Population census in a country is important because it helps to know the size of the population and inhabitants of its geographical area. It also helps to determine the human capital available and the number of unemployed. This in turn helps in the formulation of policies to meet the country’s needs. This article is on the problems and challenges facing the successful counting of Nigerians in the country and solutions to these problems.
Problems of Census in Nigeria & Solutions
Ethnic and Religious beliefs
Many ethnic and religious beliefs have hindered the successful conduction of census in Nigeria. For example, some areas of Nigeria (especially in the north) do not allow women or wives to participate in the process of a population census. It is one of the reasons why many cannot trust population census results in the north. The northern population is always recorded to be higher than any other part of Nigeria. The question of reliability of the information regarding the high population of the north remains a topic of discussion as regards the Nigerian population census. Many believe these records are false and demand that a truthful census report is needed.
Falsification of results
The last Nigerian census which was conducted in 2006 came with many complaints. Many believe that the demographic information of the country was falsified and the actual figures were overestimated in the published report. Foreign agencies have also condemned the Nigerian Population Census Committee for dishonest work and fraudulent activities during the census.
During the population census of 2006, there were reports of cases where officials of the National Population Census Commission received bribes from government officials so they will not carry out the procedure properly and falsify results. It was said that there were towns and villages that no officials visited and numbers were made up, recorded and published. There are various reasons for the falsification of population census results in Nigeria. One is that population census is carried out to determine revenue allocation among states. States and regions that have a high population get more funds and allocations from the federal government. Another reason is because Nigerian census determines the distribution of wealth. Nigeria’s major source of revenue is via oil which is generated mainly from the east. However, the north gets the most allocation of funds because of the size of population. This is a reason why many believe population records are falsified in Nigeria.
Cost of the Census
Carrying out a population census is quite an expensive venture. Many developing countries like Nigeria cannot afford the equipment and procedures in order to conduct an efficient population census. Modern geographic information techniques such as remote sensing, aerial photographs, Geographical Positioning System GPS, digital cartography and computer based Geographic Information System (GIS). These equipment are needed to facilitate rapid input, management and analysis of data for the successful conduct of population censuses in Nigeria. Most of the equipment cannot be afforded in Nigeria.
Use of traditional means of counting
The last national population census in Nigeria, conducted in 2006 used traditional means of counting. This does not make for accurate and dependable data. The National Population Census Commission needs to design and adopt new and modern techniques such as biometric in conducting censuses in the future. This will ensure that the data are accurate and can be verified by modern equipment and not based on word of mouth.
Inadequate preparation and planning
In Nigeria, plans are not properly made in preparation of the population census. There needs to be early and adequate training of staff of the commission on issues such as the collection of data and use of instruments.
High level of illiteracy
The high level of illiteracy and ignorance in Nigeria also poses a challenge to the successful conduct of population censuses in Nigeria. People have different beliefs as regards population censuses. Some people avoid contact with officials while some act hostile to the officials because they believe getting counted is a taboo. Some also regard it as a taboo to count people while they are still alive and believe anyone who gets counted exposes himself to all sorts of ill fortunes and sufferings such as ailments to even death. Some believe that the government conducts censuses in order to increase taxes. Other misconceptions about census include that is a tool for ethnic dominance and to determine the economic status of people. This is the reason many give incorrect information which then leads to inaccurate data. It will be very difficult to conduct a successful census in Nigeria if the citizens are not cooperative. In order to solve this problem, the government through the National Population Census Commission needs to embark on re-orientation programs to help change the wrong perception and mindset of most Nigerians.
Poor quality of educational campaigns
In earlier censuses in Nigeria, there is usually not enough sensitization and education of the masses. This is why the census is met with hostility and much ignorance. The National Population Census Commission should carefully organize campaigns to create awareness and educate people on census exercises. The commission should also adopt the effective use of media; both print and electronic media, social media and other means of communication to give adequate publicity and create awareness. It is extremely important for the masses to have adequate information about the importance of the census exercise so they can be willing to participate.
Poor condition of infrastructure in some areas
Some areas in Nigeria have very poor infrastructural conditions such as bad state of roads and lack of good road network. This makes it difficult to conduct an effective population census. Some areas are also very underdeveloped to the point that one cannot get there by means of a car. This discourages the population census officials from getting there. When all these faults persist, the records of such areas can hardly be reliable.
Insufficient qualification of census officials
Many officials conducting the population census lack the necessary level of qualification needed. Ideally, only experts who have been trained in dealing with data and other population issues are supposed to be entrusted with the task of conducting a population census. The commission should ensure adequate training for the staff during future population censuses,
Unreliable demographic maps
Nigeria still works on outdated and inaccurate demographic maps. This makes it difficult for the commission to take note of all the remote settlements in the country. The commission needs to be invest time and money to ensure experts draw out accurate demographic maps.