By Jerome Uneje
We are 150 million he shouted! No we are over 200 million! He shouts back! 150! No, 200 million plus where are you getting your figures from? Fool? Stupid! where are you getting yours from? Pa Adache shakes his head full of gray hair with strands of black every here and there and smiles in amusement as the two young people poke at each other over Nigeria’s precise Population figures. He picks up his half drunk glass of beer with his shaky hands in the densely crowded local bar. The 72 year old pensioner feels a tinge of pity on Nigeria. “The Country is in confusion” he mutters under his breath. “It cannot even tell how many they are in exact terms” he sighs and gulps down his beer. The arguments continue between the two young men who exchange hot words over who is right in their Country’s population. They cannot be blamed. Nobody is to blame. The confusion in the precise number of Nigerians alive persists owing to the failure of Government agencies responsible for that.
The rapid population growth of this great nation is becoming apprehensively alarming. Worse still, nobody can tell in precise terms the exact number of Nigerians. The best we get are estimates. Available statistics from organizations and Institutions websites providing basic data on the nation’ population are not certain of the exact figure. Some estimate the population of Nigeria at over 170,000,000 others 180,000,000 or even at 200,000,000. The question now is -what is the exact and acceptable effective figure of Nigeria? According to a survey carried out by Christian Health Association of Nigeria following the USAID’ report of 2014, “the Nigeria’s annual growth rate is at 2.8 percent which means that the population is growing by nearly 3 million every year. Putting this in perspective, in 1911, the population was 16 million. It grew to 114 million by the year 2000 and now it is estimated at 174 million”. Looking at the current trend, the population will nearly double in 20 years to come. Going by the survey of the Christian Health Association of Nigeria, what is the stand of the National Population Commission the body charged with the responsibility of Population Census Management?
This Commission is not measuring up to its primary role and duties, yet it is not held accountable for its inability to keep the accurate figures and this is the wide of the mark. As it stands, the nation can hardly differentiate and/or ascertain immigrants from the bona fide citizens of this great nation. Both citizens and immigrants walk in and out in voyage without proper check and explicit inquiry from offices in charge of haulage. As such, the Nations resources are stretched beyond their capacity resulting to acute poverty and depleting infrastructure. Furthermore, the security of the citizens is not guaranteed as potential terrorists and fleeing criminals can saunter into our Country unchecked to carry out their nefarious acts. These occurrences only create more damage and harm to the polity. The consequence of this failure is underdevelopment, low level of productivity and gross poverty in the land.
The relevance of ascertaining our true population is glaring and cannot be over emphasized. An accurate and precise knowledge of the number of Nigerians alive will help immensely in the planning and management of the Nation’s economy and its resources including Security, Health systems, Education, Food etc. Without a clear and precise picture of the population size we can at best guess and estimate in our planning and management functions which cannot guarantee best results. This maybe one of the reasons Nigeria is experiencing a stunted growth today.
Reflecting on the recent World population day 2017 with the theme “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations” the need to begin to control the burgeoning Nigeria population can only be easier and better with the knowledge of the current precise population figures as the starting point. The international awareness campaign that is commemorated all over the world annually particularly on every 11th of July seeks to address poignant issues begging for urgent action in Nigeria especially as it concerns Women and the Sexual and Reproductive Health interventions. Some of these issues include reluctance to embrace Family Planning culture in Nigeria, inadequate access to Family Planning commodities and service centres across Nigeria, inadequate budgetary allocations to Family Planning at all levels of Governance, weak sensitization of the populace on the benefits of Family planning etc. The effect of all these is a burgeoning population that has spiraled out of control of economic resources available. For example 106 years ago in 1911, the Country’s population was 16 million. It grew to 114 million by the year 2000. Currently, varying estimates put in the figure in the region of 170- 220 million. “Nigeria’s annual population growth rate is said to be at 2.8% which means that the population is growing by nearly 3 million people every year. At the current trend, the population will nearly double in 20 years to come.
The aim of this global awareness is geared towards drawing attention to factors that lead to population explosion which includes the efficient and effective management of the reproductive health systems. Issues like Family Planning, Maternal and Child health, poverty, human rights, right to sexuality education, use of contraceptives and safety measures like condoms, adolescent pregnancy, girl child education, child marriage, sexually transmitted infections etc. are looked at as important points to steer the peoples’ decision on population issues.
Nigeria’ population growth can be traced to several factors including misconception leading to poor uptake of Family Planning options, poor accessibility of commodities and service centres, low budgetary allocations to Family Planning interventions, weak sensitization of the populace to embrace family planning amongst other factors.
In order to reverse the above, the following needs to be done with a deep sense and commitment to urgency:
Put in accelerated efforts towards carrying out a wholesale population census across to ascertain the precise number of Nigerians.
Increase the sensitization and awareness of Family Planning amongst the people especially the grassroots Women and Religious communities
Increase budgetary allocation to Family Planning and Reproductive health issues at all levels of Governance in Nigeria
Increase the access and uptake of Family Planning options and Commodities across communities especially the rural and grassroots communities.
With these measures firmly put in place and sustained over a period of time, Nigeria will begin to have an effective and efficient socio economic plan to manage the population as well as control its growth as every family and person in Nigeria will begin to have a family size they actually plan and can cater for.
The argument continues between the two young men whose pushes have now matured into shoves. They are ready to fight. The bar looks on in astonishment. Pa Adache rises and calls on his younger nephew Ojo to stop this show of shame. There is quiet in the bar. In the background, the radio announcer mentioned that today is World Population Day. They lean to listen closer to hear if the announcer will say the exact figure of Nigerian’ population to put paid to the argument. She never did.