Evaluation of Nigeria Fictional Population Figure


Today, nobody knows the actual population of Nigeria. Population enumeration in the country is always a contentious issue. The traditional  decennial national census is not at all regularly conducted in the country. According to the National Population Commission (NPC), the projected population of Nigeria is 182m, as at 2017. But at Google.com it is stated as 186m as at 2016. Google.com own figure is what the international community always pounce upon. The irregular census in Nigeria, inaccuracy of the figure if it is conducted and the non-acceptability by some section of the country do not help matters as to the actual population of the country.


During national census, each area to its best ability always want to be seen with the largest segmental population figure over the others, even if this means inflating the figure. The two main reasons for the desire for inflated population figure are that population of each area is a significant factor in the criteria for allocation of Federal Revenue. The Government of the day can use inflated population figure to register fictitious voters to rigging elections. The stronger an area is represented at the Federal Government level the likelihood the area will get larger and inflated population figure. It is not the enumerators that visit each house to collect data who are fraudulent. But those who collate and authorise the final figure are those that are dishonest and who manipulate the collected data to bring about fictional population figure.


The last Nigeria national census was conducted in 2006. The accuracy of the total figure of 140m was generally disputed because of the noticeable flaw in the system. Even Mr Odimegwu, the subsequent Chairman of NPC after the census, quarried the accuracy of the census and asked for a fresh national enumeration. Thereafter, he was removed from the position. The inaccurate figure of 140m has being the basis for yearly projection since 2006. The decennial national census was due to be conducted in 2016. It did not take place. Why? The All Progressive Congress, (APC) Federal Government’s leader, President Buhari, comes from the North. This is the area where population figure is most heavily inflated and the most beneficiary of fictional population figure in the country.


Although many reasons have been adduced for not conducting national census in 2016, the actual reasons are; President Buhari does not want to be seen bringing about fictitious or inflating population figure as the previous Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Government on one hand. On the other hand, he does not want to expose his part of the country, the North, by conducting what would be an accurate national census. This would contradict all along inflated figure claimed by his North and reduce the area share of Federal revenue. Hence the reluctance of President Buhari to conduct the national census that was due in 2016. The term of his Government will end on 28 May 2019. From now, it is all about election. You cannot be conducting national census simultaneously with a general election. With this, nobody knows when the next national census will be conducted in Nigeria.


The question on the actual population of the country is not on the projected figure of 182m by NPC or 186m by Google.com per se, at an average annual rate of between 3.2% and 2.5% net increase from 2006 – 2016 but on the originating figure of 140m in the 2006 census. The PDP Government at the time gave Nigeria fictional population figure. The published census’ total figure from the 2006 enumeration, State by State, was 139,001,760. Normally, this figure should have been rounded up to the nearest one thousand to 139,002,000 or even stated as 139m. But rounding it up to the nearest one million to 140m when the difference was almost one million less was additionally deceptive.


The rounding up is not withstanding the fact that the figure of many of the States were already inflated. These were mostly in the States that were controlled by the PDP. They were majority in the country. In 2006, if the collected data were honestly collated, it would have been far less than 139,001,760. Otherwise the projected figure as at today would have been far less than 182m or 186m. Within ten years, 2006 – 2017, how could Nigeria population increase by 42m or 46m? That was 4.2m or 4.6m per annual. The inaccurate census of 2006 was the crystallisation of the fraudulent practices of the PDP Government from 1999 – 2007, which brought about the fictional population figure, which since form the basis for projection?      


Looking at an abridged history of Nigeria population census from the last Colonial census of 1953, according to the then Federal Census Office in Lagos; Nigeria population was 31m. The population census conducted in 1963 by the first post-independence Federal Government, which was led by a northerner, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was 56m. There was a very high increase in population by 25m (81%). The accuracy of the census and result were generally contested. The case was pursued up to the Supreme Court. But the apex Court declined jurisdiction on the matter. Then the figure of 56m stood and formed the basis for future uses.


