By Jonathan Lois
A Bill to alter the provisions of the 1999 Constitution to specify a time frame for the conduct of the National Population Census scaled through second reading in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to specify the Time Frame for the Conduct of National Population Census; and for Related Matters (HB. 740)’, it is sponsored Hon. Babajimi Benson.
Benson, in his lead debate, said when passed, it will set a time frame and help the country to conduct population censuses in Nigeria for the purpose of effective planning and development of the country.
He said it was unfortunate that Nigeria does not have a good history of census, especially since after independence.
“There is no structured format for conducting the exercise and those that were conducted have been shrouded in controversies. These include the 1962, 1963, 1973, 1991 and 2006 censuses out of which only the 1963 exercise has been officially accepted.
“Furthermore, population census exercises have been marred by poor organizational and managerial challenges, staffing and logistical shortages, weak technological capacity, inadequate funding, and staffing and logistical shortages.
“The last population census conducted in Nigeria was in 2006, fifteen years ago. Even that exercise was enmeshed in a lot of controversies. This is not too good for a country that aims at developing.
“Today, no one can say specifically what the population of the country is. All figures being used are, at best, merely speculative. Nigeria has no verifiable demographic data that meets international best practices,” he said.
These, he argued underscored the essence of the bill. He said its advantages include adequate budgeting for the exercise and provision of personnel since the time frame is fixed.
“The National Assembly can appropriate a specific amount towards the conduct of the exercise and ensure value for money. Provision of personnel – the National Population Commission can plan ahead, making well-trained personnel adequately available for the exercise.
This is because enumeration areas and maps need to be geo-referenced and digitalised to make the entire process more accurate, evidence-based and usable for planning processes,” he said.
Benson said the demographic information obtained from such planned exercise can be fused with socio-economic data available to the government and used for the purpose of planning and effective delivery of services to the people.
He said the country will be able to gauge its population growth rate within a specified time frame, thereby helping it plan every aspect of its development.