Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has advised against conduct of population census before the 2019 general election, warning that if the exercise was allowed to go on in 2018, it might become vulnerable to manipulation for political reasons..
He is suggesting that the exercise should take place after the 2019 general elections when there would be no political pressure to manipulate its outcome.
Noting that conducting a population census in an election year may generate unrealistic results, Dogara advised that the next administration should conduct the census at the beginning of its tenure when there isn’t so much at stake.
A statement signed by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Turaki Hassan, quoted the Speaker as saying he was just offering a selfless advice.
He said, “I won’t advise anyone to conduct national census in 2018. I said it before that if we are not going to achieve it in 2017, then we should just forget it until after 2019. If you conduct census at the niche of elections, there will be so much pressure, crisis and the lure for people to manipulate the figures for political reasons, such that the agency cannot even cope with.
“So, it is better for a fresh administration to conduct this exercise from the beginning of that administration when we do not have any pressure of elections in sight. Then we may have something that resembles reality, but I can bet you if the census is conducted in 2018, the outcome will be doubtable.
“Seriously speaking, because I know who we are and I know the kind of litigations, backlashes, the pressure and we don’t need that now to be candid. We have so many challenges. Let’s empower the agencies to keep building on the blocks that they will leverage on in the future in order to do the exercise but doing it in 2018, honestly it is nothing I would advocate”.
2018 Census Still Feasible – NPC
In a swift reaction to Speaker Dogara’s stance, the National Population Commission (NPC) said yesterday that it was still hoping to conduct the proposed population census in 2018, while it awaits a presidential proclamation.
The commission’s former acting director of public affairs, Dr Isa Yahaya, who stated this said that the Speaker was simply expressing his personal opinion on the proposed census.
“Dogara’s comment is his personal opinion and not an official position. We are still waiting for the president to make a proclamation”, he noted.
Yahaya, however, said that the commission appreciates Dogara’s concern, while encouraging more Nigerians to come up with their views.
He maintained that the commission’s ultimate objective was to have a credible census.
Speaker’s Statement Undemocratic – Afenifere
On its part, the Pan Yoruba socio- cultural organization, Afenifere Renewal Group, yesterday urged Speaker Dogara to stop relying on assumptions and embrace tested realities.
In its reaction to the statement issued by the Speaker on the conduct of population census, Afenifere said they have noticed Digara’s “proclivity to bully his way in a dictatorial manner, despite heading a significant democratic institutions.
“Dogara knows quite well that democracy is about consultation and dialogue but, like a military despot, prefers to shun these democratic tenets before seeking to impose his agenda on the nation”, publicity secretary of the group, Kunle Famoriyo, noted in a statement.
Afenifere observed that of recent, Dogara had been speaking “on critical and sensitive national issues and expressing views which, according to available records, have not been debated in the House.
“As the Speaker, his views should only reflect what has been thoroughly debated. Such undemocratic attitude is the reason Nigeria continues to fail at evolving a true and genuine nationhood. If census should not hold as proposed in 2018, it should be a national consensus and not the working assumption of a few leaders who pretend to know what is best for the country”, the group argued.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Monday warned that moves to postpone the census from the due date would amount to altering the laws without formal constitutional amendment.
The acting national publicity secretary of the party, Hon. Bernard Mikko, cautioned that the proposed census should not be politicised.
Speaking on the issue, he said, “The issue of census should not be politicised. Under our statutes, it should be conducted in every ten years.
“Any attempt to postpone the census from the due date will amount to altering the laws without a formal constitutional amendment. We should abide by our laws for positive development”.
Bar and Bench Watch reports that the statement by speaker Dogara generated flurry of reactions with the apex northern socio-cultural organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), cautioning him against making statements that could over heat the polity.
ACF spokesman, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, in a message he sent to our correspondent in Kaduna said “Nigeria as Nation should not be afraid of political challenges, rather it should device a means to overcome them. Our politicians should restraint themselves from making statements that would unnecessary over heat the polity. The NPC must put in place all necessary logistics to ensure free and fair nation census”
Also, former Governor of old Kaduna State and an elder statesman, Balarabe Musa, condemned the call for postponement of the nation’s head count as championed by Speaker Dogara noting “We must abide by the constitution of Nigeria. If the constitution says so nothing the Speaker Dogara and the legislature can do.”