As there was no acceptable national census since 1963, the figure of 56m hence formed the basis for projection at 2% net increase.  As at 1983 the projection was 81m. Ibrahim Babangida, (IBB) who was the military head of state 1985 – 1993 conducted population census in 1991. The result was 88m number of people in Nigeria. The different between this and the projected figure from 1983 was 7m (88 – 81).  This was .9m annual increase in the 8 years from 1983 – 1991. IBB’s 88m was close to reality of the actual number of people in Nigeria. The census was not acceptable. This was mostly by the North which the near accurate and true population figure did not favour.


Ignoring the unaccepted IBB’s census of 88m in 1991; the projected population figure, based on 56m, from 1963 – 2005, was 124m at the time Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) concluded his census in December 2005. The result was declared in March 2006 after three months. Hence it was called 2006 census. Remember that the originating figure of 56m from 1963 was itself inflated otherwise the projected figure would have been less than 124m. OBJ gave the country a population figure of 140m. If IBB got 88m in 1991. How could there be an increase in population by 52m (59.09%) within 14 years (1991 – 2005)? The North was happy to accept OBJ’s census because the inflated figure was generally in the area’s favour. OBJ’s 140m fictional figure has today in projection culminated in 182m, as at 2017 says NPC or 186m, as at 2016 by Google.com.   


National census is a continuous process. Each year to the decennial census; population figure can be updated mainly from Birth Register, Death Register and Migration Register. It is the duty of the Federal and Local Governments to keeping these records. But in our country, Nigeria, where these records are virtually non-existent you cannot accurately update population figure. Then what can NPC be doing each year to decennial national census? Each year, we are, therefore, simply left at the mercy of speculative projections. In the advanced countries where these necessary records are adequately kept, conducting the decennial population census is a formality, as up to date and accurate records already exist.


But, in the absence of current census and acceptable population figure, we can determine Nigeria population at any given time with a tiny margin of error. The necessary data to compute such can be obtained from related records which are external to the three traditional registers of Birth, Death and Migration. Although other indirect records exist but the register of voters is the most acceptable record to determine population figure in the absence of census, reliable census and the three traditional registers of Birth, Death and Migration.  Provided the register of voters is itself accurate. In the meantime, we have no choice but to accept what is officially thrown at us and then make noises around it later.


As at 5th February 2011 NPC told the country that the ratio of adult/minor in the country was 5/5 and 3.2% annual net increase in population. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) simply took this on board. The Commission told us that it had registered 74m voters as at 5th February 2011. We should remember that the census for the figure of 140m ended on 31 December 2005. This was five years to 5th February 2011. If the said net growth rate at 3.2% is applied, then on 31 December 2010, the projected population of the country would have been 164m.  If the ratio of 5/5 is accepted, then INEC would have registered 82m eligible voters. But INEC told us that it had registered 74m voters. This means as at 5thFebruary 2011 there was 148m people in the country, on the assumption there was 100% registration of eligible voters. The difference between 164m and 148m is 16m. Here who should be believed? Are we to believe the projection of 2006’s 140m that produced 164m or the 5/5 ratio on 74m voters that produced 148m? These are some of the unanswered questions of our all along fictional population figures.  We could not have left out 8m (82-74) people unregistered. If not, our population as at 5th February 2011 would have been 156m (148 +8).    


A voters’ register is a good guide to the actual population of a country only if the register is accurate. Here the true ratio of adult/minor can be correctly determined. I do not agree with NPC and INEC ratio of 5/5 of adult/minor in the country.  Today, NPC website says more than half of Nigeria population is under 30year-old. This does not equate the assertion since 2011 that the ratio of adult/minor in the country is 5/5. Those in the country who are from the age of 18 to 30year–old cannot be taken as part of the minors in the 2011 5/5 assumption. Moreover, majority of those in this group are yet to having their own children. They could not have swelled up the minor population in the country. The current NPC website, in effect, is telling us that the adult/minor 5/5 ratio stated in 2011 was indeed misleading. We should ignore the statement.


