Problems of Nigeria Population Census
Population Census has always been a controversial issue in Nigeria especially since political independence in 1960. In particular, the population counts have pitched the north against the south and it appears the problem is still far from being solved.
In the first official census conducted for the country in 1911, the total Population of Nigeria was put at 16.054 million out of which the Northern Protectorate had 50.1 percent of the population.
The 1921 census gave Nigeria a population of 18.7 million with the Northern Protectorate having 52 percent and the South Protectorate 48 percent. Population censuses were also conducted in 1931, 1953, 1962/63, 1973 and 1991 and 2006.
All the headcounts conducted before independence gave the north an edge over the south and were generally acceptable to all parties perhaps because the authoritarian colonial government would not tolerate any opposition.
On the other hand, all the censuses conducted since independence have been very controversial. The 1962/63 census, top example, was conducted on three different occasions before the matter was somewhat laid to rest.
In the final result released in February 1964, the country’s population was put at 55.4 million. The North had 29.7 million, East 12.3 million, West 12.8 million and Lagos 675,000.
The 1973 census put the population of Nigeria at 79.76 million but it was so controversial that the Federal Military Government had to cancel it. In the census conducted in 1991 the population figure was 88,514,501.
This census was less controversial but the general opinion was that Nigerians were undercounted. In spite of this, the government accepted the population figure. The 2006 census put the country’s population at 140,003,542 comprising 71.7 million males and 68.2 million females.
Factors that Account for Census Problems
Censuses have been controversial in Nigeria because of certain problems including the following.
- Population has always been the basis for the delimitation of constituencies in the country. As a result, figures are falsified and fraudulently manipulated by politicians who want to win elections at all cost.
During the 1983 general elections in the former Oyo State, the number of registered voters at Modakeke I, Oranmiyan (constituency), an NPN stronghold was put at over 300,000, a figure which exceeded that of Ile-Ife, the major town in the area which supported the rival UPN.
When the party (UPN) discovered the fraudulent nature of the voters’ register for Modakeke, it sought and obtained a court injunction restraining the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) ftom conducting election in the area but the election still went on.
- In the allocation of revenue between the component units of the Nigerian federation, population is one of the most important criteria. So if a state wants more allocation, it simply inflates its population.
- Some citizens refuse to be counted for fear of income taxation.
- The poor funding of the activities of the National Population Commission makes it difficult for the commission to prepare adequately for headcounts.
- The purdah system which is rampant in some northern states makes it difficult for enumerators to have access to a large section of the women, majority of whom are illiterate.
- The bitter struggle for power among factions of the ruling class continues to undermine the success of any population census in Nigeria.
- The uneasy relationship between indigenes and settlers in some parts of the country (e.g. Plateau State) and the exclusion of non-indigenes from important political offices in most states of the federation often compel, them to go back home to be counted during censuses. In some cases, people are counted twice in their hometowns and their places of residence thereby creating problems of double counting.
Unless policy-makers proffer solutions to these problems, the benefits of an accurate population census will continue to elude the country.
Benefits of Reliable Population Census
The national population census is useful for the following reasons.
- It helps in planning and resource allocation.
- It promotes health and welfare.
- The population census provides opportunity to evaluate available resources in relation to the growing population.
- It is an important basis for the division of the country into constiuencies.
- An accurate population eensus is a precondition for economic development.