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Friday, January 06, 2006

The Coming Census


There has never been a conducted Nigerian census without controversy and contradictions which make this year's planned head count all the more interesting. The volatility of the planned census is underlined by the fact that religion and ethnicity data will not feature on the census questionaire. This means that Nigerians are not mature enough to accept whatever results those excluded data might bring. This is telling indeed. According to the chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Chief Samu'ila Danko Makama, "the stakeholders brainstormed over two days and agreed on every variable except two, religion and ethnicity. There were two schools of thought. One held that the two variables should be included, the other felt it should be excluded, because they have a potential to generate a lot of controversy, and in the end, we will not have acceptable census.

"So the stakeholders decided that the National Population Commission should submit a paper to the Federal Government outlining the merits and demerits of inclusion or otherwise of the two variables from the 2006 census," (This Day, December 18, 2005 ). This is indeed immmature. The cut the limb to heal the wound classical approach to solving problem in Nigeria. Lets recall that the planned census was to have taken placed in 2003 but was postponed to 2005 due to the general elections of 2003 and then again postponed till this year. Meaning government could have avoided conducting it if it could. Statistics like religion and ethnicity are not necessarily have to be included on census form but the evading approach by the government point toward inability to face the problem head on. One day we would still want to know how many muslims, christians and others we have in Nigeria and how many Ijaw, Nupe, Efik, Igalas and others we are. Lets hope we will be mature enough in the future and confident enough to include those data without them having to generate controversy.

So after this cutting and chopping, it is expected that NPC will not have excuse to a)try to postpone it again and b) to let the exercise fail or embroil in controversy when finally conducted. The EU is supporting the exercise with about 20 billion naira, which cover more than half of the estimated total cost of the exercise so the best enumeration tools and officers are expected. The importance of well conducted census cannot be overemphasised. Indeed 2006 will show how far we have gone in this post military journey called democracy.




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