Population Commission, N200b vote and botched 2023 census

Preparations were being concluded for the 2023 Population and Housing Census, when, suddenly, the Federal Governmen announced that it had been postponed. Indefinitely FIDELIS EBU, in this analysis, takes a look on the implications of the cancellation.

Declaration by the Chairman of National Population Commission (NPC), Nasir Isa Kwarra, that the Commission had spent N200 billion on preparations for the 2023 Population and Housing Census before the exercise was cancelled has kept reactions coming.

Kwarra had declared that the Commission budgeted N800 billion, out of which, N200 billion approved so far had been spent.

He said the N800 billion included salaries from 2014, training of officials and ad hoc staff for the census.

According to Kwarra, the shifting of the census is a blessing in disguise, hoping that it would afford the Commission the opportunity to realise pledges made by donor agencies and corporate organisations, though he did not disclose not how much has been realised so far.

UNFPA had funded the training and purchased devices for the Green census. The Commission had also conducted trial census with the aid of the sophisticated devices deployed for the exercise before the postponement; an exercise that exposed the Commission to some issues that have been corrected, and the materials used are intact in the Commission’s various offices across the country.

The Commission said it was prepared to conduct the census anytime the incoming administration approves.

“Should the incoming administration, after its inauguration, choose to go on with the Population and Housing Census this year, we are ready to go. We’ve done all that is required to conduct credible, transparent and reliable census. We’re ready to go,” Kwarra said.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Kayode Oseni, in his reaction, described the N200 billion already spent as huge, saying it had become necessary to ascertain whether the expenditure was a loss or gain.

He stressed the need to use digital technology to achieve credible, reliable, and acceptable outcomes, and to provide accurate and well-disaggregated data for strategic planning and policymaking.

The 2023 Population and Housing Census is expected to be Green Census, involving the use of digital maps, digital questionnaires and cloud computing to ensure compliance with the global climate change campaign for reduction of emission by 30 per cent unconditionally and an additional 15 per cent conditionally by the year 2030.

The last National Census was conducted in Nigeria in 2006. By the United Nations standard, Population and Housing Censuses ought to be conducted every 10 years. The period allows the government to correctly capture changes in the population, age-structure and movement of population for alignment of public policy and investment decisions, as required.

United Nations has stated its support for the NPC towards achieving a successful 2023 population census.

UNFPA Resident Representative in Nigeria, Ms Elizabeth Ulla Mueller, said the UNFPA has been working very closely with NPC and has maintained very close relationship.

She said: “I’m optimistic the new President will be supportive of the census. The UNFPA will support the census and the new administration in conducting a transparent and quality census.”

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