The Chairman, Heirs Holdings Group, Mr. Tony Elumelu, has said a credible demographic data remained critical for the development of the Nigerian economy, particularly in both the public and private sectors.
He said the 2023 census tentatively scheduled to hold this month, must meet the “public’s acceptability criteria”.
Speaking at the Nigerian Government high-level donor engagement on the country’s 2023 housing and population census, Elumelu said, “For me this task is critical to our country’s future – if we do not know our population, we cannot properly plot our developmental path, our economic growth, our society’s goals.”
He said the NPC must endeavour to conduct credible, acceptable, and non-controversial headcount and learn from the weaknesses observed during the recent presidential election.
The Heirs Holdings Group boss, who expressed the readiness of the private sector and African development organisations to support the census said the exercise would affect how resources are allocated in the country as well as several other decisions.
Hence, he maintained that it was important that the process remained credible and above board.
Elumelu said, “Today, Nigerian population estimates and demographic profile are unclear and projections debatable. Census figures and population distribution have unfortunately become politicised.
“Population figures have ramifications for revenue allocation, office allotment, legislative power and even elections. The stakes are, therefore, high for various interest groups – we need to act for our nation as a whole and the next generations.”
Pledging private sector support, he said, “We the Nigerian philanthropic organisations and private sector are ready to support and complement the efforts of the Nigerian government in this most important exercise.
“We believe that by working together, we can achieve our shared goal of obtaining high-quality data that will inform evidence-based decision-making and positively impact our nation’s development.
“Nigeria is our home, and it’s our duty to continually contribute to the sustainable development of the country not just for ourselves but also for the future generations yet to come.”
He said, “Our country just concluded a huge logistical exercise in the form of the national elections.
“We are about to embark on an even larger exercise, the census. We must, therefore, be quick learners and ensure that the lessons learned from the elections are channelled into the data collection process.”
According to Elumelu, “As a private sector leader with investments in key sectors of the Nigerian economy through the Heirs Holdings Group, Transcorp Group, United Bank for Africa Group, and with the work we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation in empowering thousands of young entrepreneurs and building the entrepreneurial capacity on the continent, I understand first-hand, the value and importance of available, accessible and accurate data in making informed decisions, driving development, and creating opportunities.
“The upcoming census is a significant milestone in Nigeria’s development, as it provides an opportunity to collect accurate and reliable data on the country’s population and housing, which will serve as a vital tool for policymakers, private sector actors, and civil society organizations.”
Meanwhile, Resident Representative, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Nigeria, Ms Ulla Mueller, said the country deserved a credible census to understand the structure of the population to aid policy and decision-making.
While calling for support from every stakeholder, she said the complexity of census remained a mind-boggling exercise which is also capital intensive in nature.
She stressed that if Nigeria can’t deliver on its census, it’s quite unlikely that it would deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well.
James Emejo in Abuja