The history of census in Nigeria is all but summed up in the following excerpt: ‘Attempts to conduct a reliable post-independence census have been mired in controversy, and only one was officially accepted. The first attempt, in mid-1962, was cancelled after much controversy and allegations of over-counting in many areas. A second attempt in 1963,
The history of census in Nigeria is all but summed up in the following excerpt: ‘Attempts to conduct a reliable post-independence census have been mired in controversy, and only one was officially accepted. The first attempt, in mid-1962, was cancelled after much controversy and allegations of over-counting in many areas. A second attempt in 1963, which was officially accepted, also was encumbered with charges of inaccuracy and manipulation for regional and local political purposes. Indeed, the official 1963 figure of 55.6 million as total national population is inconsistent with the census of a decade earlier because it implies a virtually impossible annual growth rate of 5.8 per cent. After the civil war of 1967-70, an attempt was made to hold a census in 1973, but the results were cancelled in the face of repeated controversy. No subsequent nationwide census had been held as of 1990, although there have been various attempts to derive population estimates at a state or local level. Most official national population estimates are based on projections from the 1963 Census’.
One of the more remarkable experiences I have had in my engagement with public life in Nigeria was the attempt to help weed out the phenomenon of ghost workers from the payroll figures of state governments. An ICT entrepreneur friend had developed a programme that can eliminate the incidence of this entrenched institutional fraud in the public account system. So sure was he of his product that he sought no payment other than commission from the potential savings-resulting from the application of the fraud detector programme. Talk of a win-win situation for the government, wouldn’t you think? Yet each and every state governor I approached turned it down. Pray what inference can we draw from this encounter other than the state government has a vested interest in maintaining a status quo he knows to be fraudulent and amenable to his personal exploitation.
Contemplating a confrontation with the challenge of ghost workers padded wage bill, a more conscientious governor was warned on the potential consequences of this quest, including defeat at the last governorship elections. He needed no further persuasion to drop the hot potato menu. You, of course, remember the exploits of the ill-starred Abdulrasheed Maina of the Pension and Biometric task force fame, the cat who was charged with the responsibility of ensuring the welfare and well-being of a colony of rats. This behaviour, the propensity to play fast and loose with population figures, is generalisable across all the levels of public authorities in Nigeria from the local government to the federal government level.