With approximately 104 days remaining in the year, President Bola Tinubu has not yet revealed the revised schedule for the 2023 National Population and Housing Census.
Nigeria has relied on estimated population figures for the past several years, given that the last census took place in 2006, yielding a population count of 140 million. Although the accuracy of this figure was contested by some, the nation was slated for another comprehensive population count in 2016.
The immediate-past administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari had planned to conduct another census in 2022 which was later shifted to 2023.
However, a school of thought had expressed doubt in the possibility of conducting a census in an electoral year, while another school of thought supported it.
The exercise was suspended indefinitely by Buhari, a few days before his leaving office, saying that he would allow the incoming administration to announce new dates for the headcount.
Already, the body language of President Tinubu has shown that the census is not ranked among his top priorities.
The President had an audience with the National Population Commission, but no word came out of the July meeting. However, the commission said they were carrying on with the necessary preparation and would be ready once the President pronounced a new date.
Reacting to the uncertainty, some stakeholders on Monday expressed their feelings about the situation.
Speaking with our correspondent, a political analyst, Busari Dauda, said the structure needed for the census must be put in place, adding that the exercise must be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.
Dauda noted, “I think the government has too much on her plate now. Remember, the dust around last year’s election has not settled down. The country is presently going through a very difficult reform process occasioned by the removal of subsidies and the harmonisation of the forex regime vis-a-vis the hardship these have foisted on the people.
“I do agree that there is a need for the census, but I think it is best if the census is conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.”
A professor of Demography at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, John Laah, stated that there are chances that the 2023 census might not be a priority to the present administration.
Laah said, “The census might not be the priority of President Bola Tinubu because the planning of the census started from former President Mohammadu Buhari’s regime. There are chances that the government might not see this census as a top priority.
“Unfortunately, the problem that we are facing is the fact that we have not been gathering our data correctly and that is why some of the plans put in place have not yielded good results simply because the data has not been regular and timely.”
An economist, Prof. Adegbemi Onakoya, believes that Tinubu’s administration is taking its time to deliver a credible census.
Onakoya stated, “I think this new administration is trying to take its time. Obviously, after 100 days of inauguration, the ministers were just sworn in.
“If I were Mr President, I would wait for an additional six months to do enough sensitisation because whatever at all is done is worth doing well.”