Monday, 21 June 2010

Nigeria's 2006 Census was a fraud, full stop!

Joachim Ezeji

I am excited that the results of the 2006 census exercise in Nigeria are at last being challenged. I remained one of those patriotic Nigerians who really felt short changed by the census exercise. To me it was another opportunity lost.
When then President Olusegun Obasanjo released the provisional result of the 2006 census, I remained unimpressed and had that feeling in my mind that another false and fictitious result has been unleashed on the nation. I say this based on one or two cogent reasons.

But before I adduce these reasons, I would say straight away that census any where is all about planning. Even in a small family of say 4 or 6 persons; the number of household members is a cardinal factor in planning. The family head be it the mother or the father uses the number to know the amount of food to cook in on order to reduce wastage; what to buy e.g. car or even the type of house to build or rent etc.

Any attempt to ignore such calculation or to under or over count/estimate it would always create confusion, lack, want or perennial wastages in such a family. I can remember those days as a child, when my mother would always caution our house-help to always mind or consider the number of people (including visitors) in our house while cooking food. My mother needed not to have a university degree or a lawyer to know that. It was common sense that made her made those comments as that remained the only way to guide against wastage or want.

The role of numbers in human activities has always been a traditional issue. People where ever are often mindful of their number as a group or the number they expect to attend their functions or activities e.g. wedding ceremonies, birthday parties and concerts etc as this helps them to plan for and budget for their feeding, seats, drinks and souvenirs etc.

Any attempt to falsify such numbers in anyway will certainly create problems. It is a central issue in planning. Certainly common sense enables you to do that because when you plan you need all the correct data in order to succeed otherwise you fail and fall with a big bang.

In view of the foregoing therefore, it is clear that in setting up the NPC, that the Federal Government was mindful of the need to plan effectively in order to succeed. That was why the National Population Commission (NPC) of Nigeria was established by the federal government in 1988.

It has the statutory powers to collect, analyze and disseminate population/demographic data in the country. It is also mandated to undertake demographic sample surveys, compile, collate and publish migration and civil registration statistics as well as monitor the country's Population Policy.

When the 2006 exercise was eventually held, many Nigerians had misgivings about the manner it was carried out. Many people complained that they were neither visited by nor counted by the census personnel or enumerators. But the NPC then countered that it needed not visit or count everybody once a percentage coverage of a certain percentage in any area suffices as the remaining could be estimated. What this means is that if for example, the enumerators records 80% coverage in my village, Uboma, then the remaining 20% can be estimated.

My problem with this method of enumeration is that it weakens the result in the long run. I say so because the realization of 80% coverage in most places is impossible in the true sense of it. Even, if 80% is possible, then why not try and achieve 90 and 100% respectively instead of allowing for a huge gamble on many 20%s. Then what happens when you records a coverage of 40, 50, 60 and 70% and far less?
By deliberately undercounting areas/regions or people and relying on machines/computers to complete the work through deliberate manipulation or out right modelling with false inputs or data, the NPC committed a heinous crime against the nation and its future. Those behind this criminality should be arraigned after the tribunal sitting and tried for treasonable felony.

As is characteristic, Nigerians easily complain and resign to fate. Most of the complaints often go unreported and only rotates within the confines of those at the very low level of the society. It is easier to hear complaints in markets amongst traders and in buses amongst commuters etc than at any other levels. Newspaper or other media hardly give room for poor people to air their view rather what we get are the same people, that is, self imposed elites talking all the time even when they represent no body else other than themselves and making self serving comments that are lacking in substance. They hardly want to rock the boat hence remaining pro-establishment.
Across the wide world, mega cities develop around water bodies, hence, you have many cities in deltas and coastlines. For example, Syvitski (2008) had underscored that population centres are often located in deltas. Fifty-one of the world’s deltas have a combined 2003 population of 325 million (Oak Ridge National Laboratory 2002), and this is predicted to increase rapidly through the growth of megacities e.g., Shaghai, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Yangon, Calculatta, Dhaka, Lagos, Ho Chi Min City, Hanoi etc. You may also need to know that cities like New York and San Francisco are all on the coast and as a result retains huge populations.

For example, a delta’s low gradient makes it both attractive to human utilization hence the huge agglutination of people. A large flat delta is attractive because it has the potential for easy agricultural development, made further attractive by its rich organic soil as well as oil deposits e.g., Nile, Indus, Danube, and Po etc.

In view of these facts, how come that Kano, a dry sahelian and migrant environment with very limited industrial output be more populated than Lagos? How come the entire Niger Delta is computed to be less populated than all the cities in the North east. Port Harcourt city with its huge nexus as the centre piece of Nigeria’s oil and gas cannot be less populated than Kano in the present day Nigeria.

It was also palpable fraud to have computed the Southeast as the least populated in Nigeria under the guise that the Igbos often live abroad. These are fairy tales and deserve not to be retold. You mean that I should take the NPC serious that Igbos living in the Southeast are fewer than regions like for example the North central. I disagree!

The NPC Census gave the total population of Nigeria as 140,431,790, comprising 71,345,488 males and 69,086,302 females. But was afraid to indicate such indices as tribe and religion. I have no doubt that the NPC knew that that would have been the limit of their manipulative tendencies.

I commend the Lagos State Government for rising above its peers to raise strong objections to the results of the census. Lagos had in its objection claimed that it was undercounted by almost 50 per cent by the NPC which put the total population of Lagos State at 9,013534. The state has adduced reasons for challenging the results of the census, saying it was to ensure that that its developmental programmes were based on reliable data. Addressing Census Tribunal C in Abuja during the tribunal inaugural sitting, the Lagos State Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Lagos Ministry of Justice, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), said the petition filed by the state was not an ego trip, but to make sure that the state knew the number of people it had to cater for.

He said the petition was not filed for political reason but to make sure that the state prepares and executes its programmes for the people on a reliable census data. He said the state was ready to prove that many people in the state were not counted at all. “Without reliable data, all these vision 2020 plans, millennium development goals would come to nothing,” he said.

I agree intoto with Lagos State, though the Chairman of NPC, Chief Samuila Makama, disagreed saying that the 17,553,924 figure released by the state was phantom. Makama had then said that the commission was ready to confront Lagos State at the census tribunal as soon as it was inaugurated.

But what do we see instead. Instead of the NPC confronting Lagos State based on facts and superior arguments, what we have is an NPC coming to argue on technicalities by insisting the Lagos State filled its petition at the tribunal was out of date. The NPC is arguing that petitions filed by Lagos, and the other two states of Oyo and Borno were incompetent because they were filed “out of time”. Counsel to NPC, Chief Ighodalo Imadegbelo (SAN), said the states filed their petitions more than six months after the provisional results were released. According to him, any attempt by the tribunal to sit over their petitions would amount to expanding its jurisdictions.

To me the NPC lawyer’s argument is balderdash and chicanery. Let NPC defend how it arrived at those figures and not to seek for an easy way of escape.
Sadly, Niger Delta states and South eastern states are not raising objections. Does this imply an acceptance of the fake figures ascribed to them or gross ignorance of the politics of census in Nigeria? Time will tell!

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