THE Senate committee on population and Identity has said that the proposed plan for the next census to hold in 2018 is sacrosanct and should be prioritised by the government.
It said this is due to facts that data generated from the exercise would be needed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prepare for the 2019 elections.
The Chairman Senate Committee on population and identity, Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, stated this on Monday, when he led members of the committee to the National Population Commission NpopC headquarters in Abuja, on an oversight visit.
Earlier, the population commission Chairman, Chief Eze Duruiheoma in his remarks, expressed the commission’s readiness to provide a credible, accurate census data which would be used for planning.
He, however, noted that paucity of funds was a major challenges the Commission is being faced with, which he said, had led to the continued postponement of the census activity.
In his explanations, he said the total amount released from the 2016 appropriation budget of N4.4billion did not justify the proposal for the next census to hold in 2017, hence, the proposal for 2018.
While giving a breakdown of the total sum needed for the 2018 census, he said about N94billion was required for pre-census stage, N120billion for the census and over N8billion for the post census stage.
His words:” it will not be probably news to inform the distinguished Chairman and members of the Senate Committee that paucity of fund is a major challenge of the commission.
“This address will not be complete until I have drawn your attention to the intricate manner the chronic and persistent underfunding of the Commission has hindered the attainment of its noble objectives.
“Funding of census activities has become a period affair which virtually ceases after the conduct of the exercise.this has led to decay of structures and facilities for census taking and Commission has to start afresh whenever there is a census to be conducted.
“Much more importantly, it has prevented the Commission from deriving maximum benefits from census taking. The actual enumeration of the census is the planting season while the harvest is the post census period when the results are properly analysed and widely disseminate for planning purposes.”
The census activity was due in 2016 but for reasons one of which majors on paucity of funds, the exercise was postponed to 2017 and again shifted to 2018 for same reasons.
The Senate Committee Chairman, said that: “It is a shared opinion that 2018 is a critical year to hold that exercise because a year after that 2019 is an election year. I think for so many reasons, the two should not be contemplated to happen the same year. Infact, the data, information that INEC would require to plot its graph accurately in the exercise will certainly arise out of the exercise of the 2018 census.”
To this end, he said a motion has already been moved by the committee, urging the President, Muhammadu Buhari to make a proclamation.
His words: “To contemplate that this regime should have a wherewithal of holding a successful census in 2018 is we at this end, this committee and the Senate and the national assembly as a whole has already prepared its mind that is why early last week, we moved a motion calling on Mr.President to make a proclamation.
“Since the instrument has not been part of legislation, embedded in our constitution as to say after 10 years, there will be a census, we require a proclamation by Mr.President and the senate, I can assure you that the Senate committee on population is articulated ,resolved, prepared to apply itself on the possibility of this government to hold census by that 2018 as projected.
“We would do all we could, after the calling on Mr.President we are creating an interface with the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government which is the supervising front to this commission in government to draw the attention of government that if census is to hold 2018 there are unavoidable prerequisite arrangements that must be followed.”
He further explained that:”once adequate provision is made by the government, within the budget 2017, the window becomes validly opened to now approach other agencies within and outside the country to be part of the process, it is a serial arrange, if we miss part of it, it is likely to mar the possibility of that activity holding in 2018.”
Against the backdrop of inadequate funding, Senator Hunkuyi advised the NpopC to commercialise some of its services to generate revenue.
Citing instances of issuance of birth certificates to citizens for free, he said this should be given out at a stipulated fee.
He said:”Issuance of free birth certificate which is part of what the commission has listed as part of what it does and what it wants to do through the years. With or without recession, these services should be contemplated should be provided to citizens in my opinion at a fee.
“We cannot commercialize the activities of the commission completely but efforts of government as well, may not be taken for granted. From the review you have given, census should have held now in 2016, the main issue is funding.
” I think part of what this commission should look out for is part of commercialisation of data and information that could be created by the commission. There are so many sectors of the private and public part of the economy that see part of the data that you create in the commission as necessary part of tools required to be able to prosecute the business of the government, to be able to prosecute successfully even the private sector of the economy.
” In my own opinion, it is high time for your commission, your management to be able to start penciling out those areas where creation of those data will definitely cost money, surveys cost money, demography costs money, at the end of the day, the data definitely should cost money for you, for the commission to be able to provide at a fee to end users.
“Those data are prerequisites to what a lot of the performing sectors of the economy would require be it the public or private sector. One can talk endlessly on these issues but it is high time your commission pencil out those areas in collaboration with the second issue which we have raised ,the legislation that is required to bring into focus, prepare a better ground for the commission to be able to deliver its well articulated listed items on the list as prescribed.”