The National Population Commission (NPC) has disclosed that issues related to religion will not be allowed during the 2023 Population and Housing Census (PHC).
The commission’s spokesperson, Isiaka Yahaya, said this in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday to debunk a viral WhatsApp audio claiming that the religious affiliation of a citizen would be used to influence head count.
“The audio tape calls on Muslims in Nigeria to see the purported canvassing of information on their religious affiliations as a tool to suppress their population figures,” Yahaya said.
Yahaya, thereafter, instructed adherents of the Islamic faith to resist any attempt to divide the religion of Islam by refusing to answer any question on their religious affiliations.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the commission wishes to state unequivocally that the 2023 Population and Housing Census will not canvass questions on religion and religious affiliations of respondents,” Yahaya said.
“The decision to exclude religion along with ethnicity from the census questionnaire was taken in due consideration of the sensitive nature of these issues within the Nigerian polity and the need to save the census data from needless controversies and attention.”
The NPC spokesperson said that a fact check on the origin of the purported message on religious-related questions showed that it was first circulated in Ghana during its 2021 population census through a WhatsApp message.
Yahaya noted that the commission carried out extensive consultation with data users and stakeholders in coming up with the questions to be canvassed in the next census.
“The questionnaire is robust and includes demographic characteristics of respondents and other socio-economic characteristics but without any question whatsoever on religion and ethnicity,” Yahaya said.
“Members of the general public are, therefore, enjoined to disregard the rumour of question on religious affiliation contained in the audio tape in circulation and extend maximum cooperation to the enumerators for the sake of delivering a credible, reliable, and acceptable 2023 Population and Housing Census data for national development planning.”
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