Preparations were being concluded for the 2023 Population and Housing Census, when, suddenly, the Federal government announced that it had been postponed. Indefinitely Fidelis Abu, in this analysis, takes a look at the implications of the cancellation.
Declaration by the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Nasir Isa Kwarra, that the Commission had spent N200 billion on preparations for the 2023 Population and Housing Census before the exercise was canceled has kept reactions coming.
Kwarra had declared that the Commission budgeted N800 billion, out of which, N200 billion approved so far had been spent.
He said the N800 billion included salaries from 2014, training of officials, and ad hoc staff for the census.
According to Kwarra, the shifting of the census is a blessing in disguise, hoping that it would afford the Commission the opportunity to realise pledges made by donor agencies and corporate organisations, though he did not disclose not how much has been realised so far.
UNFPA funded the training and purchased devices for the Green Census. The Commission had also conducted a trial census with the aid of the sophisticated devices deployed for the exercise before the postponement; an exercise that exposed the Commission to some issues that have been corrected, and the materials used are intact in the Commission’s various offices across the country.
The Commission said it was prepared to conduct the census anytime the incoming administration approves.
“Should the incoming administration, after its inauguration, choose to go on with the Population and Housing Census this year, we are ready to go. We’ve done all that is required to conduct the credible, transparent, and reliable census. We’re ready to go,” Kwarra said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Kayode Oseni, in his reaction, described the N200 billion already spent as huge, saying it had become necessary to ascertain whether the expenditure was a loss or gain.
He stressed the need to use digital technology to achieve credible, reliable, and acceptable outcomes, and to provide accurate and well-disaggregated data for strategic planning and policymaking.
The 2023 Population and Housing Census is expected to be Green Census, involving the use of digital maps, digital questionnaires, and cloud computing to ensure compliance with the global climate change campaign for the reduction of emissions by 30 percent unconditionally and an additional 15 percent conditionally by the year 2030.
The last National Census was conducted in Nigeria in 2006. By the United Nations standard, Population and Housing Censuses ought to be conducted every 10 years. The period allows the government to correctly capture changes in the population, age structure, and movement of the population for alignment of public policy and investment decisions, as required.
United Nations has stated its support for the NPC towards achieving a successful 2023 population census.
UNFPA Resident Representative in Nigeria, Ms Elizabeth Ulla Mueller, said the UNFPA has been working very closely with NPC and has maintained a very close relationship.
She said: “I’m optimistic the new President will be supportive of the census. The UNFPA will support the census and the new administration in conducting a transparent and quality census.”
At a breakfast meeting aimed at raising funds to support the NPC towards the 2023 Population and Housing Census, Mueller said: “UNFPA is working with NPC to ensure the 2023 Census upholds international principles and standards since the census planning began 2014 with a draft Census Document. We have expended the sum of $2,970,907.95 and plan to make further contributions during its life span. In addition, UNFPA has engaged a Chief Technical Adviser, Dr. Collins Opiyo, and deployed senior staff to facilitate the entire census process, including the development of an M&E framework and communication, and the framework for the identification and mapping of special population-migrant farmers, nomads, IDPs, refugees, thereby leaving no one behind.”
According to her, UNFPA is encouraged by the government’s commitment at the highest level to conduct a successful 2023 Census. This commitment is clearly demonstrated through the allocation of N422 billion for the census in the 2022 annual budget; approval by the President for the conduct of the census in April 2023, and participation of the President in the National Stakeholders Summit on 2023 Census, during which the President personally launched the Census Strategic Document.
The commitment of the government, led by NPC, and the assistance of UNFPA as the lead UN agency providing technical support and guidance for population and housing censuses and another demographic exercise, has led to the implementation of transformative processes towards a successful census holding in 2023.
The UN Resident Representative stated that collaboration is also key in a census programme of the scope that is being implemented by the Government of Nigeria.
According to him, delivering a credible census in a country as large and diverse as Nigeria requires close partnership and cooperation among governments at all levels, donors, the private sector, academia, and citizens. He added that the resource-intensive nature of the census makes it difficult for countries to conduct it on their own.
“In the spirit of partnership and cooperation, the United Nations System is committed to working closely with government and donor partners for a credible 2023 population and housing census. I, therefore, commend the partnership between Nigeria and UNFPA for the bold initiative to convene the partners’ meeting on the 2023 census and the official launch of the Census Development Partners Forum, an initiative that will support a transparent census of international standards.
“I urge all partners to take this initiative seriously and to commit to the partnership and cooperation by providing support, whether technical, financial, or in-kind.
He added: “This will sustain Nigeria’s efforts at conducting a much-needed census; a census that will make data available for evidence-based programming and policymaking, improve the understanding of population dynamics, inform socio-economic development initiatives in the country.
Information that will be useful for present and future governments and for the international community and for tracking the progress towards the SDGs.
“The United Nations in Nigeria will continue to support the development efforts of the country, including the implementation of this transformative census.”