Nigeria’s 84m Registered Voters Render Her Population Figure Inaccurate


Today, nobody knows the actual population of Nigeria. The traditional decennial national census is not at all regularly conducted in the country. When it is conducted, it is always a contentious issue. According to the National Population Commission (NPC), the projected population of Nigeria as at today is 198m. The irregular population census in the country, 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 scramble to have the largest segmental population figure over the others, even if this means inflating the figure. The two main reasons for the desire to inflate population figure are that the population figure of each area is the significant factor among the criteria for allocation of Federal revenue. The Government of the day can use inflated population figure to register fictitious voters to rig an election. The stronger an area is represented at the Federal Government level the likelihood the area will get 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 the people that 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 process. Even Mr Festus Odimegwu, the appointed subsequent Chairman of NPC after the census, quarried the accuracy of the census. He asked for a fresh national population census to be conducted. Thereafter, he was removed from the position. The inaccurate figure of 140m has being the base for yearly projection of Nigeria population since 2006. The next decennial national census ought to have been conducted in 2016. President Buhari failed to conduct the population census.

Although many reasons are being adduced for not conducting the national census in 2016, the actual reasons are; President Buhari did not want to be seen bringing about inflated population figure as President Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Federal Government of 1999 – 2007. On the other hand, President Buhari came from the far North of the country. This is the area where population figure is most heavily inflated and the most beneficiary from the fictional figure in the country. He did not want to expose his part of the country, the far North (North-West and North-East geo-political zones) by conducting what apparently would have been an accurate national census, which could have contradicted all the along inflated figure being claimed by his far North and to reducing the area’s share of Federal revenue that is always based on population of an area. 

The question on the actual population figure of the country is not on the projected figure of 198m by NPC per se, at annual net growth rate of 3.2% from 2006 – 2018, but on the accuracy of the originating base figure of 140m from 2006 census. The then President Obasanjo and his PDP Federal Government gave Nigeria a false and deceptive 140m population figure. The total false census figure of 140m was made up frominflated figures from mainly the State Government areas that were then controlled by the PDP. They were the majority in the country. In 2006, if the collected data were honestly collated, the population figure would have been far less than 140m. The projected population figure as at today would have been far less than the acclaimed 198m. Within twelve years, 2006 – 2018, how Nigeria population could have increased by 58m? That was 4.8m per annual. The inaccurate census of 2006 was the crystallisation of the fraudulent practices of then PDP Federal Government from 1999 – 2007.

Looking at an abridged history of Nigeria population census from the last Colonial census of 1953, the population of the country was 31m. This was according to the then Federal Census Office in Lagos. The first post-independence Federal Government population census was conducted in 1963. The population figure was 56m. Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a northerner, was then the head of the Federal Government. The population increased by 25m (81%). The accuracy of the census and the resulting figure were generally protested. The matter was taken to Court and the case went up to the Supreme Court. But the apex Court declined jurisdiction on the case. Then the figure of 56m stood.

As there was no acceptable national census since 1963, the figure of 56m hence formed the base for projection at 2% net growth rate.  As at 1983 the projection was 81m. Ibrahim Babangida, (IBB) who was the Military head of state in 1985 – 1993 conducted population census in 1991. The result was 88m. The difference between this and the projected figure from 1983 was 7m (88 – 81).  This was 0.9m annual increase in each of 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 accepted by the far North which the near accurate population figure did not favour in higher population than the rest of the country.

Ignoring the unaccepted IBB’s census figure of 88m in 1991; the projected population figure, based on 56m, from 1963 – 2005, was 124m at the time President Obasanjo 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. Again, in 2006, President Obasanjo gave the country an inflated population figure of 140m. If IBB Military Government got 88m in 1991. How could there be an increase in population by 52m (59.09%) within 14 years (1991 – 2005)? The far North was happy to accept President Obasanjo’s census figure because the inflated figure was generally in their favour.

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 each year to decennial national census, the country is simply left to the mercy of speculative population projections. In the advanced countries where these 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, Nigeria can determine the figure of her 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 reliable record in which to determine population figure in the absence of census and the three traditional registers of Birth, Death and Migration, provided the register of voters is itself accurate. In the meantime, Nigerians and rest of the world have no choice but to accept what is officially been thrown at them in projected population figure, which is far from been accurate.

As at 5th February 2011 NPC told the country that the ratio of adult/minor (minor = 17-yr-old and under) in the country was 5-5 and 3.2% annual net growth rate in population. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) simply took this on board. The Electoral Commission told the country 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% was applied, then on 31 December 2010, the projected population of the country would have been 164m.

