The exercise conducted every 10 years, was first slated for 2016 but was later postponed to 2017. It was again cancelled and shifted to 2018.
The last exercise was last held in 2006, with many salient features like religion and tribe discarded, a situation that prompted the current Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Chief Eze Duruiheoma (SAN), promising that such features would be included in the next census.
Also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had earlier warned the federal government and NPC not to go ahead with the planned 2018 National Census given that the exercise will be opened to political manipulation ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja ahead of the commencement of the fourth phase of Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) exercise, Duruiheoma explained: “I don’t know when this 2018 census date came from but definitely not from this commission.
“But I can give you a little background to it. The original date for census was 2016 but in 2015, when the new government came on seat.
“It would have been unfair to present such an agenda to an incoming administration that was yet to settle down. So tentatively, we suggested 2017 but gave some kind of rider to it, that if it was to take place in 2017,
“We should look at the things we need to do and their cost implications. In other words, if we had the funds that time, 2017 would have been a reality. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
He said: “Now, we adjusted the programme and started hinting about 2018 if certain things were put in place. So that is the history of 2018,we never said there would be census in 2018.
“But by the way, let me converse first with INEC. They can present the timetable, look at what we intend to do and government could say no, that date is not okay. So ours is to present the timetable or advise.
“Census is not only a NPC’s affair, there are so many other agencies of government that are involved in census. So all of them must act as a body in order to actualize it.
“So setting date is not entirely a NPC’s affair. So 2018 was never a date chosen by us. But whatever time the census will be held, preparation must start in towards it. It is not something that if let’s assume it’s 2018,then we wait for that time and take a table to one corner and start counting people, it’s not done that way.
“The preparations must be there, we must put in place the proper preparations. So whenever we decide to hold it, whether in the next 30 years, preparations must start.
“That’s why we are doing the Enumeration Area Demarcation now. And the EAD we are doing now is second to none. This is to prepare us adequately for census at whatever time we decide to do that.
“We have not received presidential proclamation but it’s not late, it can still be secured,” the chairman added.
On allegations that some state governors were manipulating the EAD exercise, Duruiheoma stated that “it’s the first time I’m hearing this. What we are doing is a scientific thing. The EAD exercise is scientifically done and the good thing about scientific exercise is that it’s verifiable.
“We are not starved of funds, what we are experiencing is as a result of the precarious economic situation in the country. We cannot on our own go to the money market or financial markets to look for funds, we don’t have the power to do that but the donor agencies can come. But they cannot just come on this own, they must get the green light from government.
“One of the reasons why we were very passionate in asking for proclamation that time was that that was the green light the donor agencies needed. If they heard that this country is about to do census, of course, they will show interest. They will come with those funds. They can’t on this own act without government and that is the draw back, the handicap we suffer.
Concerning security challenges in the North East, he observed that “there’s is a saying that when we get to the bride, we will cross it. For now, we are talking about the EAD and when we get to that point, we will assess the situation and if we will have an opportunity like this to share with newsmen our experience.”
He also stated that this phase of the EAD will cover 13 states across the six geopolitical zones of the country, adding that “so far 74 local governments have been enumerated which will bring the total number to 87 LGAs and hope to cover the remaining 687 soon.
“The fourth phase of the EAD will take place in 13 LGAs in 12 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. At the end of the EAD phase 4, the commission would have successfully demarcated 87 LGAs and the remaining 687 LGAs will be covered under the subsequent phases.
“4400 centres for registration of births and deaths. This centres are manned by ad-hoc staff who are graduates and are paid 20,000 monthly,” Duruiheoma stressed.