwindling resources at the disposal of the Federal Government occasioned by recession and the huge resources required for the next census. However, this short term cost consideration should not prevent the nation from considering reaping the long term benefits of the census.
PAN also noted that the Change Mantra of the present government in terms of prudent management of resources and the call by the House of Representative on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to create new constituencies cannot be realistic without a fresh census figure to reflect the necessity or otherwise of such exercise.
The Association expressed confidence that the biometric based census being proposed by the Commission, if professionally and honestly handled, will produce authentic and verifiable demographic data and nip in the bud any tendency towards double or multiple enumerations of persons as alleged in virtually all past national censuses.
The Association noted that the Commission has commenced preparatory activities for the next census with the Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) of one LGA in each of the States and Abuja using satellite imagery.
The meticulous manner the exercise is being carried out will deliver an accurate, reliable and acceptable census frame if it is properly handled and can be completed within the year 2017.
So, if the next census exercise is to be in the year 2018, one should be seeing the sign now; the horizon is not clear enough for anybody to see what government is doing towards having a credible census in 2018 as recommended by National Assembly. It normally will take nothing less than two years to plan for a census that will worth its salt for a country as huge as Nigeria. Census is not a simple exercise.
In Nigeria, much emphasis is placed on absolute number of persons residing in politically defined administrative area, forgetting the other invaluable role of census figures even for political activities. Information collected in a Census is a comprehensive source of data for developmental planning and goes beyond the comparison of which State or LGA has higher population size.
It remains for any nation a very important data source that has not been replaced yet by any other source.
Without accurate census, governments at various levels will continue to base their plans on estimated or projected figures. This is always argued as one of the main reasons why Nigeria as a nation has not been able to make tangible progress in all facets of its developmental planning.
The international agencies will however not support the forthcoming census unless government commitment to the next census is ascertained through a presidential proclamation on the next census.
We, therefore, respectively, call on our President to consider conducting the next national population in the first quarter of 2018 or as early as seen to be most convenient to the government.
For a better society.