Groups from the Southern and Middle Belt of Nigeria have called on President Muhammadu Buhari for suspending the National Census planned for 2023 amid persistent crises in the country.
The groups said some Nigerian villages are under the control of bandits and terrorists while some citizens have been displaced. They said the displacement is a threat to accurate census figures.
This was according to the open letter to Buhari signed by Prof Anthony Ejiofor, World Igbo Congress; Prince Adedokun Ademiluyi, Yoruba One Voice Worldwide; Annkio Briggs, Niger Delta Self Determination Movement (NDSDM) and Austin Okeke Esq, Igbo Board of Deputies.
Others are Inalegwu John Inalegwu, Mayor of Kwararafa Kingdom; Fr Emeka Nwachukwu, Ekwenche Organization; Ene Orgah Esq, Public Interest Lawyer and Chief Malcolm Omirhobo Esq, Public Interest Lawyer.
It was titled ‘Dangerous and Dysfunctional Timing of the Planned 2023 National Population Census in Nigeria’ and dated August 26, 2022.
It read, “Like all patriotic stakeholders, we agree on the critical need for a well-timed, positively-motivated and rigorously-conducted national population census
“However, we have grave reservations and concerns about the timing of the planned National Census in 2023 “census” as follows:
“The occupation of many parts of the country by terrorists and self-identified Jihadists; apart from the States of the North East, Kaduna State and Niger State are other States whose many local governments are effectively under the control and governance of the terrorists and Jihadists, while many forests in almost all States of the Southern and Middle Belt of Nigeria are occupied by these displace-and-replace invaders.
“The fear and indications that under the recent National Identification Number (NIN) exercise, non-Nigerians were issued with the NIN; thus, pre-toxifying the census outcome.
“The current state of flux, crisis, fear and uncertainty of the Nigerian population in that there are massive displacements and whole communities are living in improvised refugee camps scattered around the country, which are not easily accessible to the census personnel.
“The contra common-sense in conducting a National Census during the period of General Elections; the juxtaposition increases the chances of igniting social combustion in a society already tensed up with security, political, social and economic failures.
“That the census would be executed between the Presidential and other elections and the swearing-in of the new government in 2023, compromises, at least the perception if not the reality, of the integrity of the census, as it introduces a dangerous and avoidable interdependence and correlation between the two delicate national exercises.
“Why would the outgoing government conduct the Census at the last quarter of its 8-year tenure, only to jam it with the elections for a new administration?
“In any case, there is no doubt that each of the two exercises, the General Elections – including the election of the President of the Country – and the National Census deserves the full and undivided attention of the country and can ill afford divided attention.
“It is understood that for inexplicable reasons, Biometric Technology will not be utilized for the proposed Census 2023. This is absurd, to say the least, in that the very best practice in the world would prevent manipulations and fraud was ignored in such an archaic manner by the National Population Commission.
“This is a drawback and an effort to foist lies on Nigerians in the age of Digital Technology that is now applied in all spheres of human life and endeavours, including the elections before the proposed Census.
“Because the challenges outlined above, which have grave implications for the survival, unity, and progress of the country have largely been unaddressed or unresolved, it would be absurd and even capable of generating suspicion of deliberate mischief, for the Federal Government to pretend that it can carry out a credible national population census under the intensely fragile condition of the polity. Rather than serve the national interest, such an exercise would be dysfunctional.
“We, therefore, strongly advise the Federal Government to quickly do an orderly suspension of the National Census planned for 2023, in such a way that the exercise can be reactivated at an appropriate later time.
“We also request all patriotic stakeholders and citizens to lend voice to this call for a reasoned adjustment in the National Census plan, and for all to support the Government to implement the critically-needed adjustment.
“Nigeria must be RESTRUCTURED very urgently. It should be restructuring FIRST: before anything else.
“Ethnic Nationalities and or clusters thereof voluntarily composed ought to be the basis of the restructuring to Regions, with focus on viability and sustainability. Each Region, so composed and constituted by the consent of the peoples of the designated territory (confirmed vide plebiscite) must have their Constitutions separately designed to suit their aspirations as distinct peoples respectively.
“The regions are to solely handle their respective issues of territorial governance independent of the Federal Government, an aspect of which would include but not limited to census data, amongst others
“Fundamentally, we are of the view and believe it to be true that Census belongs to the RESIDUAL LIST OF FUNCTIONS of a truly Federal Nigeria.”