The Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Nasir Kwarra, announced that President Bola Tinubu will select a new date for the national population and housing census. Mr. Kwarra made this statement during a press briefing following a meeting between the commission and the president on Thursday.
The census was initially postponed indefinitely due to the previous general elections that took place in March and April. According to Mr. Kwarra, the commission has now presented its report to President Tinubu, who will review it and make a decision regarding the timing of the census.
“We briefed him fully on the level of our preparedness, the outcomes that we envisage, and I’ll like to say that Mr. President has graciously approved to support the commission in the conduct of census and our preparatory activities, though we’re not stuck at all, he has given us the courage and the impetus to upscale our preparation.
“So we’ll continue our preparations, and we’ll hear from him eventually, the date that the census will take place because we’ve made a submission to him that he will study before getting back to us. But as for the assurance of support, he has given that to us, and we thank him immensely for also realizing the importance of data for the purpose of national planning and development,” he said.
On fears expressed by the NPC commissioner in Ekiti State that all the money released to the commission (N100 billion out of N200 billion) may go to waste if the exercise does not hold as soon as possible, Mr. Kwarra said: “Yes, it’s true that we may have to incur additional expenses if we stay much longer than necessary. But in this situation, we have given the president a full brief, including the implication if there’s further delay in the conduct of the census. So, we are very mindful, and Mr. President is very amenable to be able to entertain our requests.”
On whether the commission will be making more requests since the time had elapsed, he said, “As for the expenditure of N200 billion, no doubt, we have incurred that expenditure. Conducting a digital census is not cheap, and mind you; this is like a foundational census.
“Subsequent censuses will not be this expensive because we’ve established a frame that we can only be updating. And going forward with improvement in ICT, we will employ more methodologies that will save money for us.
“What we are doing now is Computer-Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI), that is visiting every household in the country to enumerate. When there is improvement in telecommunication, we are hoping we can do telephony; we can do the web, where we can throw in questionnaires, and people will respond without having to deploy personnel into the field.
“That is looking into the next census beyond this one that we are planning to conduct. And this expenditure, like I had said before, it starts from 2014 to where we are now; we’re still going to seek more money, we will be able to complete the census, and once this census is conducted, Nigeria will change completely.
“The completion of the census and the resources that we have acquired in the process of conducting the census will more than pay back that N200 billion that you are talking about, and the government will even have some surpluses in the coffers by the time we finish conducting the census.”
When questioned about the nature of the funds as an investment, considering that the commission is not a profit-generating organization, Mr. Kwarra explained, “The funds are considered an investment because, during the census preparation, we acquire geospatial data that can generate revenue for the government. It goes beyond merely scanning data; the geospatial data holds the potential to generate income.”