What is the Exact Figure of the Nigerian Population?

Controversy over Nigeria’s census figures is nothing new. Accusations that the official Nigerian population figures had been rigged date back to the 1950s and have continued unabated under military and civilian regimes. In the run up to independence in 1960, the British authorities were accused of skewing census figures to favor the interests of northern political elite. After independence, the same accusations were made about the seriously flawed 1963 census. The next official Nigerian population count, conducted in 1973, was no better. It was officially annulled and no figures were published. After that there was nothing until 1991 when a census was conducted and just as quickly discredited and annulled.
Nigerian census - Nigerian populationSometime in 2006, the Nigerian population had reached just over 140 million. Former president of Nigeria’s senate, David Mark, publicly complained that the Nigerian population count was not credible. “Every time we talk about statistics in this country we don’t appear to have the accurate figure” he said. Two days later, Festus Odimegwu, the former head of the National Population Commission (NPC) which conducts the Nigerian population census gave an interview to the media in which he said that no census in Nigeria’s history has been valid and that trying to count Nigerians was impossible. He claimed that was why he resigned the previous year after 20 frustrating months (although the presidency insisted he was sacked). So what are the problems?
Officials responsible for conducting the Nigerian population census claim the problems are – in part at least, a mixture of the practical and the cultural. Firstly, there is the problem of difficult terrain: large areas are difficult to reach because of poor roads or, in the case of the Niger Delta region, the watery landscape. There are also cultural sensitivities. There is a concept of Ba Shiga in the northern part of the country which forbids entry, particularly a male guest from entering the house. That means that enumerators must accept potentially erroneous numbers given to them by the male head of the household. However, Nigeria is not the only nation where counting is difficult. Countries all over the world have huge practical problems with census counts.
The bigger problems in determining the Nigerian population are politics and money, the real cause of controversy in Nigeria has always been the influence of politics and money. Today, knowledge of the Nigerian population size helps determine the share of revenues given out by the central government to the different states, meaning both federal and state authorities have a major financial interest in the census numbers.
Nigerian tribes - Nigerian populationThe 2006 census had found Kano to be the most populous state, with almost 9.4 million inhabitants, followed by Lagos, with just over 9 million. Exasperated by the results of the 2006 Nigerian population census and ignoring the fact that, under the constitution, only the Federal Government is permitted to conduct the Nigerian population count, the government of Lagos State conducted its own survey the same year. It concluded that the population of the state then was 17.5 million, almost twice the nine million proposed by the 2006 headcount.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to give a firmly reliable estimate for the Nigerian population. The 2006 census cited that the Nigerian population was around 140 million. The most commonly cited figures today are from the World Bank, and they are extrapolated from that headcount. It reports that 168 million people were living in Nigeria in 2012, which on the basis of 3% growth rates would suggest the Nigerian population was around 178 million in 2014. But because the census figures are so unreliable, neither senior Nigerian politicians such as Senate President David Mark nor the former head of the organization that ran that census, Festus Odimegwu, are willing to declare confidence in the last census.
Nigerian population density - Nigerian populationCalculations put the Nigerian population at 110.1 million in 2000, compared to a UN estimate for that year of 123.7 million. An estimate of the Nigerian population in 2006 was just over 134 million – below the 140 million reported in the census.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply