Professor Funsho Olorunfemi of the Geography and Environmental Management department of the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, has urged the Federal Government against the idea of rushing to conduct another National Population Census (NPC) without proper planning which includes carving the country into enumeration areas and putting such in digital format.
Prof Funso Olorunfemi, in a paper, entitled: “Population Census in the Spirit of Change”, argued that if the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari desires true change regarding the NPC, it should take cognisance of the need to properly plan towards the next NPC in order to avoid errors of the past resulting in inaccurate population data and eventual unequal distribution of government’s presence across the country.
He said: “The 1973 census was cancelled and none in 1983. It took another 15 years for Nigeria to have the 2006 census. The census planned for 2018 may not be recommended. In the spirit of ‘change’ and in this case change for the better, it will be necessary for Nigeria to plan for and conduct a national census of housing and population that will be accurate and acceptable.
“This can only be achieved if proper and adequate planning that include: pre-censal activities, liaison with development partners, sensitisation of all stakeholders within and outside Nigeria, political commitment by the Federal Government of Nigeria such that census in Nigeria will be seen more as a technical exercise rather than a political enterprise.”
Proposing that: ” the georeferencing of all settlements in Nigeria and the use of large scale maps or satellite image derivatives for enumeration area maps should be the minimum acceptable standard, Olorunfemi noted that this will eliminate omission and/or duplication of settlements.
Prof Funso Olorunfemi added that: “logistic support must be provided for census officials on time, rather than their dependence on local communities. The saying goes “that he who plays the pipe dictates the tune… unless and until the entire country is properly carved into enumeration areas and in digital format, a census should not be encouraged. In view of the present economic circumstance of Nigeria, a census may not be ripe until 2020/2021. There is therefore sufficient time to plan for the next census.”
Explaining what he meant by carving the country into enumeration areas, Prof Funso Olorunfemi said: “What is generally done and indeed feasible is to divide Nigeria into small units that can be managed by canvassers during the census period. These canvassers are called enumerators while these small units are called enumeration areas. The basic thing therefore is to divide Nigeria into distinct and exclusive enumeration areas through the process of enumeration area demarcation (EAD) prior to, and far ahead of the census date. Thus, adequate funding and logistics must be provided and utilised judiciously ahead of the census, because this is an essential part of the activities before a census”
Speaking further, Prof Funso Olorunfemi said: “Once we have divided the country into these units, we must then train the canvassers or enumerators on what to do conscientiously on the census day(s). In this case, they must record all specified information on all people found within the allocated geographic space to be covered by the enumerator(s). In that case, it does not matter where is who? Or who is where? Technically, the identity of “who” is found “where” should be documented. ”
The university don who drew attention to the shortcomings of the last 2006 census as failing to capture true population of the country, stressed the need for proper training of officers and monitoring of their activities during the gathering of data. He gave other solution to ineffective conduct of NPC, thus: “Digital imageries should be acquired for EA demarcation. All EAs must be geo-referenced and edge matched to allow for storage in a Geographic Information System database.
“The advantage of this cannot be over-emphasised. One of which is the ability to store, retrieve and link to other attribute data within a national frame that can be used for future censuses. I learned that NPC may even require biometric data! To this, I have my reservations.”