National Population Census – Ethnicity, Religion And Their Possible Impact On it

National Population Census – Ethnicity, Religion And Their Possible Impact On it

National Population Census – Ethnicity, Religion And Their Possible Impact On it

The issue of determining the population of Nigeria has been a very contentious issue since 1866 and establishment of the total population in the country, in each state and local government area has been mere speculations.

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The reason for this is not far-fetched. People believed that population is a political weapon. The higher the number, the more government amenities, an area will stand to attract. Higher population figures lend credence among other reasons to the demand for more seats in parliament, more local governments and more states for a particular tribe or region.

Therefore, it becomes expedient for people to inflate the figures of their regions and attempt to deflate that of others. These are the reasons behind the tension that have continually trailed Nigeria’s attempt to answer the simple question of “How many are we?, through a population census.

However, emphasis is now being placed on the quality of the population – how the skills and abilities of people can be improved and how their motivations and values can be modified for the specific purpose of development efforts.

Population census however plays a conflicting role in the development process. It can act both as a stimulus and an impediment to growth and development. The question remains , at what point do the economic disadvantages begin to outweigh the advantages?

In population census, the age distribution and demographic characteristics of a country’s population have a lot to say about the role of population in the developing process. In fact, in developing countries, the problem of population explosion and inherent characteristics of the population have been a source of serious concern for development scholars as well as statesmen involved in development planning. This problem was first noted by Thomas Malthus in 1798 when he theorised that, at the growing rate, a point will be reached when the population would outstrip production and supply of food, education, housing, industry, technology and other facilities to be provided for the people. He is saying that, population census should support the items listed above. Malthus contented that, a developed or development country must plan their population census to accommodate all these national facilities, for it provides these mentioned facilities, for it provides growth and development to the country. He as well noted another population problem, problem of trends and levels in living conditions which in turn help in the development of population policies and targets in respect of manpower development and utilisation conducive to the country’s stage of development.

Adam Smith, he said that population census in developing countries should plan as well to enable the citizens have benefits of transport and communication. “Good roads, channels and navigable rivers”, wrote Adam Smith”, by diminishing the expense of carriage, bring the remote parts of the country nearer and there will be a greatest of all improvements, breaking down monopolies and open new markets. To the extent that population growth exerts pressure on these facilities to be provided, a significant output is to be expected.” Furthermore, with a growing population, investment is less risky. The major obstacles to development to development is not a shortage of saving but a lack of willingness to invest. An expanding market resulting from population growth provides an incentive to investment.

Planning for development with the aid of population census without the most fundamental fact – the number and characteristics of the people, whose welfare is to be improved an those among this number who must work in all the sectors of the economy, to bring about the much needed development – is tantamount to chasing the shadows.

Various government in Nigeria have carefully observed the characteristics of a population census.

i. Government responsibility.

ii. Individual enumeration.

iii. University.

iv. Periodicity.

But, apart from these painstaking efforts applied, census taking in Nigeria has since its inception suffered from many misconceptions, half truths and myths. Some myths about the population count have their origins in our traditions and religious beliefs or misconceptions about the causes of events around us.

There have been public outcry against this turn of events and one would like to ask, what would be done to this ugly situation. It is my view that an in-depth study of the problem with the aim of census problems in Nigeria is real and whether it directly or indirectly affects the development of a country. It is hoped that the research will go a long way in trying to proffer solution to the problem.


Having given the general introduction to the research work, it is necessary to define the problem. The task of this study will be to examine the terms “population census” and as well as factors that constitute a problem is national development instead of aiding it. Various efforts by governments and individuals to address the problem will also be examined and recommendations/solutions proffered.



The objective of this study include the following:

i. To expose the reason, population census in Nigeria has not been accurate and reliable.

ii. To find out the effects of the problems created by unreliable and inaccurate head count in Nigeria.

iii. To find out the efforts made by the various governments to address the problem.



Basically, this study is mainly concerned with the population census conducted in Nigeria, that is its political, economic, social and cultural effects and the general implications. The scope is limited, reason being that the impact of population census is within a particular country (Nigeria).



