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10 Problems Of Nigeria Census And Possible Solutions

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population.

The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses. Census can also be described as the official counting of a region’s or nation’s people and compilation of economic, social and other data, usually for formulation of development policies and plans and demarcating constituencies for elections.

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Brief History of Census in Nigeria

Nigeria has a long history of census takings spanning over century. The first census was conducted in 1866 and this was followed by censuses of 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901.

10 Problems Of Nigeria Census And Possible Solutions
Nigeria Census – Photo Source: http://nigeriannewsdirect.com

However all these earlier census were restricted to Lagos colony and its environs. The principle of simultaneity was not complied with as the census enumeration was staggered.

The census of Northern Nigeria was conducted between May and July, 1952 while that of West and Mid-West were conducted in December 1952 and January 1953 respectively.

Census in the East was conducted from May to August, 1953. This enumeration strategy made the comparability of data between one region and another difficult.

Furthermore, the disruption of the Second World War made people suspicious of the intention of the exercise and therefore many people did not submit themselves for enumeration. This meant that the exercise was characterized by gross under enumeration.

Keywords: Nigerian census, history of Nigerian census, Religion, Ethnicity and Religious Plurality.

The refusal of the government to accept population census of 1962 prompted the 1963 population census which critics claimed were arrived at by negotiation rather than enumeration.

The result was contested at the Supreme Court which ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the admin of the Federal Government.

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The 1973 census conducted between November 25 and December 2 was not published on the ground of deliberate falsification of the census figures for political and /or ethnic advantages.

The 1991 census was conducted under Decree 23 of 1989 which set up the National population commission. It was conducted all over the country from November 27 to December 2, 1991.

This was the most scientific and most acceptable until 2006 population and Housing census. Several stages were involved in the project.

For the first time, the use of GPS and Satellite Imagery to carve out Geo-referenced EAs was adopted. Also machine readable forms (OMR/CR/ICR) were used to record information from respondents.

The Problems of Nigerian Census

1.  Phenomenon of ethnicity and religion brought to Nigeria among other negative impacts includes discrimination, corruption and politics of federal character.

Some of these traditional beliefs consider it an abomination to count people while they are still alive. According to these beliefs, anybody who gets counted exposes himself to suffering from all sorts of ill fortunes which can range from ailments to even death.

2. Ethnic consciousness brings about disunity among the people of Nigeria which always result to internal conflict and thereby hinders the development planning in Nigeria.

Such as economic development, social and cultural development which could also be regarded a major problem in Nigeria.

3. Population census is always carried out in Nigeria in order to know the actual figure of Nigerian citizens to enable them share the revenue allocation.

It is important to note that religion is one of the factors that contributed to hindrance for the successful population census ever conducted in Nigeria.

For example the Muslim people doesn’t allow their women to be count, reason being that their religion does not permit such, that is why the northern figure is always higher than any other ethnic group in Nigeria and it brought about discrimination among major ethnic group in Nigeria.

4. Record doctoring is also a major problem facing the population census in Nigeria. Religious bias remote areas and financial issues are just a few of the reasons behind the alterations.

Nigeria is a country in religious chaos (crises). Ten thousands of Nigerians has been killed in past decade in the name of ethnic and interesting claiming power over another through numbers and because Nigeria’s religious population is primarily split between the north and south, there is longstanding dispute about whether the numbers that reflect a significantly larger population in the north are accurate or simply the result of altered records.

5. Another reason to believe that records doctoring maybe a problem for the Nigerian census is the distribution of wealth versus natural resources. Oil is major money maker for Nigeria. The majority of the country, but the north controls most of the money.

6. The fact that a significant portion of the population lives in remote areas is another issue, quite, simply it is difficult for census workers to reach many of the country’s people to record how many there are and because there are no significant records to document births and deaths. Therefore, it is difficult to verify the information on census forms.

7. Falsification of Population Census Result:  In counting of population census in Nigeria due to past experience of census conducted in 2006, the demographic data were said to be deliberately falsified, thus the population was exaggerated in the published results.

Also apart from this case of deliberate falsification, the authorities were also corrupt, because they are the ones who gingered the motion.

The census committee in the 2006 population census in Nigeria were been rebuked by foreign agencies for introducing 20 strategy rather a deceptive tactic of data falsification of result.

8. Insufficient and Ineffective Census Educational Campaign: How effective and educational campaign on census is prior to the census taking place determines how successful the census exercise eventually becomes, many times, certain countries are unable to get accurate population figures through population censuses simply because prior to the census exercises, intensive and effective educational campaigns on the importance of census wasn’t done.

9. Poor Demographic Maps: Because of demographic maps that aren’t reliable, it becomes very difficult for the authorities to know all the remote areas in the country and go there to conduct the census exercise.

The problem with unreliable or poor demographic maps is the fact that it result in some extremely remote villages not appearing on the maps. Such areas therefore end up not being visited by census officials.

10. Insufficient Census Experts: Another problem associated with conducting census in Nigeria is insufficient number of professionals with the knowledge and experience of conducting census.

The end result of using people who are not experts to conduct an important exercise like census is an efficient census that provides inaccurate population figures.

Possible Solution in Conducting Nigerian Census:

1. Early, proper and adequate preparation and planning

2. National Population Commission needs to design new methodology and adopt new modern technologies in conducting future censuses

3. As preliminary step, census must be preceded by preparation of Enumeration Area (EA) maps to guide enumerators.

4. Accurate, comprehensive, geographically-referenced, mutually exclusive and non-overlapping Enumeration Area maps, supervisory area maps and locality maps covering every nook and cranny of the country must be made readily available and enumerators.

5. Modern Powerful Geographic Information Techniques such as remote sensing (high resolution satellite imaginary and aerial photographs), Geographical Positioning System GPS), digital cartography and Geographic Information System (GIS), should be used to facilitate the production of all base maps needed for successful conduct of population censuses

6. Also to be used, are computer based GIS for rapid input, management, analysis and output of geographically referenced demographic data.

7. The National Population Commission should consider the adoption of biometric census to ensure that the data are accurate, verifiable and dependable

8. Early and adequate training of enumerators in data collection techniques and use of instruments. In general, census personnel should be experienced, technically and professionally skilled in the conduct of censuses and surveys

9. The commission should embark on value change and re-orientation programs that change the wrong perception of censuses as strictly instruments for national resources sharing, taxation, ethnic dominance and determination of people’s political and economic status.

10. Adequate publicity should be given to future censuses through print and electronic media, social media, town criers and other relevant communication systems to create awareness and sufficiently sensitize the populace to fully participate in the exercise.

In conclusion, if Nigeria must get it right and plan with facts, it must get it right and plan with facts, it must strive to conduct credible and widely acceptable censuses in future.

This is one way in which it can enjoy the respect of the international community. Early planning, proper organization and deployment of modern and improved technologies for data collection must be adopted by National Population Commission.


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Nneamaka Onochie

Nneamaka Onochie is a Content Developer at InfoGuideNIgeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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