The National Population Commission, Federal Commissioner representing Edo State, Dr Tony Aiyejina, on Wednesday, said the shift in the 2023 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, was the major reason why the NPC had to postpone the 2023 population census.
Dr Aiyejina, who disclosed this at an interactive media chat organised by the Commission in Benin, noted that while NPC shifted the date for the census to May, the coming of the rains put paid to the exercise in order to uphold the principle of simultaneity which guides census exercises world over.
He however, assured that whenever the exercise came up, it would not only be accurate, but it would be reliable and auditable, and mark a clear departure from the controversies that trailed the censuses of the past; maintaining that the introduction of the Personal Digital Assistant machines would eliminate all human errors of the past exercises.
While dispelling the insinuation in the public domain that the Commission had expended the sum of N800 billion before the exercise was postponed, he said contrary to that claim, “NPC had expended N200 billion out of the N800 billion budgeted for the exercise before it was postponed.”
He said, “The postponement of the election by INEC led to the shift of the census. However, with the rainy season, the census is no longer possible at this time.
“The censuses of the past were riddled with controversies. One thing about the 2023 census is that the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari did not attempt to teleguide the commission.
“We opted for digital census and we introduced the Personal Digital Assistant which is deliberately configured and can be tracked to monitor fieldwork.
“This is to ensure that the census will not only be accurate, but it will also be reliable and auditable. But because elections and census in Nigeria have a relationship, we intend to insulate the census from politics.
“We thought that a gap of two months or so after the election will suffice. But whatever happened in INEC affected NPC which had to adjust its timeline from March to May before we ran into a quagmire due to the rain, which made the postponement inevitable. It is not because we did anything wrong or something went wrong,” Aiyejina explained.
While reiterating the importance of the census, he noted that “census is for future planning and not for the present government. This is why it is important that everything is done to make the figure accurate so that the government can plan well. The government needs accurate statistics to plan with scientific certitude. Nigeria can catch up with the developed countries of the world if we provide accurate census figures for the government to plan.”
Aiyejina stressed that with an accurate census, the media could hold the government accountable, just as he allayed the fears that the PDAs could malfunction the way the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and urged Nigerians to be optimistic that the NPC would give the nation the best census ever.
He assured that the postponement notwithstanding, all the sensitive materials for the exercise were warehoused at the Benin branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria, while other materials had been distributed to all the 18 local government areas of the state, where the District Police Officers, had kept them save.
He, therefore, urged residents of the state to make themselves available anytime the Commission was ready for the exercise, saying “while the apathy in an election can be excused, that cannot be accommodated in a census”, counselling that there would be no need for residents to move to their hometowns during the exercise but should be counted wherever they resided.
At the session, senior members of staff of the Edo NPC such as Mr. Saturday Ekeoba, presented papers on “Cartographic Perspectives in Census Making; Mrs. Rita Aigbokhan on “Preparation for Census in Edo State; and Mrs. Adesuwa Aigbobayi on “Overview of Vital Registration in Edo State.”