By Magnus Effiong
The National Population Commission (NPC) has insisted that the benefits of conducting the postponed population and housing census far outweigh its cost since government would use census data for economic planning, security and every facet of national life and that data from the exercise could also generate substantial funds to coffers of government
The Federal Commissioner representing Cross River State on the board of the NPC, Navy Capt Charles Ogwa, who said this during a breakfast meeting with media executives in Calabar, believed that the President Bola Tinubu-led administration would ensure the exercise sees the light of day in the shortest possible time.
He explained that 80 percent preparatory activities had been completed nationwide with about one million workforce recruited for the exercise and that the Commission was just waiting for the federal government to blow the whistle for the exercise to commence.
“Apart from the government using census data for economic planning, data from the digital census could generate substantial funds for the government. International bodies, corporate organizations, for instance, depend on census data to know where to channel assistance.
“The national security agencies also use census data for security purposes because every EA is geo-referenced with coordinates. Census data could be used for massive research so the benefits are enormous and outweigh the cost of conducting it,” he stated.
The retired Navy officer explained that “The Commission decided that instead of making preparation for only 2023 census, we should make preparation for future censuses so that the country would not be spending much money in conducting the census.
“That was why the Commission decided on the first ever digital census in the country and demarcated every nook and crannies with high level satellite imaging, geo-referenced all the EA with coordinates given to them. The systems and processes have been tested, pre-test and trial census conducted.
“We have recruited and trained our workforce including data quality managers, monitors, evaluators, administrators and managers. They are on stand-by. The outstanding training is for enumerators and supervisors.
“That is why we have a national framework, which means that anytime future governments decide to conduct a census, it would just be an update of what we would have done in 2023.
“The immediate past government, in its wisdom, postponed the population and housing census so that it would come up after the elections matter would have been completed. The second reason was that since the in-coming government will be the major user of data generated from the exercise, it would be better for it to have a serious input so as to own up the census.
“The postponement also gives the Commission an opportunity to fine-tune its operational strategies, processes and systems. Demographic data is for development and economic planning. It helps the government to make decisions that concern the population.”
Asked on implications of postponing the census for too long, the Commissioner said “census is just like executing a war, it is an operation. You have trained people to carry it out and once it is not carried out at that defined time, it would cost more money again to retrain them.
“The immediate past president had commended NPC for the preparation so far and charged the Commission to continue so that the Commission would not start afresh when the exercise is to kick off.
“The NPC has met with the President Bola Tinubu and he has given his support, saying he will study the revised strategic papers we submitted, take a date and make a proclamation. This means the postponement would not remain in the pipeline for too long.”