The National Population Commission plans to meet with the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, even before his inauguration to discuss possible new dates for the population and housing census.
This follows the announcement on Saturday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had approved the indefinite postponement of the census earlier slated for May 3 to 7, 2023.
The minister said the incoming administration would now determine the new date.
Sunday PUNCH gathered from a top official of the NPC on Saturday that the commission’s top hierarchy would be meeting with Tinubu in the coming days to brief him on the postponement, gauge his reaction and possibly a feedback from him on when the census would now hold.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to one of our correspondents, said, “We don’t have anything else to say other than what the Minister of Information and Culture said in his statement. That is the position of the Federal Government.
“The only thing I can add to that is that the commission will engage the incoming President even before his inauguration on May 29. Just like we have been having engagements with the outgoing administration, we will meet with His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on the new date for the census to gauge his feeling and know the direction in which he wants to go, but we are not in a position to suggest a date to him.”
The announcement of the postponement of the headcount followed a meeting with some Federal Executive Council members by the Chairman of the NPC, Nasir Kwarra, and his team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday.
Mohammed said, “In arriving at the decision to postpone the census, the meeting reiterated the critical need for the conduct of a population and housing census 17 years after the last census, to collect up-to-date data that will drive the developmental goals of the country and improve the living standard of the Nigerian people.”
The minister quoted the President as noting that with the completion of the Enumeration Area Demarcation of the country, the conduct of first and second pre-tests, the recruitment and training of ad hoc workers, procurement of Personal Digital Assistants and ICT infrastructures, appreciable progress had been made in the implementation of the 2023 Population and Housing Census.
He also commended the methodology being put in place by the commission to conduct an accurate and reliable census, especially the deployment of technology capable of delivering world-class census and laying a sustainable basis for future censuses.
Buhari directed the NPC to continue preparing for the census to sustain the gains already recorded and provide anoperational base for the incoming administration.
Friday’s meeting was attended by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; Mohammed; Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba; and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha.
The census was initially scheduled for 2022 but was shifted to March this year, but because of the general election, it was postponed to May.
At a meeting with members of the diplomatic corps on April 27 in Abuja, Kwarra disclosed that the commission had yet to procure all the devices required for the census.
“For the country, we require up to 800,000 PADs, so far, we have procured about 500,000. The remaining are coming in a few days’ time,” he had stated.
Kwarra said the NPC was still expecting donations from the organised private sector and other key stakeholders.
On April 12, the commission announced the postponement of the local government level training of supervisors and enumerators scheduled to commence the following day due to “emerging issues.”
It said in a statement, “The commission wishes to inform the general public that the LGA-level training of supervisors and enumerators scheduled to commence tomorrow, April 13, 2023 has been postponed due to some emerging issues. The new date will be communicated to the public in due course.
“We assure Nigerians that the commission remains committed to conduct a credible and acceptable 2023 Population and Housing Census and that all preparations are in top gear.”
The training had not been conducted by the NPC until the announcement postponing the census was made on Saturday.
Agba had disclosed in March that a total of N869bn was needed for the census, adding that the government had committed N291.5bn to it with the need for an additional N327.2bn.
The minister had stated, “The total requirement for the census (including post-census activities) is N869bn ($1.88bn): census requirement – N626bn ($1.36bn), which is about $6 per capita (just slightly above the threshold of up to $5 per capita); post-census (up to 2025) is N243bn ($527m).
“So far, the government has committed N291.5bn ($632m) to the census, making it 46 per cent of the total funding for the census. An additional (immediate) sum of N327.2bn ($709.9m) is required to complete the census.”
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the president-elect, Dele Alake, declined to comment on the issue, saying Tinubu’s opinion should not be sought over a decision taken by an incumbent President.
Alake said Tinubu should be allowed to decide his own policies when eventually inaugurated.
He said, “Has President Buhari left the government? A sitting President took a decision and you want the president-elect to speak on it. Why? Let this man be inaugurated first before you people push him into things that are not his priorities now.
“There are so many political issues that shouldn’t be the concern of an incoming President.”
When contacted on the reasons for the postponement, the Director, Public Affairs, NPC, Dr Isiaka Yahaya, said, “The postponement was not a product of our own lack of preparedness. Of course you may say that maybe because we didn’t carry out the LGA training, we were not prepared; this is not so. This decision (to postpone) wasn’t a sudden one; it was a product of a series of developments. So you can say the seed of postponement was laid by the LGA training and then the idea of yesterday was a correlation of that process.
