In a bid to streamline administrative functions and allocate resources more efficiently, the foremost civil rights advocacy group; the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has renewed its call for the scrapping of the National Population Commission (NPC), describing the commission as a redundant and costly agency that duplicates the functions of other existing agencies.
In a recent statement, the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, once again voiced the association’s strong concerns, stating that the NPC’s efforts in conducting population censuses have yielded minimal economic advantages to Nigerians.
He emphasized that the NPC’s recent efforts have reportedly already incurred an expense of N100 billion in taxpayers’ money, which could have been better utilized to address pressing social issues such as hunger and malnutrition.
Onwubiko further questioned the relevance of the NPC when the NIMC and other data collection agencies are already gathering information on citizens through various registration processes, including those conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
HURIWA believes that a unified national identity management mechanism, incorporating data from hospitals where births and deaths are recorded, would be more efficient and cost-effective in determining the exact population of Nigeria.
“In contrast to Nigeria’s traditional house-to-house enumeration approach, advanced nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States utilize sophisticated data-driven methods to determine their population counts.
“These methods involve advanced statistical sampling, data integration, and comprehensive registration systems. Vital records of births, deaths, and other demographic information are effectively maintained by relevant government agencies, providing a reliable basis for planning and development
“The United States, for instance, conducts decennial censuses, which are limited in scope and do not involve continuous registration of births and deaths. Instead, it utilizes extensive data integration, including data from the Social Security Administration, to estimate the population accurately. This approach significantly reduces costs while providing sufficient data for essential planning and representation purposes.
“In the UK, population counting is conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which uses various data sources, including birth and death registrations, to estimate the population accurately. The ONS employs advanced statistical methods to ensure the reliability and accuracy of its population estimates”.
Therefore, HURIWA contended that Nigeria’s current method of conducting house-to-house censuses, as seen in the 2006 census, is outdated and prone to inaccuracies. Beyond the potential cost savings and increased efficiency, HURIWA envisions a brighter future for millions of impoverished and hungry Nigerians.
“If Population commissions do not exist in other civilized countries that are seen to have enough money to throw around, reallocating the funds previously allocated to the NPC, the government can direct its resources toward addressing critical social and economic challenges faced by the most vulnerable segments of society”.
Moreover, HURIWA proposes that relying on traditional rulers, who hold vital information about their communities can be valuable resources in providing a more straightforward and cost-effective way to estimate population figures at the local level, given that every community in Nigeria has a traditional ruler, and each state maintains a list of these rulers.
“The issue of accurate population counting in Nigeria has become a matter of concern, as it directly impacts resource allocation and the ability to address pressing social issues, such as hunger and malnutrition. Accurate population data is crucial for effective planning and targeted poverty alleviation programs.
“Nigeria faces significant challenges in accurately counting its population. A large number of Nigerians lack official records of their birth, leading to difficulties in capturing accurate demographic data. The traditional house-to-house estimation, used during the 2006 census, has proven to be inefficient and prone to errors, resulting in unreliable population figures.
“The 2006 census, which aimed to provide an accurate count of the Nigerian population, was fraught with numerous challenges. Issues of under-enumeration, misallocation of resources, and accusations of data manipulation led to public mistrust in the accuracy of the results. The lack of an integrated and efficient data collection system remains a major hurdle in Nigeria’s quest to conduct a reliable census.
“Additionally, population counting in Nigeria has been further complicated by internal conflicts and displacement of populations due to insecurity and insurgency. In regions affected by violence, accurate counting becomes even more challenging, resulting in skewed population figures that may not reflect the true demographic reality”
Consequently, Onwubiko revealed that HURIWA’s advocacy for the scrapping of the National Population Commission and the adoption of a data-driven approach highlights the need for Nigeria to modernize its population counting methods.
According to the leading civil rights advocacy group, by learning from advanced nations and by leveraging existing data sources, Nigeria can ensure more accurate population figures and equitable resource allocation. Implementing a data-driven approach will pave the way for better governance and improved efforts to address critical challenges such as hunger and malnutrition.
By and large, HURIWA’s Onwubiko underscored that accurate population data is essential for addressing pressing social issues, such as hunger and malnutrition, just as he added that equitable resource allocation is crucial to targeting the most vulnerable segments of society effectively.
Hence, HURIWA strongly maintained its call to scrap the NPC and said that adopting a data-driven approach will enable the government to make informed decisions, allocate resources efficiently, and implement effective poverty alleviation programs.
“In a country where millions are struggling to access necessities, including food, shelter, and healthcare, having an accurate count of the population is paramount. The current lack of accurate population data hinders effective planning and resource allocation, perpetuating inequality and poverty.
“By scrapping the NPC and adopting a modern data-driven approach, Nigeria can pave the way for better governance and improved efforts to address critical challenges such as hunger and malnutrition.
“The saved resources from the NPC can be channeled into programs that directly benefit the poor and vulnerable, providing them with access to essential services and opportunities for socioeconomic advancement”, HURIWA cautioned.