Although numerous estimates of the Nigeria’s population were made during the colonial period, the first attempt at a nationwide census was during 1952-53. This attempt yielded a total population figure of 31.6 million within the current boundaries of the country. This census has usually been considered an undercount for a number of reasons: apprehension that the census was related to tax collection; political tension at the time in eastern Nigeria; logistical difficulties in reaching many remote areas; and inadequate training of enumerators in some areas. The extent of undercounting has been estimated at 10 percent or less, although accuracy probably varied among the regions.
The population of Nigeria as a result of 1953 census was given as 30,402,000. Out of that total, the North had 16,835,000 people representing 55.4% of the total Nigerian population while the percentage for the South was put at 45.6%. The result was later followed by controversy as a number of southern politicians accused the British colonial administration of tilting the figures to favour the North to give the region some electoral advantages. As a matter of fact, the 1953 constitutional crises came during the budget session in the House of Representatives in April that year when the population census being conducted in the South was still yet to be completed.
The 1991 population census seems to be the one bereft of intense controversy. It was successfully conducted from 27th to 30th November 1991. The provisional figures from the census were accepted and released by the Federal Government in March 1992. That exercise put the population at 88,992,220. Of the figure, 44,529,608 were males while 44,462,62 were females. Improvements in transport and accessibility to most areas, in technological capability, and in the level of education throughout the country, as well as the generalized acceptance of national coherence and legitimacy, favoured the success of the 1991 census.
Conversely the 2006 provisional census figures released by the National Population Commission were met with mixed reactions from a number of Nigerians. The controversy was especially between the figures recorded for Kano and Lagos states. It was announced that Kano had a total of nine million, three hundred and eighty three thousand, six hundred and eighty-two (9,383,682) people with Lagos recording nine million, thirteen thousand, and five hundred and thirty-four people (9,013,534). While some demographers disagreed with the 2006 Lagos and Kano figures, others especially from the north recalled that even in 1991, Kano had 5,810,470 representing 6.52, while Lagos population stood at 5,725, 116 or 6.43% of the total population of the country respectively.
Every country needs basic information on its residents for purposes of planning, development and improvement of the residents’ quality of life. Good planning is based on reliable, up-to-date, accurate and detailed information on the state of the society. This information makes it possible to plan better services, improve the quality of life and solve existing problems. Statistical information, which serves as the basis for constructing planning forecasts, is essential for the democratic process since it enables the citizens to examine the decisions made by the government and local authorities, and decide whether they serve the public they are meant to help. For instance, the population of a particular region determines the projection of number schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructural facilities.
As a matter of fact, seats in the House of Representatives were apportioned on the basis of population. Thus the constitutionally mandated decennial census also has important political implications. Perceived political implications may also be another reason why demographers generally rejected the results of the 1963 census as inflated, arguing that the actual figure was as much as 10 million lower. Controversy over census figures remained a lively political issue up till date. Thus for the fact that, census are important templates used in determining development, there is need to meticulously carry out the impending 2016 census exercise. Incidentally, the signs on ground may not be encouraging regarding the preparation for the 2016 census.
Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Mr Eze Duru. Iheoma recently told President Muhammadu Buhari that the commission would require N273 billion to conduct 2016 exercise. He said the commission would need N10 billion additionally to prepare for the census. This means NPC envisages a budget of N283 billion just to count Nigerians. The cost would cover a period of three years – the pre-census, census proper and post census activities.
This figure is way above the N53billion expended on the 2006 census, half of which was provided by the European Union and other multilateral international donors. Duru Iheoma tried to justify the request saying that a biometric-based census was being proposed because it would eliminate multiple and ghost respondents, while making the outcome easy to audit.
Data historians contend that cost of census usually double due to logistics and projected increase in population, it is a bit of surprise that Nigeria’s cost of budget is five times more than what was spent a decade ago. This means even with the unlikely estimated population of 220 million in 2016, Nigeria would be spending N13, 000 to count each citizen.
With just three months to the census year, the National Population Commission (NPC) is yet to receive a presidential proclamation, a legal requirement from the President, which will direct it to go ahead with preparations for the census. Investigation shows that no form for preparation for the census had commenced – no workshops, sensitization or planning. Checks also revealed that no budgetary allocation had been made, thereby putting the possibility of the census in doubt.
“Everything we ought to do in-house, we are doing, but that is as far as we can go. We have developed the necessary questionnaire, we have test-run some of the technologies we are going to deploy but there are things outside our control; there must be commitment of resources,” a source within the commission said.
Sources have also expressed concerns over the huge cost of the exercise, saying President Muhammadu Buhari was not comfortable with the amount being demanded by the NPC.