By Francis Odupute Snr – A critical look at the’ story above lends a lot of credence to what experts have been saving about the need for policy formulation and planning with accurate demographic data in Nigeria. There is no gain saying that human population remains a major factor in every part of our socio economic and political life as a people.
As Nigerians, we pride ourselves in our demographic strength as the most populous black nation on the earth. But conversely, this strength seems to be a metaphor for many of our weaknesses. The apparent ignorance, apathy and lack of interest and or attention by many of our leaders to, the role actual population figures play in our collective efforts to build a better Nigeria through responsive and responsible governance and good followership is telling so much in the attitude of the general public. People do business without proper planning (that is if “proper planning” entails the knowledge and proper understanding of accurate population figures in your target market. etc).
Water shortage as well as access to safe water is a daily issue that threatens the health and living standards of our teeming population of about 144 million. Coupled with other environmental and social development problems in our society, water supply has become an emergency in many parts of the country, especially in the rural areas. This is because the demand of the ever-increasing population overwhelms the supply of water.
It is a universal fact that population growth is intricately intertwined with such critical issues as water shortage, climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution, etc. thus, globally, strong and responsive governments continue to rethink their population policies and take very concrete and proactive steps to mitigating the negative effects of rapid population growth. In Nigeria, the 2004 national Policy on Population for sustainable Development is a fine policy document that is yet to be implemented fully to produce tangible results.
On June 4, 2009, a statement by the chairman, National Population Commission, Chief Samu’ila Danko Makama, when submitting the 2006 census priority tables to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, revealed that “the 2006 census data processing and tabulation is possibly the biggest statistical and administrative exercise undertaken on the continent of Africa and the 8th in the world”. It revealed some key findings from the 2006 census to include that annual population growth rate is high at 3.18% and due to 50% of the woman being in age group 15-49, the reproductive age groups, the effects of population momentum will be felt in the coming years and will result in high population growth, that 16 million households use firewood as main cooking fuel and another 7.9 million use kerosene, and that about 10 million households access the water for domestic use from wells and another 5.6 million from rivers/streams.
The question remains: how are Nigerians and Nigerian governments at various levels responding to the population emergency and its impacts on governance, provision of social amenities, and distribution of resources to mention just a few? Definitely not by caring less, as the honourable lawmaker in the above story demonstrated.
Studies have proven that the reasons why many public projects don’t last in Nigeria include too many hands using too few resources and facilities lack of maintenance culture and the compromising of standard for selfish monetary gains. According to Mr. John C. Nwaogazi, State Director of the National Population Commission (NPC), Edo State, “with the NDHS of 2008 the ratio is now 5.6%, which is almost 6 children per woman. It then means that if a woman has high fertility rate, she’s likely to produce more than 6. But be that as it may, if we don’t have information about how many children are produced per woman, you will discover that the dependency ratio will continue to soar”.
The NPC boss believes that presently there are too many young people depending on few hands who are working. He argued, “So, that means that there will be pressure on very many infrastructures in the country. Be it water. if you are providing water for a population you don’t know, definitely if the population is very large in that area where you are supposed to site many pumps to serve a higher population you site only one, by the time you come after two weeks it will break down because the demand will be too high. So we need this population information, data, to plan successfully for anything we are doing. Is it in the market’? We need the figures. Is it in the parks? We need the figures. There are so many things that are done without figures; and as far as planning is concerned, anytime we plan without proper data, we arc bound to fail, whether in the local government, state, or at federal level”.
Now, you may want to ask me, what kind of leadership is be or she providing who pays interest in population figures “only when it comes to do with how many they want to share money”? While Nigeria suffers increasing poverty, acute water shortage and scarcity of many other natural resources and social amenities, courtesy of weak leadership and overpopulation, if a lawmaker, for instance, is ignorant or unconcerned about the actual population of his immediate constituency, how can he deliver the dividends of democracy?