The research topic is a thing that could take one to various states of the federation in search of reliable data for a comprehensive and detailed report. But in view of my limitations in terms of constraint as well as an inadequate financial support, I have chosen to do a case study of Ebonyi State.

Research as an expensive enterprise and as a student, it is difficult to move to different states in the federation in order to get a viable material because of lack of funds.



A research remains a vital enterprise which will be helpful, especially to policy makers and also students, basically, geographically, statistics and demographic students. However, coming to the policy makers, the research study will not only help them to have full understanding of the problems of head count in Nigeria, but also it will help them to tackle problems effectively. It is often said that any research that has nothing new to offer is not worthy of the name research.



The theoretical part of this work is that population census started in this country, Nigeria as early as 1866, with the present census (2006) that seems to e the last census that was conducted in Nigeria. At this point, it is pertinent to note that, ethnicity and Religion has been the reason or the other as the cause of the failure of head count.

Theoretical framework is been applied in order to describe factors behind the failure of Nigeria to count its citizens. Power theory is also the theoretical framework. Power theory by nature, only do with the dominance and influence of one person or group of persons over the other. Power is as well behavioural, this simply mean one or each ethnic group can use power to influence and as well control the behaviour of others in order to achieve his or her own interest.

The above statement explains the struggle among the ethnic group in Nigeria society in order to use census to influence figures to control the highest resources of the country. It is not over emphasised that, whichever ethic group that controls the highest population, controls the greater share of the national resources. It is quite clear that political power is all about who gets what, when and how”, the major theorists of the concept of power said to include the following, Niccolo Machievellia, Thomas Hobbes, Hana Morgentha, Fredrick Schuman, Robert Dahi, Harold Laswel e.t.c



1. Did Nigeria right from the time they got her political independence, had an accurate and reliable census figure?

2. Can National Population Census help Nigeria develop?

3. Is it possible for a developing country like Nigeria use population census to achieve equitable interest?

4. Does population census help at all?


1. Because of political power within the three main ethnic groups in Nigeria population census, it is difficult for Nigeria to have a reliable census figure.

2. Inaccurate and unreliable population in Nigeria culminate to lack of accurate data presentation in the country.

3. The elimination of political interference in the appointment of census officials by government helps to promote proper satisfactory and reliable population census in the country.



1. Population

2. Census

3. Ethnicity

4. Religion

POPULATION: Population could be defined as the number of people living in a particular country.

CENSUS: Census is also defined as the official head-count of people and their residence.

ETHNICITY; The term, ethnicity can be regarded “as the social phenomenon which is associated with interaction among members of different ethnic groups e.g. Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa as the three major ethnic groups e.g. Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa as the three major ethnic group in Nigeria.

RELIGION: Religion is the belief in the existence of a supernatural nature ruling power, the creator and controller of the universe, who has given to man a spiritual nature which continues to exist after the death of the body. It is also the various system of faith and worship based on such belief. Forms of religion include, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Traditional Religion.



The terms ethnicity and religion is seen as an inter-related concept, although there is a little bit difference in meaning. But, both ethnicity and religion shares common ideologies and each stands for a group who works in order to achieve their individual interest.

However, ethnicity could be defined according to Ilechukwu (1995) as “the socio-political economic and socio-psychological phenomenon by which the colonialists categorized the citizens of African nations in general and Nigeria in particular into unbridgeable ethnic, cultural, linguistic and Religion diversities by which they kept them perpetually apart and disunited. This definition brings out the evil effect of ethnicity in our social life. To Nweke (1999) ethnicity implies negative feelings directed against an ethnic group. He further refers ethnicity as the contextual discrimination by members of cultural group against others on the basis of differentiated system of socio-cultural symbols. Ethnicity according to Onyeneje (1996) is a conscious and deliberate separation and recognition that a particular group of people with their peculiar characteristics should be isolated and carefully discriminated against. Ethnic group are equally social formation distinguished by the communal character of their boundaries.

