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Census 2006

Bill seeking special status for Lagos, others may kill census in Nigeria– Expert warns

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Though the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the second reading of a Bill seeking to grant special economic status to states with over 10 million inhabitants, a leading political economist, Dr. Emma Gomwak has called for caution.

In an exclusive interview with Business Hilights, he said “Special care should be taken by the lawmakers to avoid creating a scenario that will encourage some states to do everything possible to collude with census officials to import figures to up their population in order to join states that are enjoying the special status”.

He said “Before such bills will be entertained by the national Assembly, the federal government need to first of all conduct a credible census that can capture all Nigerians and non Nigerians resident in every state”.

“Today, it will very hard to know the official population of Lagos State as the census result conducted by the National Population Commission (NPC) in 2006 which placed Lagos at nine million was immediately rejected by the Lagos State government under the administration of former Governor Bola Tinubu.

“I recall that Governor Yinubu hurriedly conducted another census and awarded about 17 million population to the state and since then, the state claimed to be working with that population figure while the federal government continue to see Lagos State as within the population of nine million till date.

“So now, if the new law says states with a population of 1o million and above, believe me, in the next census, more than 10 states will either by commission or omission, get up to 10 million mark and there will be no basis for any form of argument.

Gomwak recalled that “It is a known fact that several states have a way of calling back their citizens outside their communities to return home to be counted in their home states in order to artificially grow their states’ population and such practice will destroy the key target of the Bill if passed into law”.

“If the Bill sails through, bet me, the way and manner politicians buy or conjure votes during elections will be the same way governors will conjure figures to hit 10 million in order to enjoy the largesse of special status to be provided by the Bill.

Whereas the NPC has given indications that it will conduct another census next year, it would be recalled that the trending Bill, sponsored by Rep. Babajimi Benson (APC-Lagos) and three others, seeks to alter Sections 80 (1) and 162 (1) of the Principal Act in the 1999 Constitution.

Presenting the bill during plenary, Benson said that there was need to give deserving states the needed support to develop critical infrastructure to cater for their rising population.

According to him, any state with special economic consideration, by this bill, shall be granted 20 per cent of all proceeds accruing to the Federal Government from the state.

He said, “This is essential to mitigate the pressures of urbanisation, overcrowding and decaying infrastructure thus, reviving the economic potential of such states to contribute significantly to economic prosperity of Nigeria.

“The premise of the bill is the designation of any state within the threshold of 10 million inhabitants as a megacity by the United Nations.

“This bill will position Nigeria as a proactive country ready to address the urban challenges of overpopulation, poverty, infrastructure decay and environmental degradation.”

He emphasised the need to consider states such as Anambra for special economic status, in view of it having the biggest river port city located in Onitsha.

He added that Kano should be considered for such status to economically regenerate the textile, apparel and footwear industry that played dominant role in the manufacturing sector.

He said, “Despite the revenue and ambience Lagos contributes to Nigeria, poverty and social exclusion remain the major challenges because of the decay in infrastructure, occasioned by over population.

“The good that can be done in this regard is to compassionate all the states serving as melting points of our nation’s heterogeneous nature.”

The Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, therefore, referred the bill to the Special ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review for further legislative action.


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