Just Before The Census

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Just Before The Census
 

By

 

Adebayo Fadeyi

 

 

culled from GUARDIAN, May 05, 2005

 

A lot of activities has since commenced in terms of preparation and planning for the census exercise scheduled for November this year, even though these pre-census activities commenced late. Given the plethora of challenges that had attended previous census counts, the importance of preparation and planning cannot be over-emphasised. This means that now is the time for the Federal Government to make funds available to the National Population Commission.

The government has a duty to acknowledge the existence of all her citizens. The present vital registration system in the country is not compulsory and universal. Presently, probably less than 50 per cent of all babies born in Nigeria get properly registered at birth. When anybody dies the same process of registration is followed as a logical conclusion of a statistical exercise designed to enhance demographic calculations for the sake of efficient planning.

The 1991 census figures are only partially relevant today to the segment of our population comprising those who are 13 years and older. This implies that about 40 per cent of the present " in area population of Nigeria have not been validly enumerated at any census date. This census exercise is of importance to them. For those of us in Nigeria today, government should be aware of the age and sex composition, residential status, the type of work we do and for how much, level of educational attainment, marital situation, the extent of joblessness and other related aspects of human welfare. Without these items of information about the characteristics of the population, how can government in all seriousness claim to be aware of how many we are, the type of life we live, where we live, how well or otherwise we live, and what prospects we have for the future?

One of the important concerns to be settled before the census exercise is the questionnaire content. This concerns the questions to be canvassed. A lot of dust has been raised on whether to include questions on ethnicity and religion. Religion and ethnicity are indeed of demographic interest. Ethnic groups and religion are part of the United Nations list of recommended items to be included in the census questionnaire. It is however, desirable to retain the list of questions from the1991 census to 2005 census in essentially the same form to provide a time series which can be used to analyse the country's development.

There is no doubt that sectional and diverse interests as well as public reactions are considerations that will continue to influence the choice of census questions given our level of development. Population data can be obtained from sources other than national census. Sample surveys can be used during inter-censal years to obtain and update data on the population. This can be employed to collect information on ethnicity and religion.

Enumeration Areas Demarcation is another important preparation for the census exercise. In this regard, the National Population Commission cannot be unaware of boundary disputes in many states in Nigeria. These boundary disputes are those between one state and another; between one local government and another or within a local government area as between one community and another. There is also boundary dispute between Nigeria and Cameroun. There are villages that were formerly administered by Cameroun now ceded to Nigeria or vice versa.

There is therefore the need for collaboration and cooperation between the Population Commission and the National Boundary Commission in order to ensure a smooth Enumeration Area Demarcation. New Enumeration Areas Demarcation is also necessary since after the 1991 census, additional local government areas have been created in 1996 and new towns and villages have been established. An Enumeration Area must not cross the boundaries of any tabulation area. It is important that the population of the Enumeration Area must be such that one census enumerator can complete the enumeration of the area in the time allotted for the exercise.

Of crucial importance is the recruitment of professionals like demographers and other population specialists to take charge of the Population Commission Offices in states and local government areas. Proper training of Enumerators, Supervisors, and Facilitators should be done to ensure a credible exercise. The issue here is that square pegs are not put in round holes. At every segment of the society there are challenges that task the mental and physical abilities of the average person beyond the ordinary. The National Population Commission should overhaul its recruitment procedures to ensure transparency and openness. This is the time to put in place necessary materials, facilities and logistics. Nobody seems to know when recruitment of personnel is done.

Census publicity remains an important component of preparation and planning for the census exercise. Census publicity includes advocacy and public sensitisation campaigns to inform, educate, and mobilise the population for effective participation and support. Public enlightenment programmes, jingles in the radio and television programmes and seminars should be conducted. Also effective rural campaign to sensitise the public on the census exercise, especially, on the importance of census data for socio-economic planning. The government and National Population Commission officials should not assume that they have the final word on the exercise. Already various interest groups have started raising discordant tunes. The National Population Commission should make the public aware of the penalties prescribed by law for census offences.

The conduct of pretests and trial census is useful in providing a basis for decisions that must be made to ensure a credible census exercise. Population census must be conducted with the highest level of professionalism and patriotism that will make the resultant socio-economic and demographic data acceptable to the people of the country. As the first headcount in the new millennium, all hands must be on deck to make the exercise truly representative.

 

 

Dr. Fadeyi teaches Demography and Social Statistics at the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos.

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