The outsider, the foreigner, the stranger have always provoked anxiety, suspicion, hatred and dread in human beings. This is most likely to happen when the strangers are noticeably different on grounds of history, kingship, culture or physical features. Ethnicity usually suggests cultural or National characteristics such as skin colour. Nweke(1995) refers to ethnicity as negative feeling directed against an ethnic group and the negative attitude that characterizes ethnicity is called ethnic prejudice. The behavior which is directed towards an ethnic group and which is motivated by prejudice is known as discrimination. In addition, the most important characteristic of prejudice is stereotype where the differences among individuals within an ethnic group are not reorganized; all group members are seen good or usually bad.

The term ethnicity according to Nnoli(1978) is a social phenomenon, which is associated with interactions among members of different groups. In fact, Ilechukwu (1995) described ethnicity as a hydra-headed monster and social disorder which has penetrated every nook and cranny of Nigeria life, and which also requires combined furious attacks by both the government and all the citizens of Nigeria for its combat and defeat (p.10).

Ethnicity clearly constitutes a social problem. When millions of Nigerians are systematically discriminated against for their cultural belief, kingship or history, our sense of justice is violated. It remains unbelievable by the people of this great nation possibly believe that an ethnic group, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and the like consisting of children, adults and the elder share negative characteristics in common, regardless of their values, personalities and life circumstance. But we truly recognize the differences which exist among the members of our own group, How could mere historical, cultural or kingship differences make groups of people bad, making them persons whom it is acceptable to harm through cultural prejudices and discrimination. The past and current causes of ethnicity in this country(Nigeria) are predominantly social. Nevertheless, one way of determining the status of ethnic relations in our society is to ask what various of ethnic groups feels about each other, the status of their own ethnic groups and about political issues relating to ethnic relations. At present, it seems that our pattern of politics inheres from ethnic sentiments. A brief history of the ethnic groups in Nigeria will provide good premise for the past social factors which set in motion patterns of prejudice and discrimination, so strong that, they persist up till date. In practical terms, it appears that we are ready to kill each other over noticeable differences of language, religious faith, history, kingship or culture. Currently the entire world is consumed with apartheid fractions and inter-group hatred. These are also experienced in places like Igbo land; Hausa land; Yoruba land in Nigeria.

From the above assertion, it could be said that the concept of ethnicity usually occurs in a heterogeneous society that has distinct language, culture and even hegemony from each other. These are a certain characteristics that are prevalent in the concept of ethnicity, these include that it exist in a political setting that consist of diverse groups. This is because a political setting with a homogenous group will always tend towards nationalism.

In the second analysis, ethnicity is characterized by a common consciousness of being one in relation to the other relevant ethnic groups. This statement is true because a particular ethic group from this relation will regard itself as one and cannot co-oporate with the other ones within the same political setting.

Finally, conflict is another characteristics of ethnicity. This statement is obvious because conflicts that have bedevilled Nigeria for ages has got its root from ethnic sentiment. A good example has been the conflict of an acceptable revenue formula for the component states and equally in the political setting.



A clear look at the brief historical background of these three-main ethnic groups that make up the country goes far to show Nigeria as a country that is made up of ethnic groups will district cultural and political background and consequently, the amalgamation of 1914 is a good reason for the existence of ethnicity sentiment in Nigeria. The problem that followed along this line made the first prime minister of the country (Abubakar Tafawa Balewa) to regard the amalgamation as the mistake of 1914”.

Another major reason that paved the ground for ethnicity is the discrimination leadership of the imperialist when the country was first amalgamated in 1914. It could be said that North and South during the era of lord lugard were administered along separate lines, a development which saw the south only in the legislative council and the North being administered by legislation by the federal government. This singular attitude of the leaders could be said to be the bane of ethnicity in Nigeria after its amalgamation.

