An ex-governor of Kaduna State, Col Abubakar Umar (retd.); a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ahmed Raji, SAN, and some civil society organisations have called for the suspension of the plan by the Federal Government to conduct a population census next year.
They asked the government to focus attention on the insecurity in the country and the forthcoming elections, stating that the plan for the census was needless and a misplaced priority.
The Director-General, National Population Commission, Nasir Isa-Kwarra, disclosed the plan to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting of the National Council of State presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.
While noting that the NPC would hold a pilot census in June this year after the political party primaries, Isa-Kwarra noted that the commission would deploy high-grade technology during the exercise.
Reacting, Umar, who is also the Founder and Chairman of the Movement for Unity and Progress, stressed that a country that was “facing existential challenges cannot have as one of its priorities the conduct of a national census.”
In a statement made available to Saturday PUNCH, Umar stated, “The decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria to seek and get the approval of the National Council of State to conduct the national census in April 2023 must have come as a great shock to most well-meaning Nigerians.
“A country that is facing existential challenges such as the unprecedented level of insecurity and a collapsing economy cannot have as one of its priorities the conduct of a national census.
“We, therefore, urge the Buhari administration to suspend what will amount to a misadventure and waste of scarce national resources.
“This administration should focus all its attention on securing the nation and conducting the 2023 elections.
“A national census at this point is certainly not a priority. assuming that its conduct is possible.”
Also reacting, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ahmed Raji, said it would be meaningless to conduct a census without security.
He stated, “Security is very crucial because there may be no meaningful census without security. Perhaps the government is hopeful that before April next year, we would have overcome the security challenges.
“There is no harm in planning based on some expectations/hopes. They should work hard towards the expectations and hopes. And the citizens should equally support fighting insecurity. While the government takes the lead, we must all support to achieve lasting peace, but the government must demonstrate sincerity and determination.”
The spokesman for the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Mr Ken Robinson, described the planned census as an irrelevant ritual of misplaced importance.
He stated, “Census is necessary but the timing is wrong. PANDEF agrees with the thoughts and impressions that the government does the right thing at the wrong time. This is one such instance. What is paramount to Nigeria now is the safety of lives and property and not a census. That is what they should focus on. They should stop throwing up an issue that is likely to be controversial with all the misconceptions around it.
“We think that the government should shelve the idea of a census for the next government, which will handle the issue of security first before the census. We should be talking about a census in perhaps 2025 or 2026.”
A political activist and representative of the Socialist Workers and Youth League and the #TakeItBack Movement, Juwon Sanyaolu, said, “It (census) is a mere money-wasting expenditure. I think there are certain things we need to address. Look at the data we have on the ground from the National Identification Number, Bank Verification Number and all of that. What exactly are they using those data for? The problem with this is not about data collection, it is a problem of completely irresponsible leadership and people that are lacking in political will to do what is right.
“So long as we continue to have this kind of visionless leader at the helm of affairs; even if we do millions of censuses, the best outcome will accrue more money into the pockets of a few.”
For Jackson Lekan Ojo, an associate member of the International Foundation for Protection Officers, Florida, USA, a population census is not one of Nigeria’s top 100 priorities.
A human rights lawyer and principal of Festus Ogun Legal, Mr Festus Ogun, said, “I feel this (census) is ill-timed. We are in a serious period of national emergencies. We cannot wait till we start counting cadavers on the street before we know all other projects must be postponed to give way for our people and country’s adequate security?”