Friday, 12 January 2007

Gauging the Nigerian 2006 Census

Counting the incredible

The Nigerian blog boards have been rife with disputing about the validity of the 2006 census as many are derisively rejecting the returns as both a waste of money and a fantasy of figures.

Two points really stick out on this matter of numbers, the fact that Kano State, in the North has more people “counted” than the state of the commercial capital of Nigeria, Lagos and that there are many more men than women in the country.

None of this really seems all that strange when one really examines the numbers returned and the circumstances around the conduct of the census last year.

First, we need to understand the changing demography of Nigeria, there was a time when Ibadan in Western Nigeria was the largest city in Africa in the 1950s, and the city gave up that title to Cairo in the 1960s.

See the figures

As it happens, the whole of Kano State came to 9,383,682 whilst Lagos State counted 9,013,354 a difference of 370,148 coming to just about 0.041% [1] - this has become the subject of interesting debate.

However, when you look at the zoning of the South West of Nigeria which includes Lagos the total population comes to 27,581,992 which is 8,204,952 less than the North West with 35,786,944, where each respective state numbers more than the corresponding state in the South West, alluding to the generally accepted view that the North of Nigeria has always had more people than the South.

What to do with a holiday

When the census took place proper, the whole country was given a week off [2], however, no special restrictions were placed on movement except for 2 days – the 24th and 25th of March 2006 having been on holiday since the 21st of March – many could have gone off since Friday the 17th of March to return on Sunday the 26th of March without being subject to the restriction.

This meant people in highly populated conurbations could have availed themselves of the opportunity to travel to their villages and one can say the greater mobility would be in the South than in the North.

This can seriously skew the numbers since non-indigenes probably make up the majority of the residents of Lagos State.

There might be other reasons why the fertility rate and population demographic presents a higher figure in the North than in the South; however, exploring those ideas can be too subjective for appropriate discourse.

Sex Ratios

The issue of there being more males than female is not particularly strange either, sex ratios which is a major area of study indicates that globally there are really more males than females, the natural sex ratio at conception is estimated at 1.05 males/female [3] and this falls as it evens out in adulthood and then to more females at over the age of 65.

Then view the extremes, like Qatar with 1.87 males/female and Sierra Leone has 0.96 males/female, the People’s Republic of China with a population of 1,315,844,000 (2006 Estimate) [4] has a sex ratio of 1.13 males/female, so why should Nigeria with just over a tenth of that population be so radically different having a sex ratio of 1.02 males/female?

The outcry

The only way to determine a census is to count the people, there is no doubt that logistics in the matter of the Nigerian census were very poor, my mother informed me that people on her street had to pay to be enumerated, one can only wonder about the less enterprising ones who did not get counted because they did not participate in the “Nigerian Way” of getting things done.

Census issues have always sparked controversy, usually between the North and South and this time is not different as politicians pluck figures out of the air to corroborate unverifiable statements – people believe there are 15 million people in Lagos but no one has assuredly counted 15 million people on location in Lagos [5] – this pandering to ethnic dominance by numerical strength does not serve Nigeria well and it would appear we have not grown out of this cancer of tribal ascendancy.

The count

I remember one Saturday morning in 1973 when an enumerator visited our well-appointed bungalow in Rayfield, a suburb of Jos in the then Benue-Plateau State, the young man was invited into the house where he asked my parents a number of questions, we had our thumbs inked as our household included our housemaid and a gardener.

When I got to school on Monday we were all showing off our black thumbs as one of the counted, that was the only census I have ever attended, since then, our family was grown, that is a blessing.

It is strange that we expect a higher number from the South when it appears what some news organ calls Biafran separatists refused to be counted [6], there is no telling how many were not counted out of omission and others who refused to be counted, all that gets reflected in the final results.

Need for objectivity

It is easy to get carried away on the emotion of the occasion as we seek kinship for a perceived injustice and gather in the mass hysteria of castigating a process that did cost a lot of money.

Sadly, this census would not reflect in the realignment of the federal constituencies for the 2007 elections [7], but it is of concern if only 40 million are registered to vote if almost 80 million are over the age of 15, 18 being the voting age.

The projections and figures are almost in agreement and the debate is in the superficial detail of who has the most and where.

For now, it is the best census we have, if it should change, then we need to get our logistics right, educate the enumerators and understand the greater service to our fatherland to ensure we are counted fairly and without corrupt duress – before that, Kano State has more than Lagos State and sorry, you cannot have more than one wife, there are not enough to go round.

References

[1] Demographics of Nigeria

[2] Nigeria shuts down for key census

[3] Sex ratio

[4] List of countries by population

[5] Rejections greet census result

[6] Nigeria’s population tops 140 million

[7] Census: INEC Uses Current Constituencies for April Polls

CIA – The World Factbook – Nigeria

The Nigerian Census – a review in April 2006

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