Why Nigeria’s Pop is 205.5m, not 198m
Seven million Nigerians were unaccounted for when the Population Commission spoke to an international audience, in New York.
Like most things Nigerian, the beauty of the counter ends on that page. You, visitor to a serious government’s data site, are expecting it to ''count'' how Nigeria’s population is growing in ''real time''. The ajac starts from 198,000,091.0. As you load the page, the tenths counter rolls and gradually inches the count to 198,000,092 in about 12 seconds. Looks good, right? Wrong. It counts nothing. It is only for, as we put it in Nigeria, “packaging.” Come back an hour later, the counter again reads 198,000,091.0.
That packaging was what Nigeria’s official head counter, Eze Duruiheoma, attempted on April 11, 2018, while speaking on sustainable cities and international migration at the UN population and development forum, in New York. “Nigeria remains the most populous in Africa, the seventh globally with an estimated population of 198 million,” he quipped. Like every other member of the country’s ruling elite, he probably thought he was saying something nice sounding at an international podium.
However, a few hours later when his speech hit the wires, alarm bells were ringing, and loudly. Every other person in the local Facebook “Likedom” was wagging on how the figure was not right, was too small, was too big, was cooked up. Scant few could say what the ''actual'' population projection ought to be or was last year or actually was at the 2006 count or could correctly remember when the last census held.
Nigeria’s last population census held in March 2006. Though that census introduced modern demographic technologies such as satellite based maps and enumeration areas, it was fraught with the usual census “gerrymeandering,” a movement of people living and working in other states, back home to their states of “origin.” Unlike modern economies, Nigeria pride’s itself in asking for a citizen’s state of origin, in contrast to state of birth or state of residency. This exacerbates the perennial competition for sharing of the “national cake,” Niger Delta oil proceeds, by the federal government, the 36 states and their 774 local councils. So the census remains the source and cause of political discord and the never-ending accusations of count jigging.
After a few days of “fact checking,” the National Population Commission (NpopC) stands stoutly behind their chief, insisting that we are 198 million in 2018. Technically, they ''were'' right. Last Year. That is the problem. In 2006 when the count was taken in March, Nigeria was officially 140,431,790, with an annual growth projection of 3.2%. This means that the 2006 Census was a snapshot of Nigeria ''as at March'', 2006; a year later, Nigeria had added 4.9 million new citizens and in March 2017, Nigeria was 198.5 million. In April 2018 we are 205.4 million. That is some seven million Nigerians unaccounted for when Duruiheoma spoke to an international audience!
Projected Population by Age Groups, updates NpopC’s Table DS5
Like other agencies of government, NpopC purveys old, outdated and unreliable data. As a consequence, public sector planning is nearly always off the mark. Take the provision of vaccines for childhood preventable diseases, such as polio. The data table above graphically explains the proportion of each age band in Nigeria. The first age-band, aged 0-4 years, is the polio immunisation target. Did the Federal Ministry of health procure sufficient doses of polio vaccine for nationwide polio immunisation of 33 million children this year?
Nigeria’s number one health challenge is not polio, not cancer, not HIV, not malaria, but sickle cell disease. A WHO report released on World Sickle Cell Day, June 19, 2017 states that 24.3 percent of Nigerians carry the sickle gene. That is an astounding 50 million citizens! Three percent of the population, or six million citizens, have the full SCD disease. Is there any health provision for them? No, nothing is budgeted for SCD, our native disease. No specialised medicines, no specialised training for doctors and nurses, no specialised hospital facility, while tons of funding is provided for HIV and cancer. “Nigeria has the highest rate of sickle cell anaemia in the world but no money for cure,” Bukola Bolarinwa, president, Sickle Cell foundation, told Al Jazeera in March 2018.
Education is another major sector that derives its planning data from projected population. Nigeria Education Indicators 2016 reports that 31,559,323 pupils were enrolled in Primary 1 to JSS3. Impressive, heh? But take a look at the population projection for that year. Ages 6-15 are the ages for ''compulsory'' basic education. Some 49,522,334 citizens were in that age group in 2016. Meaning that the federal Ministry of Education could not account for the schooling status of 18 million children. Were they in private schools, non-formal schools or out of school? These 18 million children would be lazy youths by 2026, according to President Muhammadu Buhari, entitled to free jobs, free living, paid for by Nigeria’s oil wealth. Or they would become willing recruits for Boko Haram, ‘Biafra army,’ or other sectarian groups nationwide.
In agriculture, Nigeria has no effective food security strategy, arising from the lack of awareness of implications of food security to the nation. Up to 80% of our harvest, contrasted to 33% worldwide, is wasted as farmers can’t get them to markets and there is no government buyer scheme to store the excess produce. Youssef Zitouni, Sales Manager, North, West & Central Africa of produce refrigeration company Danfoss, in February 2018 put our food waste at $750 billion yearly – some N263 trillion!
The Anchor Borrower’s Scheme aimed at rice import substitution was only able to produce 3.7 million tonnes of rice in 2017, according to US Department of Agriculture’s Nigeria Grain and Feed Annual, April 2018. In contrast to claims by agriculture minister Audu Ogbeh of achieving 100% of Nigeria’s rice needs, a USDA report documents our import requirements at 2.6 million tonnes in March 2018. Perhaps, the government conveniently ignores imports that come in through the Seme, Illela, Sokoto state and Jibiya, Katsina state borders!
Nigeria's Population Projection, to 2048
With our current growth rate of 3.2%, our population is projected to hit 280 million in 10 years, 384 million in 20, and 527 million in 30! Imagine a half billion people living cheek by jowl in Nigeria. Already, the pavements in metro Lagos have been converted to stalls. With 10% of Nigeria’s population in its space, expect some 53 millions to be squeezed into public hallways in 2048 Lagos.
Evidently, having and using up to date data for planning has to become our priority.