Africa, Development & Aid, Headlines, Population


Toye Olori

LAGOS, Feb 12 2007 (IPS) - Nothing seems to stir up emotions more than census in Nigeria. That’s why some Nigerians are still contesting the results of the 2006 census, announced by President Olusegun Obasanjo late last month.

Some of the country’s 36 states have rejected the outcome of the exercise, which is provisional. The final result is expected to be released towards the end of the year or early next year, according to the country’s National Population Commission (NPC).

Spearheading the campaign, Lagos state governor, Bola Tinubu, has called for a recount. His officials and community leaders cannot come to terms with the fact that the population of the northern city of Kano has surpassed that of Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria. According to the 2006 census, Kano’s population now stands at about 9.4 million, while that of Lagos – in southern Nigeria – lags behind at around 9.1 million.

‘’We want a recount in Lagos State. This is the height of corruption; falsifying census figures just to please some people. No amount of adjustment done to the figures can make it right,” said Tinubu last week.

A parallel census, conducted by the Lagos State in collaboration with the NPC, put Lagos’s population at more than 17.5 million, Tinubu said.

‘’The World Bank household survey done in collaboration with the Lagos State Office of Statistics in 2006 showed that the average household size was six,” said Obafemi Hamzat, Lagos State Commissioner for Science and Technology.

‘’If by NPC admission, the about 4.9 million household forms were filled and scanned using an extremely conservative figure of four persons per household, the population of Lagos State should be around 19.6 million,” Hamzat said.

An investigation by IPS in some suburbs of the city shows that most tenants live in one room within a bungalow with their family. Except for rooms occupied by bachelors, no less than an average of six persons live in each room particularly in poor suburbs.

For over a decade, Lagos has been known to have the worst traffic jam in Africa. And the worst degradation to the environment which at one time gave the metropolis the appellation of the dirtiest city as a result of the huge garbage generated daily.

Local pastor Martins Iwuanyawu of the Leadership Watch, a Lagos-based Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), involved in the development of youths for leadership role, believes manipulations play a major role in census. ‘’The (population) commission made a terrible mess of the exercise. For example, the provisional figure shows there are more men than women and more adults than youths. This calls for scientific research,” he said.

The 2006 census puts Nigeria’s population at more than 140 million; with male constituting 71.7 million (51.22 percent), while female 68.3 million (48.78 percent).

Northern Nigeria, as in previous headcounts, recorded more population than the south. But, this time, the gap has widened by more than 10 million. In the 1991 census, the north had 46.2 million persons, while the south had 42.8 million. In the 2006 census, the north recorded 75 million persons, while the south 65 million respectively.

More than 265 million dollars was spent on the census. The United Nations contributed 52 percent of the budget. The British Department for International Development (DFID) supported the exercise with satellite imaging for the Area Enumeration Demarcation (AED) at about 57,000 dollars. The European Union contributed 113 million Euro (about 15 million dollars), according to the NPC.

Since independence from Britain in 1960, census in Nigeria has always been controversial as figures are often manipulated and bloated for political and economic reasons. The creation of new states and local governments is based on the land area and population, while budgetary allocations to the states and local governments are also based on the population of an area.

Post-independence headcounts, held in 1962 after much disaffection, was rescheduled for 1963. Though, the result of the 1963 census which put Nigeria at 55.66 million was disputed, it had remained the reference point which the government and the international institutions based their projections till 1991 when the military conducted another failed census. The 1991 census, which put Nigeria’s population at 88.5 million, was also disputed with over 100 court cases instituted against the NPC.

The 2006 headcount was headed for problems right from the initial stages because of some noticeable hitches. For example, some trained enumerators in some states abandoned their duty posts to protest non-payment of their allowances. In the oil-rich Rivers State, some 400 enumerators disappeared, along with vital materials, after collecting their training allowances.

There were also reports of disruption of the census in eastern Nigeria by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). This militia group is fighting for the establishment of the ‘’State of Biafra” – the name adopted by the easterners during their failed secession bid in 1966 that led to a 30-month civil war (1966-1970).

Critics also complained that the five days set aside for the exercise were grossly inadequate considering the number of questions contained in the NPC forms and called for its extension. They also argued that the timing of the exercise, conducted during the rainy season, affected the movement of enumerators in the south, especially Lagos state, which records high rainfall than the north.

‘’Based on facts available from the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), I believe Nigeria’s population should be between 170 and 180 million by now à some states have also complained that they were undercounted,” said pastor Iwuanyawu.

He attributed Nigeria’s population growth to ignorance and lack of a clear-cut birth control policy.

‘’There is still so much ignorance and this has helped the population to grow. Nigerians, especially from the (Muslim) north, do not know they have to control birth. The government too, does not have a clear-cut population control like other countries. So our population will continue to grow,” said Iwuanyawu.

It’s most likely that the contested errors would be fixed before the final results are released.

‘’The final figure for the census may take six to eight months from now à perhaps next year to release. The task of presenting an error-free result is enormous,” Sumaila Makama, NPC chairman, told donor agencies at a dinner function in Lagos recently.

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