Nigerian Census 2006: financial waste and political sham

In March millions of Nigerian were forced to stay at home for the day as government officials carried out a head and property count. The regime claimed this would allow for a serious calculation of the level of unemployment and thus allow for “job-creation” to go ahead. The operation was inefficient and plagued by corruption. In the real world Nigerians continue to lose their jobs, pensions, education…

Nigeria has just gone through a 7-day compulsory sit-at-home of the population to allow a head and house count. The population and housing census stipulated that only people and houses physically seen would be counted during the exercise.

A brief history of the past census operations conducted in Nigeria under the British imperialist rule shows that there was one in 1866 (the first), 1871 and 1896 which were restricted to Lagos Island and part of the Mainland, while the 1901 and 1921 covered in addition to Lagos some urban colonies and the census of 1952/53 shortcomings were that it took place at different times in the country.

The first post-independence census was carried out in 1963 but was cancelled and the following year in 1964 another was conducted and accepted by major sections of the ruling class as their official population statistic. The 1973 census was also cancelled due to massive inaccuracies associated with earlier ones. The government of former dictator Babangida in 1991 organized a population head count and this still remained the official census till date, despite massive irregularities and fraudulent results. All this information was provided by the national population commission, NPC, in the run-up to the just concluded census.

The failure and financial waste of the 2006 population and housing census did not start on day one of the counting, i.e. March 21, 2006, but last year when it dawned on the Obasanjo government that the feasibility of its success was zero on the original date of November 30-December 3, 2005 and was postponed.

The organization, planning and coordination of the census were inefficient, as party politics and nepotism became the order of the day for selection and training of teachers as ad-hoc staff facilitators. This led to some "not-selected" gate crashing into the training and these were dumped at the end of the day. Of course, while that of facilitator was just a tip of the iceberg, the corrupt and sharp practice of the Nigerian ruling class during the training of the enumerators came into the open.

Firstly, the successful enumerators were based on party politics/nepotism; then this was followed the selected persons appearing three times with different identification numbers. Secondly, there was the shortage of training materials from NPC headquarters in Abuja. Enumerators who came to train had to use their personal money for photocopying of materials for training purposes. Thirdly, the NPC allowed people to train as gatecrasher enumerators promising to accept them as enumerators based on performance in training and not the original list of selected names. Fourthly, there was the poor remuneration of enumerators, N5,200 (i.e. $20.00) for eight days training allowance and N9,000 ($64.00) for five days (now seven days) intense head count. All this exposed the inadequacies and sharp corrupt practices of the top officials of the NPC from which the top officials and the Obasanjo regime cannot be exonerated.

The political sham

The deceit of the Nigerian ruling class knew no bounds during the census days both from the Obasanjo federal government to the state governors, etc. Meanwhile the nation is bedevilled with a lot of problems such as mass unemployment, closure of industries, collapse of education, lack of shelter, roads, and water, ethnic and religious clashes, environmental pollution and low intensity civil war in the Niger-Delta, etc.

In order to convince the people of the need for the census and their cooperation, the regime went on the air with an advert saying the purpose of the census was to ascertain the number of unemployed and thus allow proper planning for industrial development, which would lead to the creation of jobs. But the government policy and action runs contrary to this with sackings ‑ or is it downsizing? ‑ of workers and outright sale of public industries.

The census also involved house counting which is supposedly to plan for housing and provide shelter for the Nigerian populace. The Nigerian workers cannot be deceived nor cajoled into believing such lies.

The regime wanted the census badly as a tool to divert the attention of the masses away from the main issues and preparing the ground for its sinister third term agenda.

MAN & "Civil Society"

The 2006 census clearly shows again, which side the employers are on and how greedy they remain. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, called on its members to support the exercise. However, the contrary was the case in most of the corporations, as workers in lots of companies were told to report for duty and the wages of many workers were deducted from those who could not turn up for duty.

Can there be a genuine census?

A genuine census can only take place when the control of the means of production is under the democratic control of the working class, where the basis of the socio-economic system called socialism is planning, coordination and organization of production for the common good of the society contrary to the anarchy of production.

May 2006