Accurate data or another charade?
We are heading into another census sixteen years after the last. But there is no excitement or pronounced public discussion it. The buildup is not carrying the people along. Neither the population commission nor the National Orientation Agency is mobilizing the populate for the crucial and critical national exercise.
The previous census results are shrouded in many controversies and tainted as it affects accuracy and spatial data. A situation that has led to several claims and counterclaims of omission and commission based on bogus assumptions borne out of either outright ignorance or deliberate mischiefs.
The need for acceptable demographics data based on credible census exercise is pertinent in our national public space is long overdue. The availability of technological tools for data capture, biometric identification and post-capture analytics and evaluation presents us an opportunity for the full definitive census.
It is time we know how many we are (citizen, migrants and visitor); who lives where (residence); who is from where (origin/indigene); what are the number of people in different professions; what are our religious leanings; how many houses are there; how many schools are there the people at various levels; what are the health facilities available viz a viz there holding capacities; our sex and age distribution among other details.
There are arguments against a collection of some of the data sets listed on the ground of the need for integration. The truth is that accurate data will aid planning, guide allocations of resources and infrastructure as well as expose the spurious claims and bogus assumptions around our demographics.
Having accurate data and interrogating the data will sure put paid to wide delusions some very age-long placed around our population figures and demographics. A number of commentators and leaders of thought make pronouncements that suggest ignorance or wholesome mischief equating total population to population density and hence assert conclusions such as Nigeria is the only nation where you find more people going from the coast to the desert. These statements are based on the total population of states without considering landmass and production/commercial activities in each state.
The 2006 census irrespective of the total population, when ranked by population density indicates only Kano State in the top 10 from the north while the bottom 16 states are northern including all of North East and North Central. All the South East States are in the top 10 by population density as well. Lagos is clearly ahead of all other states in terms of population density. Still, on Population Density, the North East has the lowest regional average of 69 persons per square Kilometer and the South East the highest at 558 persons per square kilometre. This figure clearly negates the popular notion of our census is wrong because it claims the North is more than the south. Clearly larger states can have more people than smaller ones despite the residents being dispersed.
A definitive census will put the nation on a clear pedestal for planning, organizing, reorientation and integration. When we have clear pictures of who is where and we have, it will become easier for the various entity in the nation to negotiate based on truth and not distorted facts and agree on the basis and pattern of living together going forward.
The current demographic data is not trusted, perceived as defective and thus using it as a basis for resource sharing and appointments is a clear disservice to all. It is time to pursue technology-driven population census and demographic data capture which will be true, transparent and acceptable to all.