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Nigeria Rallies Local, International Support for N869bn National Census

The IMF, UNFPA and other development partners, as well as the private sector have committed to the exercise.

Nigeria’s federal government on Monday galvanised local and international support for the projected N869 billion 2023 Population and Housing Census, with an appeal for technical and financial assistance in key activities yet to be implemented preparatory to the exercise.

The exercise is slated for between March 29 and April 2, 2023.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed and her Minister of State counterpart, Clem Agba, called for local and international support in Abuja, on Monday, at a well-attended high-level partners’ engagement to seek support for the conduct of the impending enumeration exercise.

In her remarks, Ahmed said the need to address the inconsistency in national census and statistical system which limits the efficacy of development initiatives premised on obsolete data cannot be over-emphasised.

According to her, almost two decades after the 2006 Census was conducted, it had become imperative and urgent for Nigeria to conduct another census as clearly spelt out in the National Development Plan 2021 – 2025.

She said: “Our major challenge over the years had been the lack and/or inadequate funds to readily carry out such huge project in the face of pressing needs for social welfare and human capital development.

“It is worthy to note that 60 per cent of the funding and other requirements for the 2006 Census could not have been achieved without the invaluable support of the development partners, corporate bodies and other key stakeholders.

“Indeed, the partnership and collaboration in carrying out the 2006 National Census took a lot of burden off the Government of Nigeria and enabled us to conduct a credible exercise whose outcome, served through the years.”

While appreciating the European Union (EU), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), among other development partners and key stakeholders whose invaluable and generous support gave a huge credibility to the 2006 Census, the minister noted that Nigeria sincerely cherish and acknowledge the impact of the support in entrenching systems and tenets of good governance in the economy.

“As we work towards actualising the conduct of the 2023 National Census which is transformational for Nigeria, we are equally confident of a more robust network of partners that share in our aspiration for making available credible and acceptable population and housing data that will meet the needs of various stakeholders,” she said.

She highlighted some major activities that had been successfully completed in preparedness towards the conduct of the 2023 Population and Housing Census by the federal government.

She disclosed the demarcation of 773 out of the 774 local government areas in the country into Enumeration Areas (EA) with the exception of  Abadam Local Government in Borno State, adding that hybrid enumeration strategy is being developed for its demarcation.

She also disclosed that First, Second Pretests and Trial Census to test processes, procedures and instruments developed for the Census; conduct of the Trial Post Enumeration Survey; Mapping of Special Populations (homeless, hunting, fishing and nomads) to ensure that no resident in Nigeria was left uncounted had been completed.

Ahmed added that there has also been a compilation of historical events to aid accurate collection of data on age during census, a robust data quality management system to ensure data quality, a monitoring and evaluation system for the census to ensure real time tracking of census implementation against set indicators, among others, are in place.

The minister stated that the 2023 exercise would be Green Census involving the use of digital maps, digital questionnaire 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 2030.            

In his presentation, Agba commended the 36 states of the federation for expressing support for the forthcoming census.

However, he noted that their support should transit from verbal to financial commitment, describing census as a national project that benefits all the strata of the society and tiers of government.

Noting that the exercise was highly capital-intensive, Agba put the total requirement for the exercise (including post-census activities) at N869 billion ($1.88 billion).

According to him, N626 billion ($1.36 billion) which was $6 per capita was the actual census requirement, while N243 billion ($527 million) was for post-census activities.

So far, the federal government, he stated, had committed N291.5 billion (632 million) to the exercise, translating to 46 per cent of total funding.

He stressed that an immediate sum of N327.2 billion (709.9 million) was required to complete the census.

Calling for support financial, material and technical support of development partners, the private sector and other stakeholders, he listed some areas requiring support.

These he said were in the areas of the acquisition of 405,000 additional local content tablets and accessories, and training of 885,000 persons for building numbering, among others.

Earlier in their goodwill messages, the representatives of various local and international organisations, development partners, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), private sector players, among others, underscored the need for a credible census.

In his message, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Matthias Schmale urged all international partners to provide support for Nigeria’s Census, adding that the attainment Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was tied to a credible census.

Similarly, the Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr. Ari Aisen said the Fund recognised that census was very expensive and takes a lot of resources.

According to him, this called for the support, cooperation and participation of all.

He, however admonished that a good, credible census with diagnostic elements was important for economic Planning, noting that while there was the need for partnership and support, the ultimate goal should be the desire for Nigeria to succeed.

In the same vein, the Director General, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Asishana Okauru, advised that the exercise must ensure data confidentiality and the highest level of integrity.

Okauru expressed the total support and commitment of the 36 governors to the impending exercise.

Also, speaking at the event, Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu, said census was critical and very important for the nation’s future.

He underscored the imperative of a credible census in the allocation of resources, expressing regret that in the past, the exercise had been politicised.

He urged the National Population Commission to carry out a census that meets public expectations, while pledging the support of his Foundation and Nigeria’s private sector.

Also speaking at the event, the Executive Director, Dangote Group, Mansur Ahmed reiterated the desire of not only the Dangote Group but the private sector for a seamless, credible census, pledging the support of his organisation.

The UNFPA Resident Representative, Ullapool Elisabeth Mueller said by 2050, which is 25 years from now, Nigeria was projected to have a 450 million population.

This, she said, puts the country as the third most populous in the world.

According to her, what that means was that Nigeria could have a 450 million population, which is an asset or 450 million weak population, depending on the choices it makes.

She stated that with 70 per cent of the population being youths in the under-30 category, some of them had already started producing the next generation of Nigerians.

Calling for a credible census that would help the country chart the right course, she observed that the complexities associated with a Census are mind-blowing.

However, she was quick to note that if Afghanistan could organise census, Nigeria could even do better, advising that women must not be left behind in the exercise.

Mueller underscored the importance of a credible census to the attainment of the SDGs.

At the event yesterday were ambassadors from various European countries, Canada, South Korea, European Union (EU) Representative, among others.

 Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja