Nigeria should stop playing politics with census ―Atiku

Former Vice-president and All Progressives Congress, (APC) chieftain, Atiku Abubakar has declared that an accurate census figure, devoid of meddlesomeness of the federal government would help the nation achieve its desire to diversify its economy.

Speaking at the weekend in Lagos while accepting the ‘Hero of Nigeria Democracy Award’ conferred on him by Hall of Grace Magazine, the former Vice-president admonished government to crave for an accurate population data, as he noted that it would stimulate diverse economic activities and move the economy away from its mono-cultural status.

He said: “We need to diversify our economy away from the dependence on oil. We need to create opportunities for our people to engage in diverse economic activities which governments will then tax for revenues. But we can’t do that efficiently and effectively without accurate data. I have in the past called for an end to the self-defeating politics we play with census in the country.”

“With all the data gathering and analytic tools in existence in the 21st century we have no good reason not to have accurate data on our people, down to the smallest unit, the individual.”

“Without data we cannot plan properly and all of us will lose, including those who try to inflate their population figures and those who want to suppress those of others. Political decentralization will also help to deepen and strengthen our democracy as it will encourage more accountability. Citizens are more likely to demand accountability when governments spend their tax money rather than rent collected from an impersonal source.”

Atiku further noted that  reliance  on revenue derived principally from crude oil earnings, has created grave distortion in managing public revenue, eroded accountability while ultimately,  facilitating corruption.

“I believe that if we continue to rely on revenues from oil derived from mainly from three states of the federation, we will be unable to build an economy that works and will be unable to provide the education, security, and employment that our people desire and deserve. And we will be unable to adequately tackle the corruption and lack of accountability, which the dependence on oil facilitates.”

“The fight over the sharing of oil revenues has also been a huge distraction from what we need to be doing to diversify our economy and secure our economic future.”

“That dependence on oil revenues is also a major reason for the fractured and fractious relationship among our various regional, ethnic and religious groups. It has also created a perverse incentive system where rewards do not necessarily go to those who work hard. And the perverse incentive system as well as the mistrust arising from the fractured relationship among our diverse groups, has created entrenched interests, thereby making reform difficult.”

The former vice-president demanded for reforms of the country anti-corruption agencies, to insulate its funding from the control of the presidency.

“We also need to reform the anti-corruption agencies to help depoliticize them and make them really independent.  This will help to strengthen the fight against corruption, which is critical in renewing our people’s belief in the integrity of public institutions and public officials. Such a reform will require changes to how the agencies are funded, how their heads are appointed and who they report to.”

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