According to Dr. Tony Aiyejina, the Federal Commissioner representing Edo State in the National Population Commission (NPC), the primary cause for the delay in the 2023 population census was rescheduling the general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
During an interactive media chat organized by the Commission in Benin, Dr. Aiyejina stated that the NPC had shifted the census date to May. However, the arrival of the rainy season prevented the exercise from taking place to maintain the principle of conducting simultaneous censuses worldwide.
Dr. Aiyejina emphasized that when the census eventually takes place, it will be accurate but also reliable and auditable. It will mark a clear departure from the controversies surrounding past censuses. He further explained that introducing Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) devices would eliminate any errors in previous exercises due to human factors.
Addressing speculations that the Commission had already spent N800 billion before the postponement, he clarified that only N200 billion had been expended from the allocated budget.
“The election postponement by INEC necessitated the rescheduling of the census. However, due to the current rainy season, conducting the census is no longer feasible,” he stated.
Dr. Aiyejina also highlighted the issues surrounding previous censuses, noting that the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, had not attempted to influence the Commission. The NPC opted for a digital census and introduced PDAs specifically configured and traceable to monitor fieldwork.
The aim is to ensure that the upcoming census is accurate but also reliable and auditable. However, a gap of approximately two months after the elections was initially planned to separate the census from political influences. Unfortunately, the events at INEC disrupted the NPC’s timeline, leading to the postponement due to the onset of the rainy season. Dr. Aiyejina stressed that no wrongdoing had occurred.
Underlining the significance of the census, he emphasized that it is crucial for future planning rather than solely for the present government. Accurate figures are essential for effective government planning and enable Nigeria to catch up with developed countries. Dr. Aiyejina affirmed that accurate census data would empower the media to hold the government accountable.
Regarding concerns about potential malfunctions with the PDAs, similar to issues faced with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, he expressed optimism that the NPC would deliver the best census ever and assured that all sensitive materials for the exercise were securely stored at the Benin branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Dr. Aiyejina urged state residents to be available when the Commission is ready for the census, stating that while apathy in elections can be understood, it cannot be tolerated in a census. He advised residents not to relocate to their hometowns during the exercise but to ensure they are counted wherever they reside.
During the session, senior staff members of the Edo NPC presented papers on topics such as “Cartographic Perspectives in Census Making,” “Preparation for Census in Edo State,” and “Overview of Vital Registration in Edo State,” respectively.