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Buhari Backtracks, Pushes 2023 Population Census to Incoming Administration

After much confusion and incoherence the Buhari administration finally announced the indefinite postponement of the earlier proposed national population and housing census which was scheduled to hold next week from the 3rd to 7th May, 2023.

This announcement was made after a meeting between the President, some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the National Population Commission Chairman Isa Kwara and his management team on Friday. It will be recalled that the exercise was originally fixed for March 27 but had to be shifted due to its closeness to the general elections as well as the ill-preparedness of the Commission.

There had been confusing signals as to the viability of the May date when the Population Commission began to take certain steps and make some pronouncements.

For instance it recently suspended the training of the ad-hoc staff who are a very important part of the enumeration exercise. Also the Commission’s Chairman recently hinted that the expected funds from donors had not yet been received while also adding that out of the 800,000 Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) needed for the exercise, only 500,000 had been procured. This translates to a huge gap of about 38 percent of very critical infrastructure required for the exercise.

The announcement has aroused mixed feelings and reactions as some school of thought welcomed it saying that indeed it is too critical a project to be held hurriedly considering that this administration has about 30 days left to remain in office and it might be shoddily executed if it goes ahead with it.

Some analysts had even, before now, criticized the move saying that the whole idea of fixing the census for this year was a bad call ab initio considering that the outgoing Buhari administration had only 5 months, that is, up to May 29 to manage the general elections and its usual overhang in terms of legal fireworks, protests etc as well as transition and handover to a new administration wondering how it intended to add a national census into the mix.

Some other sections of the society believe that it is long overdue considering that the last census was conducted 17 years ago. They hold that the Buhari administration should have followed through adding that national census is a critical tool for planning which by global best practices ought to be held every 10 years.

Meanwhile, in a statement confirming the development released Saturday, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, stated thus: “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 President noted that with the completion of the Enumeration Area Demarcation of the country, conduct of first and second pre-tests, the recruitment and training of ad hoc workers, procurement of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and ICT infrastructures, appreciable progress has been made in the implementation of the 2023 Population and Housing Census,” Lai Mohammed continued.

“He also commended the methodology being put in place by the Commission to conduct accurate and reliable Census, especially the massive deployment of technology that is capable of delivering world class Census and laying a sustainable basis for future censuses.”

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