Why Nigeria is due for a population census

Population census is not only the total headcount of a country’s population but also contains information about a country’s social, demographic, and economic information. It is, therefore, no gainsaying to say that population census is a means to reveal people’s standard of livelihood and the spread of it.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), “data obtained from the census on the economic characteristics of the population can be particularly useful to prepare basic tabulations of the population by their labour market situation whether employed, unemployed or outside the labour force.”

Thus there’s no gainsaying that data gotten from conducting a population census are important in formulating economic policies as the government relies on these figures to form the basis of making decisions at all levels.

A report by the World Population Review reveals that Nigeria’s overall population will reach about 401.31 million by the year 2050, while the report by the Census Bureau of the United States reveals that by the year 2047, Nigeria’s population will surpass that of the United States thereby making it the third most populated country globally. The last population census conducted by the country was in the year 2006 and the result of the census revealed that the country’s population was 140.43million people.

The National Development Plan (NDP) estimates that Nigeria’s population currently stands at 200 million, which signifies a 42.2% increment from the 2006 census.

However, the issue is that Nigeria has gained little or nothing from its population as evidenced by its major economic indicators which have been on the trend of decline over the years. The inability of the country to gain from its huge population has led to two different schools of thought; the ones that believe that Nigeria spends too much and the ones that believe that Nigeria earns too low. Whatever the case might be the fact remains that Nigeria has not gotten it right as far as having an accurate database is concerned.

According to the World Bank, “the engines of global growth are aging rapidly and many will experience outright population contraction alongside dwindling working-age shares as major demographic shifts will shape economic development and growth for many years to come.”

The question is therefore not whether Nigeria’s population is growing but whether the country is making enough provision for its ever-increasing population.

Why population census is a big deal

The disparity of statistical figures: Information gotten from various economic and statistical power houses does not seem to arrive at a conclusive figure. For instance, the World Bank reported that Nigeria’s population as of the year 2021 was approximately 202 million, “Statista” estimated Nigeria’s population to be around 213 million while the IMF report as of 2021 estimated Nigeria’s population to be 216.747 million.

Meanwhile, other statistical publications such as the World Population Review, the NBS, and others also have varying figures. How then will the country have a successful economic plan if it’s not sure about the population of its citizens?

Persistent fall in the standard of living despite increased expenditure: Without any iota of doubt, economic growth depends on the size of a country’s population and how it is able to use its resources efficiently.

According to a report by “Statista,” Nigeria’s expenditure between 2015 and 2019 rose from 4.65 trillion to 9.7715 million, while in the year 2020, Nigeria’s budget stood at N10.59 trillion. In 2021, Nigeria’s budget for expenditure stood at N10.8 trillion.

However, despite this increment, the standard of living does not seem to get any better as a research report by the World Bank revealed that in the Human Capital Index, Nigeria ranks 150 out of 157 countries in the year 2020.

Also, despite all measures to ensure adequate food supply, Nigerian agriculturists have been unable to provide food in sufficient quantity and quality to feed the increasing population thereby leading to increased food shortages, undernourishment, malnutrition, starvation, hunger, and ill-health.

Between 2018 and 2020, more than 22% of Nigeria’s population has been exposed to severe food insecurity, the World Bank reveals. While evidence from the Food and Agricultural Organisation also reveals that Nigeria’s total food imports stood at N3.35 trillion as against its food export value of N803billion between 2016 and 2019.

A country that used to boast of agricultural pyramids has now become more import-dependent. All these analyses can only point to the possible fact that there might be a deficit between demand from the aggregate population and government budget and expenditure.

Pandemic outbreak and mass emigration: Like other parts of the world, Nigeria was also hit by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Presently, Nigeria has up to 253,727 confirmed cases of corona virus infection. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the year 2020 has made the great migration gain extensive attention in recent times.

Following the attendant effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, developed countries saw a need to boost their recovery phase by permitting the entry of immigrants in their large numbers by means of relaxing their visa conditions and increasing their wage rate to encourage both skilled and unskilled workers from other countries. On the other hand, people from developing countries see this offer as a means of escaping from the pandemic of poverty that they have been battling with hitherto.

Presently, many intellectuals have migrated out of Nigeria with no possibility that the number of people travelling out of the country will reduce any time soon. Thus, the government would have to adopt economic policies to fill the gap of the missing labour force; but before this, there’s a need to get the right demographic information about its citizens.

Critical for the success of Nigeria’s rolling plans: Nigeria has adopted different rolling plans in the past with nothing much to show for it. Depending on obsolete information and inaccurate figures might be one of the factors responsible for this.

From 2021 to 2025, the newly unveiled plan of the Federal Government, the Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) intends to achieve a broad-based GDP growth rate of 5%, and also generate 21 million full-time employment for Nigerians while also emphasizing the plans to lift 100million people out of poverty at the end of 10 years explaining that this would be achieved by increasing its investment size to N348.1trillon. This seems to be a good step but might not be in the right direction if the country fails to get its figures right.

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Critical for the planning and outcome of the 2023 general elections: As the election year continues to draw nearer, the demand for adequate statistical data continues to be on the high side as many Nigerians are of the opinion that its high time the government conduct another national census to further enable the country’s electoral body plan towards the forthcoming general election.

The long-awaited population census will have a great implication for determining voting-age distribution and eligibility across various states, this is because one of the eligibility for voting in every state requires that a voter must clock the age of 18 before being able to vote. Therefore there’s no gainsaying that a successful population census will be an addition to a credible electoral system in Nigeria.

A research report of the World Bank revealed that over 45% of the Nigerian populace will live in extreme poverty by the year 2022. Also, a report by the “Borgen Project” revealed that “unemployment has sky-rocketed as one-third of the population does not have a job while food inflation which has accounted for 70% of Nigeria’s inflation has also continued to compound Nigeria’s hunger and poverty crisis.”

This implies that Nigeria will have to strike a balance between its population growth and its sustainable development needs. It is concluded that improved and sustainable economic conditions of the country will depend on how the country is able to utilise information obtained from its database to form the basis of its sustainable development policies. Therefore, Nigeria’s poverty alleviation strategies should not be treated in isolation from the realities and facts about its population.