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The third reason is the early politicians nationalist attitude towards political leadership of Nigeria could also be said to be a major contributor of ethnicity, It could be said that the early parties that were formed by our early politicians over capitalized on ethnicity. The northern peoples congress (NPC)of Alhumedu Bello enjoyed full support from the North, the N.C.N.C controlled the east and the action group(AG) controlled the western acting of Nigeria and in all elections held under this platform, the parties won convincingly on the basis of various ethnic origins.

The existence of ethnicity in Nigeria is also, the fear of marginalization among the minorities. These groups that are not among the major ethnical groupings entertain fear of domination by the major groups and this singular problem has continued to make them not to identify with others and they regard them as enemies who do not represent their interest.

The selfishness and greed amongst Nigerians is also another major reason for the development of ethnicity in Nigeria. It could be said that Nigerians usually identify with their ethnic group rather than the nation and as such, when a person from a particular ethnic group is appointed to a higher position of trust in government, the first thing he does is to ensure that all employment opportunities and social amenities are provided to his people regarding others as not being part of the national cake.

And lastly but not the least, is the politics of revenue allocation to the component of states, sentiments that have developed over the years in the issue of revenue allocation has been obvious. Each ethnic group would always want the formula that would help it to be put in place, the North wants it to be put in terms of population; the west in terms of national unity and development and the minorities in terms of alleviation. A review of all these agitations has shown the extent of ethnicity in the setting.



The problem of ethnicity in Nigeria could be traced to the colonial and post – colonial periods. Accordng to Nnoli (1978) asserted that ethnicity is a social problem in Nigeria and its origin lies in the colonial and post colonial order and not in our pre-colonial polities. The Igbos, for instance, were organized into separate and autonomous political societies conterminous with the village. These problem interferes with the population census in Nigeria and thereby, capable of causing the unsuccessful population that resulted to unreliable and untruth figure in Nigeria. And it hampers the national development.

Another problem of ethnicity according to liyod (1967), as cited by Ilechukwu (1995) observed that terms like Yoruba Land emerged from colonial administration. These made us to understand that, Yoruba as one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria will likely to come with the style of colonial leadership.

Therefore, they will remain a self – centred group that seeks for their own interest only.

These is also bridges the effective and efficient population census in Nigeria. In the same Vien, Nnoli (1978) further stated that there was nothing like collective wars fought by the Igbos as a group except that Igbos felt that they have a common descent. In the same Vien, the Yorubas, Hausa (fulanis had nothing like collective wars fought, just like the Igbos. This arrangement comprised people and individuals from differing social, historical, kinship and cultural background in Nigeria.

Ilechukwu (1995 : 11) and Nweke (1999) also rightly observed that it was the colonialist capitalist methods of operation and belief pattern that introduced unhealthy competition and artificially created scarce resources which twisted as well as distorted the pre-colonial life pattern of urban migrant Nigerians.

Furthermore, colonialism also introduced class structures, which labelled some groups inferior, and other superior on the basis of the groups position in the acquisition of western oriented life style. Consequently, our people began to struggle over that “standard” life style as defined by the colonial. It is pertinent that, life pattern of Nigeria people got from the white people are still in practice even up to date. For instance, the population census that is been first conducted in Nigeria was done by the white people and they conducted it in faviour of them and against the Nigeria. Thus, such idea are already initialed to Nigerian people. For example, census conducted in 1952 /1953 resulted conflict to among the major ethnic group in Nigeria. And even the independent one, that is the 1962/63,/1973,1979,1991 and the recent one (2005) also resulted to conflict because of ethnicity and Religion. In 1962/63 for instance, the population of South was little than that of the north, where as the East was reported to have unimportant village. And this event led to violent disagreements which generated fear that it may lead to civil disorder. These violent disagreements over the population census stands as a detriment to other development processes, like sharing of amenities and equitable representation of interest.

The problem of delaying in the declaration of the population census result. It is pertinent to note that when the result is delayed to be announced, there be manipulation by different major ethnic group politicians. A capable society does not delay to declare result after counting. But in Nigeria it will be delayed because of ethnicity and it results to unreliable figures, therefore increases the internal conflict among the ethnic groups.

