Why Nigeria needs accurate digital census data

In this technologically driven 21st century, data is the cornerstone of cutting-edge solutions and innovations. For instance, Elon Musk, the billionaire tech entrepreneur and visionary behind SpaceX and Tesla, is renowned for his reliance on data-driven decision-making to tackle complex challenges. Musk’s ambitious goal of revolutionising space travel with SpaceX required meticulous analysis of vast amounts of data about rocket design, propulsion systems, and orbital mechanics. Musk’s commitment to leveraging data as a cornerstone of his problem-solving approach has not only propelled his companies to remarkable success but also inspired a new generation of innovators to embrace the power of data analytics in addressing the world’s most pressing issues.

But it is not just innovators who are drawn to the unending possibilities of data as an engine for driving solutions and solving complex problems. Pragmatic leaders too are making breathtaking headways using accurate and reliable data to fast-track development. Prominent among these leaders is President Bola Tinubu. Since assuming office in May 2023, Tinubu has demonstrated consistent  innovative ideas like the creation of the Ministry of Blue Economy. His renewed hope agenda and all the interventions by this administration so far indicate how prepared and well-informed Mr. President is about the challenges facing the country and what it’ll take to end them. Thus, the federal government is on the verge of creating a comprehensive Social Register.

With the ambitious renewed hope agenda of Mr. President, the need for a truly digital census based on the decennial (10 years interval) recommended by the United Nations on the conduct of population census cannot be overemphasised. Tinubu must therefore be guided by the fact that without accurate data, his plans for Nigeria will fail just like in the previous administrations. It is therefore imperative for Tinubu to prioritise making the proclamation that would lead to the actualisation of the long-awaited National Population and Housing Census without which the noble intentions and projects outlined in the Renewed Hope Agenda will fall. Mr. President must not forget that what he needs more than political will and resources is accurate data and a digital census is the only way to enable him actualise this noble feat.

An accurate census exercise is a prerequisite and driver of sustainable development especially in terms of human capital. Nigeria has not had any successful census in recent times as the majority of the census previously conducted were marred with irregularities and roundly rejected. Conducting a digital census will therefore provide accurate data needed for informed policy decisions in areas such as the location of hospitals, and schools, investment planning, provision of social amenities, employment generation, creation of states and local governments, and many others. With a youthful population concentrated in urban areas, an accurate census can  scale development in rural areas and arrest rural-urban migration with its attendant negative impact on agricultural development and food security. Of course, Mr. President is well informed about all these unending advantages of an accurate census and should not hesitate in making it a reality.

Without accurate data, market and monetary policies, security of lives and property, national insurance and social security, national demographic analysis, consumption patterns and other indicators necessary for development would be based on assumptions. On the other hand, accurate census data makes it possible for development to be measured and quantified. The inability to work with data has been the bane of previous administration and the result is why we have remained, an underdeveloped country.

Delivering Nigeria’s first digital census will be a gift to Nigerians who are anxious and have waited so long to know the country’s true population. It will also be a befitting tribute to successive managements of the National Population Commission (NPC) who have laboured over the years to make this exercise a success. The current management of NPC under the astute leadership of Alhaji Nasir Isa Kwarra deserves commendation for coordinating and setting up all the necessary machinery and technology needed for a credible census. Nigeria cannot afford to spend more money on servicing computers or updating software. A stitch in time saves mine.

Fidelis Semaka,

Makurdi, Benue state