Thursday, July 10, 2003

Census board wants headcount postponed

By Ikenna Emeka Okpani

The National Population Commission (NPC), has asked that the nationwide headcount or population census, planned for November and December next year be shifted to 2005 due to inability of government to provide the needed funds.

Addressing the press on the celebration of the 2003 World Population Day in Abuja yesterday, the Chairman of the Commission, Chief Sama’ila Danko Makama, said the board of the NPC at its 10th meeting, made the decision, to enable the commission conduct the necessary pre-census activities needed to ensure generation of reliable and acceptable census figures.

According to the census work plan, he said, preparation was supposed to take three years from January 2001 to 2004, to take care of the mapping out of the country, aerial survey, enumeration area, delineation into census units, among others, all of which he said has not been done due to lack of funds-a situation which prompted the commission to recommend a shift.

"We have reviewed the time, the work plan, the circumstances, the financial constraints, the lack of funding and decided to recommend to government that the conduct of the census be shifted from 2004 to 2005.

"In reviewing this, we took into consideration that up to this moment in time that I am speaking, we are yet to get any funds. We hope that between now and September, we will start getting funds and if we start preparation work then, it is possible that it can be done in 2005.

"Of course, we can do it anytime but we need to do a very good job. I have said it time and again that we want to conduct an accurate, reliable and acceptable census and this can be done only within a realistic time frame with sufficient and consistent funding," he said.

Chief Makama said the commission had earlier costed the pre-census, the census itself and post census activities at 36.6 billion naira, but that due to the delay, the cost has shot up to 40.1 billion, adding that the commission can boast of over 7,000 staff including cartographers, demographers and statisticians, already trained, though the assistance of the Untied Nations Fund for Population Activities was waiting to be used.

The NPC boss said that the theme of the 2003 World Population Day which is "Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights," was relevant to Nigeria as over 30 percent of Nigeria’s estimated 126 million people were young and formed the bedrock of the future of the country.

Observing that adolescents’ need for sexual and reproductive health services have often been misunderstood, unrecognised or understated, he listed major problems facing the age group in the country as easy sexual initiation and unsafe sexual practices; unwanted pregnancies; abortions; sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS; harmful practices like female genital mutilation and problems associated with early marriage.

Chief Makama said the commission, through the 1991 census and survey, notably the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey and sentinel survey (1994, 2000), has created a database on the reproductive health status and social conditions of adolescents which will be launched as past of the celebrations.

The Untried Nations had since 1987, set aside July 11 every year as World Population Day, to raise the collective consciousness of humanity on the need to avert the negative implications of rapid growth in world population.

Nigeria, with a current estimated population of 126 million is the most populous black nation and the tenth most populous nation in the world.

The large population size is backed by a high growth rate of 2.9 percent. The last population census in the country was held 12 years ago in 1991, two years behind the Untied Nations recommended 10-year period between national censuses.

Activities lined up for the commemoration include a national broadcast by President Obasanjo, launching of population monographs, film shows, a public lecture and radio talk on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights and a population walk.