He stated this on Thursday while speaking at the Religious Leaders Consultative Forum on Harnessing Demographic Dividend for Sustainable Development in Nigeria: The Role of Muslim Religious Leaders in Abuja.
Osinbajo stated that the relevant demographics showed the prospects and potential of a prosperous future for Nigeria if appropriate and timely actions were in place.
The VP noted that Nigeria’s population size was currently estimated at over 198 million, the largest in Africa. He, however, pointed out that no fewer than 63 per cent of the population was under the age of 25 years, 33 per cent between 10 years and 24 years, and 54.8 per cent of working age between 15 years and 64 years.
He said 51 per cent of the female population was in their reproductive ages-15 years to 49 years.
Osinbajo said: “Of course, the reverse side of Nigeria’s rich demographic potential is the much-talked-about ‘population time bomb,’ or as some would say demographic threats.
“Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has remained high over the last three decades and currently stand at 5.5 births per woman; modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPRm) is very low at 10 per cent with 16 per cent unmet need for Family Planning (FP).
“ Twenty-three percent of our adolescents (ages 15-19 years) have commenced childbearing and Child Marriage still persists at 18 percent.
“These figures vary across the North and the South, for example, TFR is lowest in the South West (4.5) and highest in the North East (6.3) and North West (6.7), respectively with Bauchi at 8.1 and Sokoto at 7.0.
“To avoid the time-bomb scenario, we must act with urgency to build an economy that can support that population, provide jobs and economic opportunity, education, and healthcare, hope and optimism.”
To that end, Osinbajo said achieving demographic dividend required sustainable multi-sectorial investments in health, education, young people, employment, women and girls, trade and industry, economic growth, and governance.
He therefore called on religious leaders to support government’s effort at job creation, providing economic opportunities, education, healthcare, hope and optimism.
He said they had specific roles to play toward influencing their followers to understand the importance of government programmes that aim at improving the health and economic status of the country.
On what the government has been doing to achieve demographic dividend, he said “the federal government has since 2015 begun to bring out large number of people out of poverty. It is investing in critical human development issues especially healthcare, education and employment.
“We have now employed directly under Npower programme 500,000 graduates and we are given micro credits to over two million petty traders in every state of Nigeria. We are also targeting our cash transfer to over 400,000 of the poorest Nigerian farmers.”
Speaking also, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said that available data indicated that working with religious leaders to improve maternal, new born and child health was an important cost effective and sustainable strategy for disseminating information on Maternal Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) across a large population.
He therefore reiterated the importance of religious leaders to persuade members of their communities and sects to change established negative behaviours and attitudes.
“The Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNFPA and other numerous partners is calling on all religious leaders to help in making the change that would translate into positive contribution to Nigeria’s economic development through investment in Youths and Young people that will fast track our harnessing the Demographic Dividend”. Adewole said.
In his remark, the UNFPA Regional Director West and Central Africa, Mr. Mabinggue Ngoma represented by Acting Country Reps, UNFPA, Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy described religious leaders as the most important personalities in the societies as they provide information, counseling, guidance to groups and individuals.
He said the information provided by religious leaders saved as moral frame work for the demand of social services, such as healthcare, education amongst others at both individual and family level.