Naomi Gabriel —
As the Nigerian government gets set to embark on a crucial census exercise, Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Heirs Holdings Group has called for a credible process and outcomes that would be a true representation of the country’s current population, widely accepted and does not lead to any further controversies.
Elumelu spoke in Abuja at the government high-level donor engagement on the Nigeria’s 2023 Housing and Population Census – the first in 17 years, already scheduled to hold this month.
Speaking on behalf of the Organized Private Sector and African Philanthropic Organisations, Elumelu described the upcoming census as a significant milestone in Nigeria’s development, as it provides an opportunity to collect accurate and reliable data on the country’s population and housing, which will serve as a vital tool for policymakers, private sector actors, and civil society organizations.
He further noted that the census will affect how the country allocates its resources and be able to make so many other important decisions. “It is important that the process is credible and above board,” he urged.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with an estimated population of over 200 million people. The last census held in 2006, recorded about 140 million population, and it is projected that this figure will grow to 450 million by 2050, which could make Nigeria the third most populous country in the world.
Elumelu said that the census task is therefore critical to the country’s future, because, without accurate population, it would be difficult to properly plot the much needed developmental path, economic growth, and society’s goals.
According to him, Credible demographic data is of profound importance for the public and private sector alike, especially as the world today, is driven by data.
“ As a private sector leader with investments in key sectors of the Nigerian economy through the Heirs Holdings Group, Transcorp Group, United Bank for Africa Group, and with the work we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation in empowering thousands of young entrepreneurs and building the entrepreneurial capacity on the continent, I understand first-hand, the value and importance of available, accessible and accurate data in making informed decisions, driving development, and creating opportunities,” he stated.
He, however, regretted that Nigeria’s population estimates and demographic profile today remain unclear with debatable projections, as figures and population distribution have unfortunately become politicized.
Population figures have ramifications for revenue allocation, office allotment, legislative power and even elections. The stakes are therefore high for various interest groups – we need to act for our nation as a whole and the next generations.
“Nigeria needs a credible and extensive population enumeration exercise,” he reiterated, noting that the challenge before the National Population Commission therefore is to conduct a census that meets the public’s acceptability criteria, including credibility, transparency, verifiability, accessibility as universal coverage.
“A credible exercise and outcome should be a source of pride and a demonstration of our capacity and intent.”
Elumelu, however, acknowledged that the herculean task of conducting a credible census within the allotted very tight time frame and urged the National Population Commission to assuage such sentiments with an excellent process.
He commended the government’s decision to collaborate with the private sector, African development organisation, public sector, international development community as a positive step towards achieving a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of our nation’s demographics.
He assured Nigerian philanthropic organisations and private sector are ready to support and complement government’s efforts in this most important exercise.
“We believe that by working together, we can achieve our shared goal of obtaining high-quality data that will inform evidence-based decision-making and positively impact our nation’s development.
“Our country just concluded a huge logistical exercise in the form of the National elections.
“We are about to embark on an even larger exercise, the census. We must therefore be quick learners and ensure that the lessons learnt from the elections are channelled into the data collection process.
“To repeat, it is important that the Census outcome is credible, acceptable and does not lead to any further controversies,” he stressed.
While urging the Commission to leverage technology as much as possible to reduce human errors and demonstrate transparency and credibility, he reiterated the private sector and African development organisations’ readiness to support the process.
“Nigeria must show that it is progressive, fair, equitable and development focused”, he warned.