In conclusion Dommen (1997) concludes that ethnicity should be viewed as a product of conquest, colonialization and immigration and the consequent disengagement between culture and territory’. Added to this are assimilation as another pattern of ethnic constructions – in order words, taking other groups’ cultural traits. So it can result to hunger, poverty, illiteracy, sickness etc. and such brings about instability in the country. Therefore, this remains one of the major thing that leds to unsuccessful population census in Nigeria.



Religion is one of the social phenomena currently affair attracting wider concern. That is not to say it (religion) has been in existence from the outset. Currently religion attention is anchored on its in Separability with polities since both concepts are innate and behavioural in content. Of course, there is as life without religion and polities.

Before the emergence of Christian and Islamic religions, different ethnic group and tribes in Nigeria practice their own peculiar religion. Prior to the jihad war, that Hausa practice paganism. Ibo’s as well lived with the practice of traditionalism like wise, the Yoruba’s. The romance with missionaries that came through the coast of Nigeria ocean and the inter – tribal trade, religion modification became apparent.

Following the departure from primitive stage, Nigerian state was polarized along Christian and Islamic religion, which dominated other religion practices. As earlier described, Christian, Islam or both dominate each of the ethnic group. Apart from the western region, either Christian or Islamic religion dominates a particular ethnic group. Incidentally, when both religion (Christian and Islam) arrived, they sought to assert themselves by dislodging the traditional religion of the communities with which they interacted by offering their people new gods as a basis of moral legitimating, (Huntington, 1996). Based on these practices, that converts were offered the option of new religion. What differs in both religion was the approach to their convert in Nigeria at the outset. While Islamic religion was conflictual, Christianity applied persuasive and passionate appeal.



In general terms, religion is the belief in the existence of a supa natural ruling power, the creator and controller of the universe, who has given to man a spiritual nature, which continues to exist after the death of the body.

According to (Oxford Dictionary, 1976). It is one of the various systems of faith and worship based on such belief. Forms of religion include Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Traditional religion. Within each religion, different denomination exist but all depict various approaches to reaching the same higher being. To kukah (2003) defined religion within the context of a set of rituals by which the human being relates with the higher being. Explaining further, he asserted that it (religion) has come to be accepted as been derived from a Latin word Religare (to bind) which reflects the effort by fellow man to re-establish contact with his creator. Belief in life after death, which is the pillar of religion preaching, promote its (religion) emotive pursuance by the believer or faithful.

The concept is emotional, appealing and passionately oriented and people are easily moved on issues relating to them. The rapid expansionism of different denomination and religion practices, decamping from the existing ones explains its significance to people. In recent times, the current weak economic base found full expression in the balkanization of religion practices. Also the violent and confliction stance of some religion in pursuit of converts is an indication of its significant role as the opium of the masses. In Nigeria the dominating religions are Christian, Islamic and Traditional. These religion belief are scattered across different ethnic groups and tribes.

The domineering stance of Islam in the North is deeply rooted to their geographical boundary with Niger through where Islam originated. In East, their romance with the missionaries who are mostly Christians was supported by the location of ocean through where the missionaries came to the Nigerian coast.

Finally, Extension of Christian and Islamic religion in the west (Islamic and Christian) religion made significant converts in the western region because jihad war extended to the axis of Ilorin, Ekiti and Oyo State while Christian missionaries through passionate appeal and their (western) love for education also had some converts.



The problem of marginalization, according to kukah (2003). He contended that the problem of religion in Nigeria was the emergence of the weak ideological politicians who would rather prefer to mobilize their supports along religious constituencies for war against one another rather than seeing themselves being divided along ideological option. Muslims in pursuance of what they feel is Christian colonialism argued that unless they stood their ground, non Muslims would continue to subjugate and humiliate them in matters of the practices of their faith Non – Muslims on the other hand also asserted that the debate was not against Islam as a religion but given people the opportunity to live their life as a political animal where freedom or liberty would be fully practiced within the confines and direction of the higher being.