If the ratio of 5-5 was accepted, then INEC would have registered 82m eligible voters at the time. But INEC already said it had registered 74m voters. This means as at 5thFebruary 2011 there was 148m people in the country. But this was 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 eligible voters that produced 148m? These are some of the unanswered questions of Nigeria all along fictional population figures. But up to 8m (82-74) eligible voters could not have been left out unregistered. If not, Nigeria projected population as at 5th February 2011 would have been 156m (148 +8).    

In the absence of a national population census and the registers of Birth, Death and Migration; an accurate voters’ register is a good guide to actual population of a country. Here the true ratio of adult/minor can be correctly determined, as I do not agree with NPC and INEC ratio of 5-5 of adult/minor in the country.  NPC website says more than half of Nigeria population is under 30-year-old. Youths do not equate minors. Therefore, NPC and INEC assertion does not equate the ratio of adult/minor of 5-5 in the country. Those in the country who are from the age of 18 to 30-year–old cannot be taken as part of the minors who are 17-year-old and under. 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. In effect, NPC website was invariably telling us that the adult/minor 5-5 ratio it claimed in 2011 was indeed misleading. In the advanced countries adult/minor ratio is generally 8-2. In our country, Nigeria, the acceptable ratio of adult/minor should reasonably be 7-3. It is definitely not 6-4 let alone 5-5. Therefore, in the absence of national census; adult/minor ratio in the country can reasonably be estimated as 7-3.

On 7th January 2019, INEC said the number of registered voters in the country was 84m. Out of this about 8m Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) are yet to be collected by their owners. But on 21 February 2019 INEC said the total
registered voters was 84m (84,004,084) and the uncollected PVC stands at 11m (11,228,582). If the Presidential and National Assembly election that was scheduled for 16 February 2019 had taken place this means the actual number of 11m uncollected and floating PVC would not have been known.

In 2011, under PDP Government, INEC said it registered 74m voters and in 2017, under APC Government, INEC said that it has 73.2m people on its register of voters and 8m of these are yet to collect their PVC. The uncollected 8m PVC (which is at present 11m) are always constant even from PDP Government days. Could this now 11m be the fraudulently registered ghost and underage voters, which are never cleared from the register nor the related PVC collected? Why should 11m people bothered to register to vote and do not want to collect their PVC?  Is it from the uncollectable PVC that spread across the country elections are generally rigged? The average turnout at the general elections since 2003 was 56%. The turnout in 2015 in particular was 43.65%.  Looking at the number of alleged registered voters in each State Government area, actual and low turnout during each election, the huge margin of votes that are always between the winner and the nearest candidate; the uncollected PVC could be the actual source of ghost voters that are used to rigging election in the country.

For example, taken the 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 were 457,311 from which 448,771 actually voted. 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 was generally responsible for the voters’ low turnout; the Government should allow more time for voting. This could be between 8am to 8pm. A voter could come, get accreditation, vote straightaway and leave the venue. Voters could here choose their own time within this period to vote rather than after accreditation wait or go away for the accreditation process to be completed and then come back to queue up to vote and may not bother to come back to vote.

However, on the assumption the uncollectable 11m PVC represent the fraudulently registered ghost and underage voters even from the PDP Governments era from which they rigged elections, then actual number of people that registered to vote at present are 73m (84 – 11). If these floating 11m PVC have not been collected after a determinable time, it means nobody own them, they should be destroyed and deleted from the register of voters before any general election. This would make the floating PVC unavailable for any election rigging.

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 84m; Nigeria population will stand at 120m (84 x 100/70 = 120).

  • use 73m (excluding the 11m uncollectable PVC); the population will be 104m.
  • apply the unlikely adult/minor ratio of 6-4 on 84m; the population will stand at 140m.
  • apply the unthinkable adult/minor ratio of 5-5 on 84m; the population will be 169m.

As there is no national census; on the assumption that some people who are eligible to vote and have not come forward to register or INEC has not been able to register them; taken 10% as a margin of error. In all of the computations above; using INEC reported 84m registered voters as the norm, the ratio of adult/minor of 7-3 and a margin of error of 10%; Nigeria population will be 132m (120 + 10%) as at today. But on the assumption that;

  • 20% of the population have not come forward to register for vote and taken 20% as a margin of error; there will be a population of 144m,
  • 30% of the population have not come forward to register for vote and taken 30% as a margin of error, which is unlikely; there will be a population of 156m.

Even with a 20% or 30% margin of error postulate, we are not at all near the projected 198m by NPC. At this stage, after 20years of continued democracy, 20% or more of the population which are eligible to vote could not have been disenfranchised otherwise what was INEC doing? If an honest national census is conducted today in the country, Nigeria population will not be more than 130m. In today age of new technology and computer facilities; record keeping, voters’ registration and conduct of nation census should be smooth, efficient, timely and with accuracy. Which Federal Government shall conduct the first accurate and acceptable national population census in post-independence Nigeria since 1st October 1960?

Alfred Aisedionlen

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