President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday in Abuja that the use of digital technology in the 2023 National Population and Housing Census would increase the accuracy and efficiency of the numbers, while adding that Nigeria might be the world’s third-largest nation by 2050, behind China and India.
President Buhari stated at the national stakeholders’ summit on the 2023 Population and Housing Census, which was held at the State House, that a “reliable, credible, acceptable, and successful census” will assist the government in planning for development, particularly in bolstering the social security programme that targets the most vulnerable Nigerians.
“The country’s inability to conduct a population census in the last 16 years has created an information vacuum as the data from the last census conducted in 2006 has been rendered out of date for planning purposes. It has therefore become imperative for the nation to conduct another national census to produce a new set of demographic and socio-economic data that will provide the basis for national planning and sustainable development.
“Population is a critical factor in a nation’s efforts toward achieving sustainable development. People are both the agents and beneficiaries of the development process. Knowledge of the national population in terms of size, distribution and socio-economic characteristics is required for planning purposes. This, therefore, makes the conduct of census an essential governance activity.
“With a projected population of 216,783,381, Nigeria is the sixth most populous country in the world and the most populous country on the African continent. Due to the rapidly growing nature of the population and large proportion of the youthful population, Nigeria is also projected to be the third most populous country in the World by the year 2050 after India and China,’’ he said.
Despite Nigeria’s prominent position on the world demographic map, its population censuses have been performed infrequently and at intervals longer than the United Nations’ 10-year recommendation, according to the country’s president.
“This irregular and long interval of census taking in Nigeria, has denied the nation the huge benefits of comprehensive baseline data for evidence-based decision-making.
“Since our assumption of office in 2015, our administration has introduced several poverty reduction and youth empowerment programmes, which are making concrete improvements in the living standards of our people. There is a need to ensure that further implementation of these programmes will be driven by the 2023 Census data that will improve the implementation of programmes targeting vulnerable populations and ensuring as widespread coverage as possible.
“The nation requires a new data set to drive the implementation of the recently launched revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development and other government policies. The 2023 Census data is also needed to tackle the security challenges bedevilling the country as it will give an overview of the population, where we are and who we are,’’ he added.
President Buhari has called on all stakeholders, including State Governments, Local Government Councils, Traditional and Religious Institutions, Civil Society Organizations, Private Sectors, media, Development Partners, Donor Agencies, and the general public, to assist in the successful execution of the 2023 Census.
“Ordinarily, conducting a population census is a routine national event that is the ultimate responsibility of every national government. Census taking cannot be left to the National Population Commission alone,’’ he said.
President Buhari said that the government would be grateful for any assistance from donors, development partners, and the international community in ensuring that the Commission conducts a census that is transparent, credible, and meets national and international standards.
“Our Administration is convinced that the National Population Commission has the commitment and capacity to deliver to the nation a reliable, credible, acceptable and successful census. We are also satisfied with the deployment of technology by the Commission to ensure the conduct of the first fully digital census in Nigeria as the census methodology will enhance the data quality, inspire the confidence of the Nigerian people and acceptability of the census results.’’
President Buhari stated that the summit will strengthen collaboration and solicit the cooperation and support of key stakeholders for the successful execution of the 2023 Census, while praising the National Population Commission for organising the summit and wishing all Nigerians a peaceful and successful census.
“The just concluded Trial Census, in which my household was enumerated in my hometown, Daura, Katsina State has renewed our hope and confidence in the capacity of the Commission to deliver the 2023 Census. The outcome of the preparatory activities for the main census is reassuring that the Commission is progressing in the right direction,’’ the President noted.
He stated that understanding Nigeria’s population and using the data to prepare for the people and future generations remains an obligation owed to the nation as a whole.
“We must all resolve that this duty is satisfactorily carried out in the firm belief that what has joined us together as a nation and our common destiny are far stronger than the negative forces that tend to drive us apart,’’ he submitted.
In his comments, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who was represented by the President’s Special Adviser, Dr. Habiba Muda Lawal, said that Nigeria had a population growth rate of 2.3% and would likely be the third most populous nation in the world by 2050.
She said that the 2023 Census will be the first totally digitised record of population and housing, and that the results would be valuable for planning and budgeting.
Chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, John Kayode Fayemi, represented by the Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, praised the President for taking the bold step, adding that the data would aid in national and sub-national planning, especially for education and health care.
The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, said that President Buhari has once again shown that he will leave the country with a powerful legacy.
“This administration has proven that things can work in this country. We have seen it in the elections, that polls can be held without rigging. And we are happy to see NPC and INEC working together for a better Nigeria.
“We might not see the impact of some of the decisions taken, but certainly in the future we will see it, at least for the first time our homes will now be coded,’’ he said.
Nasir Isa Kwarra, chairman of the NPC, thanked the president for approving the April 2023 census, following the general elections, and assured him that the commission would work diligently to make it “credible and acceptable.”