The religion problem in Nigeria became a glaring following the purported admission of Nigeria into organization of Islamic conference (OIC) by Babangida in 1986. indeed, this attempt found full expression in the proportion of acrimony, crises and religious violence across the country. By this attempt, it would mean adopting Islamic religion as the only accepted religious option in the country. Therefore non Muslims resisted it to a high other asserting that it is an attempt of slavery in disguise. In fact, this move engineered Christians modified faith to mobilize support for a possible Christian president. Virtually, every political activity in Nigeria is sharply reduced to the religions laboratory for analysis, diagnosis and possible prescription, which of course cannot be exonerated from religion dogma. However, apart from the distortion of religious belief which is jealously guided by the people politicians in expectation of juicy out – puts ding on such (circular) debate to heat the polity.

Finally, the problem of religion in Nigeria said to distorted the socio-economic, social and cultural development of Nigeria.



The impact of ethnicity and Religion on the National population census, could be negative and as well positive.

The negative aspect of it, the phenomenon of ethnicity and Religion brought to Nigeria (among other negative impacts), ethnic consciousness, discrimination, corruption, politics of federal character and above all disunity, to mention but a few. Because of the above mentioned negative impact, the population census in Nigeria is nothing to write home about.

Ethnic consciousness and as well Religious consciousness brings about disunity among the people of Nigeria which always results to internal conflict and thereby hampers the development planning in Nigeria. Such as economic development, social and cultural development.

Population census is always carried out in Nigeria in order to know the actual figure of Nigeria citizen to enable them share the revenue allocation. It is pertinent to note that religion is one of the factors that contributed to unsuccessful population census ever conducted in Nigeria. For instance, the Muslim people doesn’t allow their women to be counted, reason been that, their culture does not permit such, that is why the Northern figure is always higher than any other ethnic group in Nigeria and it brought about discrimination among the major ethnic group in Nigeria.

Politics of federal character has done a lot to encourage ethnicity to the expense of the unity and the overall development of the country. The phenomenon of federal character in Nigeria, whereby job creation opportunities are done based on equal representation rather than qualification has made it possible for mediocre to copy position of responsibility that is not commensurate with their qualification, the effect is that they go there and mismanage the whole system to the detriment of the overall development of the country. This has contributed to the violation of population exercise in Nigeria when the above illustration is been applied in population exercise. It will make the population census in Nigeria unrealistic and unbelievable exercise.

Ethnically/Religion and Nation Building in Nigeria. The question of nation Building was interpreted to mean egoism, ideally, a national leader has the country (Nigeria) as his constituency. Today cosmetic national leaders and as well, the priest have emerged operating under diversified agencies. Ethnic and Religion bigotry has wiped off the rationality, which could have formed the bottom line for Nation Building. And in the other hand, capable of causing the failure of acceptable population census in the country (Nigeria). Deviation from the National priority is primordial in content and approach.

The emerging Religion that is also ethnic group vanguards engages in rhetoric display of “my dear people” which often refers to ethnic brother hood especially in the church have also made population census unprogressive development in Nigeria.

The experiences of civilians and military attest to the fact that religion, ethnicity and ethnocentrism is the bane of all political and economic misfortune in Nigeria, which in other way round affect the exercises of population censes in Nigeria.



It is an understatement to conclude that nothing good came out of ethnicity in Nigeria. According to Kukah (2003) Ethnicity seems to have been given bad name and castigated as being responsible for the decline of democracy in Nigeria. Now, the reality is that ethnicity consciousness did have its own benefit as a propelling force, at least in the early history of Nigeria. Ethnicity actual as the propelling factors which motivated most of the political leaders whose frontal attack in defence of ethnic interest attracted in calculatable development. And it is properly done, it will bring about a reliable and an acceptable census in Nigeria. Therefore, the positive impact of religion on the population census in Nigeria helps to carry out an acceptable census in Nigeria. Argument have been put-across that religious data would assist in determining the actual population of Nigeria. In this regard, religion plays vital role in social contracts in Nigeria and as such should be respected.

