Contraceptives seen insufficient to check Nigeria’s population explosion

The Federal Government’s push for wider adoption of contraceptives as birth control measures may be insufficient at checking Nigeria’s rapidly growing population due to socio-economic constraints.

Cultural and religious objections, analysts say present barriers to wider adoption of contraceptives, therefore educating the girl child and investing in human capital development are better options of controlling a country’s rising population.

“Controlling population is not so much about using contraceptives especially when you are looking at the cultural and religion constraints,” Muda Yusuf, a former director-general of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said

He further said that one can generate the change or transformation through more investments and sensitization of girl child education. “Because if they are educated, the rate of procreation will go lower and their capacity to bring up children in a way that they will be a lot more exposed.”

Commenting in the same vein, Joachim MacEbong, a senior analyst at SBM Intelligence said when women are more educated, they pass that education unto their children and when they are more financially empowered, they can seek out means of contraceptives in order to limit the number of children they want to have.

“Population control is one thing that policy makers in economies always have to deal with. So, basically striking that balance on having not too many and too few children,” MacEbong said.

Earlier in February, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development to control population growth.

Read also: Why Nigeria is due for a population census

Buhari advocated that population growth can be controlled through expanding access to modern family plan­ning, counselling and commod­ities as well as birth spacing modalities.

“This will enable Nigeria to achieve rapid fertility control, improve the health of wom­en, adolescents, newborn and children, and other population groups,” he said.

Over the last nine years, Africa’s biggest economy has been recording growth in the adoption of contraceptives, but it is yet to translate to a reduction in the country’s population growth rate.

More people are still giving birth as the country still grows by 2.6-3.0 percent annually, thereby affecting the ability of the country to plan for its population estimated at over 200 million.

According to Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a global partnership to empower women and girls by investing in rights-based family planning, the total number of users of modern contraceptive methods rose by 50 percent to six million in 2021 from four million in 2012.

Similarly, a recent 2020 demographics report by the National Bureau of statistics shows that 83.4 percent of women of childbearing ages (mostly married) were not using any contraceptive method to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

“The result further shows that Yobe state had the highest proportion (98.1 per cent) of women who are married without using any contraceptive methods while Lagos state had the least (50.6 per cent),” the report states.

A country’s population is considered as its greatest asset because when properly utilized, they add to the growth and development of an economy. But for Nigeria, despite having a large population of over 200 million and having been predicted by the United Nations to reach 410 million by 2050, it has yet to maximize this potential as it lags in human development.

Over the past few years, budgetary allocation to education has not been more than seven percent of its total budget. A consequence of this has led the country to have the highest number of out of school children in the world.

In addition, data from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that the country dropped three positions, ranking 161 in 2019 from 158 in 2018 among 189 countries in Human Development.

One of the most powerful tools in stemming population growth will be education, says Mark Montgomery, an economics professor at Stony Brook University and a researcher at the Population Council in an article published by World Economic Forum.

He adds, “Education leads to lower birth rates and slows population growth,” he says. “This makes it easier for countries to develop. A more-educated workforce also makes poverty eradication and economic growth easier to achieve.”

An example of a country who emphasizes on education to curb population growth is Kenya. In 2009, the country started a program called Vision 2030 aimed to lower its birth rate from five in 2009 to three by 2030. By 2020, Kenya had already achieved its goal with a fertility rate of 3.37 children per woman, while Nigeria has a fertility rate of 5.3 children.

Kenya, one of the fastest growing economies in Africa has an adult literacy rate of 81.5 percent higher than Nigeria’s 62 percent as at 2018, statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization shows.

“If you are to improve the growth in an economy and take it above its population growth rate, then there is need for human capital to explore the resources in that economy,” Gbolahan Ologunro, a senior research analyst at Cordros Securities said.

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