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Legal framework review of 2023 census

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By Mercy Kelani

NPC should undergo independent multi-stakeholder audits & integrity tests.

Nextier SPD has recently advised the Federal Government of Nigeria to review the legal framework of the conduct of the upcoming census, as it prepares to carry out its national census. It seeks that the government explores handling of legal issues that are not entirely taken care of in the constitution. Senior and relevant stakeholders at the company assured the government that adoption of modern technology in the process will guarantee suitability, efficiency and data privacy.

Managing Partner and Chief Executive at Nextier and an Honorary Fellow at the School of Government and Society at the University of Birmingham, UK, Dr. Ndu Nwokolo, and an Associate Consultant at Nextier SPD, Dr. Ben Nwosu, told the National Population Commission (NPC) to find a solution to how its system would figure out the inflation of figures during and after enumeration. They also asked how the commission seeks to collect information on their coordination with other government agencies for tracking, sensitization and mobilization.

Last-minute suspension of 2023 population census.

According to the Nextier SPD experts, census figures are numbers that have political significance which are used to contest for spaces in a state that prefers distribution of resources that has more benefits to the ruling group. They believe that as the country works towards head and household count this year, engagement of stakeholders around technological deployment, issues of political interference, legal framework, issues of displaced population and refugeehood from conflicts and terrorism, all require subjection to open public conversation for achievement of a credibly acceptable census.

Nigeria is expected to already have a published figure of its demographics, owing to its last-minute suspension of its national census which was slated to start on May 3, 2023 and end on May 7, 2023. The suspension eased anxieties about this, regardless of the expenses of 200 billion Naira from the budgeted 800 billion Naira for the population counts. It has been argued by many people that there is a limit to the laws governing the survey, and consequently, should be reviewed.

Census determines political and economic decision-making.

Likewise, the experts argued that the systems of the National Population Commission (NPC) in charge of the exercise are yet to be subjected to independent multi-stakeholder audits and integrity tests. These tests were said to be crucial as the figures in the country have an history been a source of acrimony. Political and economic decision-making, particularly value allocation, is done based in this exercise. Resultantly, the complexity of Nigeria is because of its dependence on the outcome of one major product.

Furthermore, the value of figures are still highly political as the country prepares towards another national census, requesting an open process for generation of the figures. In Nigeria, engagement with the process of the census for its improvement and enhancement of the acceptability of its proceeds will lessen the acrimonious disagreements that affects census results. Usually, prominent political actors negotiate inflated numbers for their political constituency for a disproportionate allocation of social goods for themselves.

Unanalyzed specificity on the north-south divide.

Additionally, the experts argued that the population figures of the country have a specific north-south divide. The vast territory and cultural context of the North gives an impression of a dense population. While the closeness of the south to the coast gives the impression that emigration towards a direction with opportunities would lead to more numbers in the region. The country is ready for another census in 2023 when the major causes of fission are issues of politics, ethnicity, religion, and demographics, according to experts.

Related Link

National Population Commission: Website

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