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The practice of religion and ethnicity also promote economic growth. In a multi ethnic country, these exist competition among different ethnic groups, such competition can as well lead to economic growth. It is pertinent to understand here, that ethnic group is also been recognized during any population census exercise. The population census in Nigeria will be a yardstick to copy by other countries if the exercise will be properly maintained. And if it is practiced in this way, something good most come out from census exercise in Nigeria. Indeed, ethnic and religion consciousness over economic competition by way of imitating the existing structure in other areas, thereby, said to increase the high structure of population census exercise in Nigeria.

Population remains the total number of people living in a different territory, example, Nigeria who need to have a regard on different religions and tribe in Nigeria especially in the south the need for governmental employment and the increased urbanization initiation by it demanded a labour system could provide.




The enormous literature that has been written on the topic under consideration go a long way to under score the importance of the subject matter in the national life of the people and Nigeria as a nation state. The scholars on the subject have approached the issue from different dimensions. Their exposition and remedies to the problem of population census in Nigeria are diverse and many.

As the comments of these scholars are picked on and their solutions re-echoed, one would have seen and heard the contributors.

THE REVIEW: From the emergence of Nigeria as a political entity in 1914, the death of adequate and reliable statistical data has been a serious handicap to the economic and political development of Nigeria. Although, various types of data are required and used in the planning processes, the most basic, because of its scope and nature, is the demographic data. Olusanya (1989) observed that “planning is aimed at people, and so an adequate knowledge of their number, their distribution over space, their age, sex, material, education among other characteristics, their rate of increase through the inter play of vital events (mainly births and death) and their mobility is indispensable for efficient development planning”.

The history of census taking in Nigeria stated in 1866, when the British colonial government took the first census which was limited to Lagos and its immediate surrounding area, that is, the administrating area known as Lagos colony. It is pertinent to note that, Ethnicity and Religion has been in existence pertaining in population census right from British colonial government era. And Ethnicity and Religion remains both negative and positive to population census in Nigeria.

Igbuku Otu , in punch, April 22, 1985 in trying to differ slightly from Olusanya stated as follows: “Shortly, after the Berlin conference of 1885, when the guest for territorial conflicts between colonial masters was put to rest, respectively colonial masters took steps to consolidate their hold on their overseas territories. Colonial master remains a different ethnic group that came into Nigeria for the purpose of economic development. And this said to wedge the National development of a country because, the population census are been controlled by colonial master alone without the consultation of Nigerians in planning process. In Nigeria, an ex-British colony, one of their administrative steps taken was a determined move to establish for imperil taxation purposes. And since then, Ethnicity has been one of the major cause that leads to the failure of population census in Nigeria today.

In a contemporary era, the first census exercised in Nigeria was done in 1911, under the auspices and supervision of the colonial “authority”.

The second census was conducted in 1868. Beginning from 1871, census because of a decennial exercise for Lagos and environs and was conducted in 1881, 1889, and 1901. From 1911, the census was covered in Lagos and Southern and northern provinces of Nigeria. The second world war- 1939- 45, prevented census in the 1940s.

According to Olusanya, the first modern census in Nigeria was the 1952/53 census. The census was taken at different times in the three Region existing at that time: Northern, Eastern and Western Regions. The head- count was made several time because of the problem of ethnicity. The problem had to do with the fact that the regions were not counted simultaneously. Thus the Eastern region was counted almost one year after the north and six mouth after the West, the time difference was enough for a change in the population distribution as people had ample time to migrate from one region to another. This problem was however vitiated by the fact that, to a great extent Nigerians did not over politicise the census as future ones. Thus the issue of inflating figures to gain political advantage was by then, not in vogue. Olusanya stated that, the census was regarded as the best ever to be taken up till then. Certainly, it was, however deficient in many ways, notably in terms of gross under- enumeration, age dissertation arising from mass illiteracy and lack of birth records, and unorthodox age classifications”. