By Samuel Edu
High level corruption, crave for undue financial advantage, ethnic rivalries and illiteracy have been identified as reasons for controversial census in Nigeria
Experts in the field of Statistics and Demography made the remarks in separate interviews with The Hope.
Those who spoke with the Hope include: veteran labour leader, Pioneer chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Ondo State, Comrade Oyekan Arije, Dr Ezra Gayawan, Dr Bello Abimbola, Dr Olabimpe Aladeniyi and Dr Adepetun Akinola all from the Department of Statistics, Federal University of Technology, Akure.
Comrade Arije noted that corruption is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigerians, deeply rooted in all the administrative processes in the country.
“If you look at the interview of Harrow Smith on census, you will discover that census had always been manipulated even from the colonial era.
“He, Smith, a Colonial personnel confessed that he manipulated our first census and he begged God to forgive him, hence every subsequent census conducted in Nigeria has always been manipulated.
“Geographically, it is the rain forest area that has thick population while the population of the semi desert is always low but the opposite is the case in Nigeria and the fact remains that corruption is the major contributing factor.
“It is because we attach too much importance to population in the area of revenue allocation, until every state learn to fend for itself, we shall continue to have this mess.”
Dr Ezra Gayawan noted that manipulation and distrust in the entire process have always characterized Nigerian census and it is difficult if not impossible for things to turn around over night.
The scholar stressed that politics, culture and religion are major contributors to irregularities in Nigeria’s census results.
“Census in Nigeria has been controversial for decades since the early census conducted and till now. The fact remains that there is lower likelihood that things will suddenly change.
“Some of the reasons why census has always been controversial is distrust among us in Nigeria.
“We hardly believe one another, even if we are able to conduct a perfect census such that we get accurate facts and figures, some segments will still not agree with the results just as it was in the elections recently conducted.
“The issue of illiteracy is another factor. There are segments of the country today that believe it is a taboo to be counted or to count the number of their children.
“These taboos are products of illiteracy and still deeply seated in the hearts of our people thereby making them reluctant to present themselves for counting.
“This cannot be ruled out in Nigeria because we strongly believe in culture and religion and no matter the level of our education, our culture and religion tends to influence whatever we do, hence once we believe that it is a taboo to be counted, this belief system is unlikely to change.
“The solution to this is that there should be enough sensitization on the benefits of census and why people should participate.
“They may be aware that census is coming but do they know its significance? In my own view, I believe the publicity for census is not adequate enough.
“The message should be sent clearly to people irrespective of where they live in their languages so that they will not only know that census is coming but they should be well enlightened on the benefits and why they should participate.
Dr Bello Abimbola said “the citizen question is paramount when talking about reasons why census is always controversial.
“In a situation where everybody want to say I am Yoruba, Ibo or Hausa and in this respect, people want to ensure that their own tribe is more than the other.
“Religious affiliation is another factor where each religion want to be more in population compared with the others. When this is the case, the result of each census cannot but be controversial.
“The national budget is another factor because it has relationship with the population. This is where we talk about infrastructure such as roads.
“If you look at the geographical map of Nigeria, you will discover that the northerners have more land mass than the southerners, so in this regard, there will be allocation to provide more infrastructure in the north than in the south.
“The solution to all these problems is to have visionary leaders at the helms of affairs. Moreover, the enumerators that are going to be employed for the census must be well trained as they are key to the success of the exercise.
Dr Olabimpe Aladeniyi expressed optimism that this year’s census will be better regardless of whatever controversies that had trailed the census conducted in yester years, stressing that there is always room for improvement.
“With the level of preparation for the coming census, I believe the result will be far more reliable compared with the result of previous census.
“Before any enumerator can participate in the process for this year’s exercise, such an individual must have registered ahead online and this implies that not just anyhow person can be an enumerator.
“With this level of preparation on the part of the government, I believe they must have realized the mistakes of the past and doing everything possible to correct these anomalies.”
Dr Adepetun Akinola opined that the main reason why census in Nigeria has always been controversial is because sources of data has always been unreliable stressing that reliability of data goes a long way in determining the accuracy of census results.
“These problem of data solely emanates from people’s unwillingness to release accurate and vita information about their family.
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