POPULATION COMMISSION REVEALS WHY IT HASN’T CONDUCTED CENSUS, SPEAKS ON 70BIL UNPAID RENTS

*No substantive head to push case for enumeration exercise

*Owes over N70 billion in unpaid rents

Johnson Ayantunji

Indications that Nigerians will have to wait for a little longer before another census is conducted have emerged with zero allocation for the enumeration exercise in the approved 2020 Budget, Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

A senior official of the National Population Commission (NCP), who confided in the weekly, also said that enumeration is the last thing on the minds of the big guns of the Commission, as Acting Chairman Ms. Bimbola Salu Hundeyin is concerned with how she would be confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the Commission.

Besides, the body language of the President, Muhammadu Buhari does not suggest that action would be taken any time soon.

“The Acting Chairman is concerned with how she would be confirmed as the Chairman. Usually a person acts for a minimum of three months and a maximum of six – she has spent 10 months. And as we are all aware there is very little an official who is in acting capacity can do.

“Besides, there are many people especially politicians who also have their eyes on the seat and are pushing for their candidates to be appointed,” the source said.

Also, the Sunday Telegraph source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, equally said that lack of funds to conduct the Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD), basic foundation of population census is also not helping matters.

“The paucity of funds is hampering the work of the Commission. There is no money to employ ad hoc staff who would be trained in two or three months and they would be ready to do the EAD which is the basic foundation of population enumeration.

“It is supposed to be carried out in every hamlet, every village, every local government, every household and the entire nation. We cannot do that because there is no money.

“What the Commission has resorted to is to divide the nation into geo – political zones for the staff to take the local governments for EAD. For instance in Lagos they were able to do only nine local government areas out of the 20 before they went on Christmas and New Year break.”

Talking about the paucity of funds, the weekly learnt that the NPC submitted a proposal of N100 billion for 2020. Most of the money is to be spent to offset the accumulated rent debts which are in arrears.

This much the Acting Chairman alluded to when she appeared before the Senate during the budget defence in October last year.

She confirmed that the commission was indebted to over N70million for unpaid rents in different parts of the country.

She said the office in Abuja owed a rent of N12 million for the last two years.

“We owe not only in Abuja. We owe over N70 million on rents and we don’t know where to get that from. We’ll be glad for intervention from this chamber,” she said.

Ms Hundeyin also said the NPC currently occupies 14 buildings across the country. She lamented how the lack of adequate funding has made it difficult to complete its six-storey edifice in Abuja.

“It’s either the Commission doesn’t have money to build when we have land or we don’t have land. We have a six-storey building that can accommodate everyone in Abuja which is 70 per cent completed but abandoned,” she said.

Our source said there is a process to be followed before a census could be conducted.

“It is spread along four-year tenure. There’s pre-census activities, that is the preparation; the actual census proper itself and the post-census enumeration activities.

“So maybe you are looking at an average of maybe N40 billion in the first year, another N100 billion during the actual census itself and then the balance during the last year.

“But the beauty again is that not all the resources are normally provided by the government of the federation.

“The international community does come in and supporters like EU, USAID will come in after the President might have had a meeting of the National Council of State where a date would be agreed on and the President would make a proclamation that the census would be conducted on a date. It is fate that the international supporters would come in with their own support. This is in a ratio of 51:49 per cent.

“The 51 per cent is provided by the Federal Government while the 49 per cent is provided by the international donor community.

“Therefore, it is something that once government makes a proclamation, it means that the country is ready and the international community will come and support the government.

“For the next enumeration which is already four years behind the 10-year cycle, the Commission is considering biometrics. This would be done during the census. That is why the budget keeps going up from the ones submitted in the past,” he explained.

The importance of having a census cannot be overemphasised as determining the correct size of the population will allow for proper planning by government in providing infrastructure and over social amenities for the citizens.

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