The Akwa Ibom government has promised to provide the National Population Commission with the logistic support needed for the conduct of a successful national census exercise in the country.
Gov Udom Emmanuel, who gave the assurance while declaring open a five-day retreat for the commissioners and management staff of the commission in Uyo, said the gesture was imperative in view of the strong commitment and support of his administration in the ongoing Enumeration Area Demarcation exercise that has successfully been concluded in nine local government areas in the state.
Emmanuel, represented by his deputy, Mr Moses Ekpo, said his administration was passionate about the continuous registration of births and deaths in the state, assuring that as a government, logistics support would be extended to the commission to succeed in its core mandate.
He noted with delight the Federal Government's genuineness and commitment towards thorough generation of data for national planning for the benefit of the Nigerian public.
Emmanuel pledged his administration's readiness to partner the commission in the realization of a reliable, accurate and acceptable census figure that would assist in national planning and economic development.
He was optimistic that the collaboration would help effectively in the execution of the completion agenda of his administration, noting that it was by so doing, that expansive roadmap would be put in place to ensure sustainable development.
Emmanuel, who described as apt and timely the theme of the five-day retreat: Harnessing Demographic Data for Effective National Planning and Development, said he was optimistic that the resource persons would do justice to all the subjects billed for deliberations for the benefit of the participants.
He remarked that the retreat would provide a good platform for the participants to develop the capacity to mitigate and address the main cause of unrest and violence, particularly, in the area of employment and provision of basic social services in the country.
The acting chairman of the commission, Mrs Bimbola Salu-hundeyin, a lawyer, said the retreat offered the commission an opportunity outside their usual setting to update themselves, and in addition, do a stock-taking as well as self-assessment of the performance of the organization in the pursuit of their statutory mandate and strategize for better delivery of their mandate with a view to ensuring that they positively impact on Nigerians in the discharge of their constitutional mandate.
She reiterated the commitment of the commission to continuous gathering, generation, dissemination, management and analysis of demographic data essentially for planning, formulation, monitoring and evaluation of government policies in the country.
Salu-Hundeyin explained that NPC was statutorily empowered by the Nigerian Constitution to conduct censuses, surveys and generate demographic data.
"This is carried out through continuous birth and death registration, registration of vital statistics and the conduct of various specialized demographic surveys, such as the recently conducted Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) Verbal Autopsy and Social Autopsy Studies (VASA), the ongoing Nigeria Education Data Survey (NEDS) and the Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) which is data taken at disaggregated level for national frame and the architectural foundation of census,â€ the NPC boss said..
She maintained that the NPC by the end of the phase of EAD would have completed the demarcation of 228 local government areas out of 774 local government areas in Nigeria, adding that, very soon, the national policy on population (NPP) for sustainable development would be approved for implementation by every tiers of the government from the local government areas, states to the federal.
Salu-Hundeyin noted that the ultimate aim of the NPP was to give better life to every Nigerian when implemented, thanking all the tiers of government in the federation as well as communities for the cooperation they have been giving to their field functionaries as they traverse all the exercise nooks and crannies of the country for birth registration, various surveys and demarcation activities for the next census. She sued for more support and continued cooperation of the government and Nigerians, saying such was the key to national development.
The federal commissioner for Akwa Ibom, Chief Benedict Ukpong, said his commission would always count on the support of the Akwa Ibom government in ensuring the smooth implementation of their programmes in the state.
Ukpong said the retreat was unique in so many ways, one of which is that it has offered the commission the rare opportunity to connect with the past chairmen of the commission as well as former federal commissioners and past director generals, with a view to sharing in their wealth of experience on population and development matters.
Prominent among the former helmsmen of the commission is the incumbent deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, Mr Moses Ekpo.
Ukpong lauded the state governor for tremendous support they have enjoyed from the Akwa Ibom government in the execution of the commission's activities and programmes in the state.
In a paper entitled: Perspectives on Acceptability of a National Census by Professor Rhoda Mundi of Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Abuja, stated that population censuses were primary sources of the basic population data required for planning of many public policies and programmes (educational, health, manpower, and housing) and administration.
The data, he said, "Are also used for the allocation of parliamentary seats, resources, measurement of the progress made in attaining the goals of a population policy and for assessing the trends in the standards of living of the population.â€
Mundi maintained that for these reasons, population censuses have almost always ended in controversies, allegations and counter allegations of population falsification, accusation of bias, widespread suspicion and outright rejection of the census results.
"It is regrettable that Nigeria's peculiar political and economic history has made it impossible to arrive at an acceptable population census by all stakeholders,â€ she said, adding that the key issues to address include: inadequate planning for the census, shortage of qualified personnel/experts in the conduct of the census, placing too much emphasis on the use of population figures for allocation of resources.
"Strengthening the systems for the registration of vital events and introduction of population tax would dampen the interest in census result falsification and chart a path to an acceptable census. The use of biometric census is a viable option,â€ she added.