The National Population Commission plans to meet with the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, even before his inauguration to discuss possible new dates for the population and housing census.
This follows the announcement on Saturday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had approved the indefinite postponement of the census earlier slated for May 3 to 7, 2023.
The minister said the incoming administration would now determine the new date.
Sunday PUNCH gathered from a top official of the NPC on Saturday that the commission’s top hierarchy would be meeting with Tinubu in the coming days to brief him on the postponement, gauge his reaction and possibly a feedback from him on when the census would now hold.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to one of our correspondents, said, “We don’t have anything else to say other than what the Minister of Information and Culture said in his statement. That is the position of the Federal Government.
“The only thing I can add to that is that the commission will engage the incoming President even before his inauguration on May 29. Just like we have been having engagements with the outgoing administration, we will meet with His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on the new date for the census to gauge his feeling and know the direction in which he wants to go, but we are not in a position to suggest a date to him.”
The announcement of the postponement of the headcount followed a meeting with some Federal Executive Council members by the Chairman of the NPC, Nasir Kwarra, and his team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday.
Mohammed said, “In arriving at the decision to postpone the census, the meeting reiterated the critical need for the conduct of a population and housing census 17 years after the last census, to collect up-to-date data that will drive the developmental goals of the country and improve the living standard of the Nigerian people.”
The minister quoted the President as noting that with the completion of the Enumeration Area Demarcation of the country, the conduct of first and second pre-tests, the recruitment and training of ad hoc workers, procurement of Personal Digital Assistants and ICT infrastructures, appreciable progress had been made in the implementation of the 2023 Population and Housing Census.
He also commended the methodology being put in place by the commission to conduct an accurate and reliable census, especially the deployment of technology capable of delivering world-class census and laying a sustainable basis for future censuses.
Buhari directed the NPC to continue preparing for the census to sustain the gains already recorded and provide anoperational base for the incoming administration.
Friday’s meeting was attended by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; Mohammed; Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba; and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha.
The census was initially scheduled for 2022 but was shifted to March this year, but because of the general election, it was postponed to May.
At a meeting with members of the diplomatic corps on April 27 in Abuja, Kwarra disclosed that the commission had yet to procure all the devices required for the census.
“For the country, we require up to 800,000 PADs, so far, we have procured about 500,000. The remaining are coming in a few days’ time,” he had stated.
Kwarra said the NPC was still expecting donations from the organised private sector and other key stakeholders.
On April 12, the commission announced the postponement of the local government level training of supervisors and enumerators scheduled to commence the following day due to “emerging issues.”
It said in a statement, “The commission wishes to inform the general public that the LGA-level training of supervisors and enumerators scheduled to commence tomorrow, April 13, 2023 has been postponed due to some emerging issues. The new date will be communicated to the public in due course.
“We assure Nigerians that the commission remains committed to conduct a credible and acceptable 2023 Population and Housing Census and that all preparations are in top gear.”
The training had not been conducted by the NPC until the announcement postponing the census was made on Saturday.
Agba had disclosed in March that a total of N869bn was needed for the census, adding that the government had committed N291.5bn to it with the need for an additional N327.2bn.
The minister had stated, “The total requirement for the census (including post-census activities) is N869bn ($1.88bn): census requirement – N626bn ($1.36bn), which is about $6 per capita (just slightly above the threshold of up to $5 per capita); post-census (up to 2025) is N243bn ($527m).
“So far, the government has committed N291.5bn ($632m) to the census, making it 46 per cent of the total funding for the census. An additional (immediate) sum of N327.2bn ($709.9m) is required to complete the census.”
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the president-elect, Dele Alake, declined to comment on the issue, saying Tinubu’s opinion should not be sought over a decision taken by an incumbent President.
Alake said Tinubu should be allowed to decide his own policies when eventually inaugurated.
He said, “Has President Buhari left the government? A sitting President took a decision and you want the president-elect to speak on it. Why? Let this man be inaugurated first before you people push him into things that are not his priorities now.
“There are so many political issues that shouldn’t be the concern of an incoming President.”
We’re ready – NPC
When contacted on the reasons for the postponement, the Director, Public Affairs, NPC, Dr Isiaka Yahaya, said, “The postponement was not a product of our own lack of preparedness. Of course you may say that maybe because we didn’t carry out the LGA training, we were not prepared; this is not so.
This decision (to postpone) wasn’t a sudden one; it was a product of a series of developments. So you can say the seed of postponement was laid by the LGA training and then the idea of yesterday was a correlation of that process.