“It wasn’t because the NPC was not prepared because even at that time, we were to deploy our personnel and equipment, but some consultation happened and so we could not proceed with the LGA training, and of course, this now led to the announcement by the Minister of Information. So, we need to get that very clear that it wasn’t because we were not prepared or we have logistics issues. All the systems and processes have been put in place for us to conduct that census, but various reasons started unfolding at that time.”
He also dismissed insinuations that the commission was facing funding challenges, hence the decision to postpone the census.
Yahaya stated, “The second is that it is also not the result of lack of funds. The Federal Government has supported us so far and is still ready to support us to conclude the process. So, it is not as a result of lack of funds.
“The most important point to note is that the conduct of a census is a means to an end. You don’t just conduct a census for the sake of it; we want that data to be utilised and those who will utilise that data must be part of the process, understand why and how we arrive at the data. And that will be the incoming administration. So, it’s not to just throw the data at them; let them understand how we arrived at the processes that led to the conduct of the census.
“Through that they will be able to own that process and utilise the data faithfully. It is very important. It will not be a neat scenario for one administration to conduct the census and then the responsibility of utilising it will be that of another administration. All these are the issues that have been brought to bear in the rescheduling.
“More importantly, the mood of the nation is very important; quite a number of stakeholders have raised the issue that after the elections the wound of the nation would have to be healed. Of course, that is not a primary consideration to the commission but for the Federal Government who has the responsibility for peace and security is also something that must have been brought into consideration to arrive at that decision.”
When asked if the commission’s partners, including the United Nations Population Fund, were carried along and in sync with the postponement, the NPC spokesman said, “Since the primary objective is to achieve the ultimate objective of utilisation of the data, we are very much in tune with that decision to postpone. We also realised the fact that it is not just enough to conduct the census, the utilisation is also very important.
“We have carried out a series of consultations with the UNFPA and other partners and they are good with that. They are very comfortable with that decision that will produce accurate and reliable data.
“If the next administration wants the census as early as June 2, we are ready because everything we need to do has been put in place. In any case, even the President, in approving the postponement, directed the commission to prepare as if it is going to take place almost immediately; so, we don’t have any fear that the incoming administration will conduct the census. The processes that have been put in place are transparent and they are not going to have any doubt that the result will be accurate and reliable anytime they ask us to do it.”
Obi, Ortom laud postponement
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the just concluded general election, Peter Obi, has lauded the postponement of the census by the Federal Government.
Obi said on Saturday that the postponement was a welcome development and had become necessary to ensure proper planning and diligence.
Reacting to the development, Obi via his Twitter handle, stated that although Nigeria was “long overdue” for a census, “conducting one requires proper planning and diligence to ensure the sanctity of the results; the efficacy of the data gathered there from, as well as their utility in driving national development goals.
“It is hoped that when eventually the census is conducted, it will serve as confidence-building measures instead of being fraught with the usual controversy.”
Similarly, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Terver Akase, on Saturday, lauded Buhari for approving the postponement of the census.
Ortom had on April 13 called on the Federal Government to postpone the planned census until adequate security was guaranteed in the country. The governor specifically stated that conducting the census would amount to injustice and deprivation of millions of Nigerians who had been displaced from their ancestral homes and living in the Internally Displaced Persons camps in the state and other parts of the country.
The governor said with the postponement of the census, the Federal Government should ensure that Nigerians whose communities had been taken over by bandits and armed herders regain such and return home.
Ortom said the lives and well-being of the people must be placed above other factors for the nation to realise its aspiration for greater growth and development.
The Speaker of the Borno State House of Assembly, Abdulkareem Lawan, praised the President for postponing the census.
Speaking to journalists in Maiduguri on Saturday, Lawan argued that the majority of residents of the 10 local government areas in Northern Borno, who are still displaced and taking refuge in neighbouring Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon due to Boko Haram terror for over a decade now, needed to be returned home to be counted.
He said conducting the 2023 census would amount to an infringement on the human rights of a substantial population of the Internally Displaced Persons and refugees.
( Source: Punch )
Do you have an important success story, news, or opinion article to share with with us? Get in touch with us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Join our WhatsApp Group to receive news and other valuable information alerts on WhatsApp.