On the assumption that the ratio of adult/minor (minors = -1yr – 17yr) in NPC under 30year-old in the country is 1/3, then we are close to reality of the actual ratio of adult/minor in the country. In the advanced countries adult/minor ratio is generally 8/2. In our country, Nigeria, the acceptable ratio of adult/minor is 7/3. It is definitely not 6/4 let alone 5/5.  Therefore, in the absence of national census; our adult/minor ratio in the country can correctly be stated as 7/3.


In a recent INEC statement published by Vanguard, on 22nd October 2017, Thisday, on 31st October 2017 and Guardian’s editorial on the issue, on 1st November 2017; the number of voters registered in the country was 73.2m, as at date. Out of this 8m Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) are yet to be collected by their owners. In 2011, under PDP Government, INEC said it registered 74m voters and in 2017, under APC Government, INEC is now saying that it has 73.2m people on its register of voters and 8m of these PVC are yet to be collected. The uncollected 8m card could be the PDP Governments fraudulent registration of ghost voters which are yet to be cleared from the register. Why should 8m people register to vote and do not want to collect their PVC?  


It was from these uncollected voters’ cards that spread across the country the PDP Governments most rigged elections. Looking at the number of alleged registered voters in each State, actual turnout during each election, the huge margin of votes that are always between the winner and the nearest candidate, you can see the actual source of ghost voters. Take the recent Anambra State Governorship election, on 18th November 2017 into consideration. The total registered voters in the State was 2,064,134. During the election, the accredited voters was 457,311. The number that actually voted was 448,771. Out of the accredited voters, 8,540 did not vote. Were these from ghost voters that were smuggled into the accreditation? The turnout was only 22% of total registered voters in the State. How could 78% of voters not have bothered to vote? If time factor is generally responsible for the voters’ low turnout; the Government should allow more time for voting. This could be between 8am to 8pm. A voter would come, get accreditation, vote straightaway and leave the venue. Voters could here choose their time within this period to vote rather than waiting, crushing in queue within the limited time and may not be able to vote.


However, on the assumption the 8m represent the fraudulently registered ghost voters from the PDP Governments era from which they rigged elections, then actual number of people that registered to vote is 65.2m (73.2 – 8). On the other hand, if not all the 8m uncollected cards are ghost voters, in the meantime, let us put actual registered voters as 70m as at date. If these PVC have not been collected after about two months’ notice, it means nobody own them, they should be deleted from the register and the cards incinerated to avoid anyone using them from the hand of INEC to rig election. The incineration would mark the end of the era of the fraudulent, fictitious and misleading voters’ registration of the PDP Governments from 1999 – 2015.


As at today: on the assumption that INEC has registered 100% of eligible voters in the country and with adult/minor ratio of 7/3 of the population; if we:

    • use INEC voters’ registration of 70m; our population will be 100m.
    • use 65.2m (excluding the 8m uncollected PVC); our population will be 93m.
    • take INEC at its face value of 73.2m; our population will be 105m.
    • apply the unlikely adult/minor ratio of 6/4 on 73.2m; our population will be 122m.
  • apply the unthinkable of adult/minor ratio of 5/5 on 73.2m; our population will be 147m.

As there is no national census; on the assumption that some people who are eligible to vote have not come forward to register or INEC has not been able to register them; let us here take 20% as a margin of error. In all of the computations above; taken the INEC reported 73.2m registered voters as the norm, with a margin of error of plus 20%; our population will be 126m as at today.


But on the assumption;

    • that 30% of the population have not come forward to register for vote and taken 30% as a margin of error; we will have a population of 137m.
  • that 40% of the population have not come forward to register for vote and taken 40% as a margin of error, which is unlikely; we will have a population of 147m.

Even with a 30% or 40% margin of error postulate, we are not at all near the projected 182m by NPC or 186m by Google.com. Voter registration in the country at this stage could not be below 80% of the population that are eligible to vote, otherwise what is INEC doing?   


If an honest national census is conducted today in the country, our population will not be more than 126m with a margin of error of 4m plus or minus (130m or 122m). In today age of computer facilities; record keeping, voters’ registration and conduct of nation census should be smooth, efficient, timely and with accuracy. Who shall conduct the first accurate and acceptable national census in post-independence Nigeria since 1st October 1960?


By Alfred Aisedionlen – London, UK.       


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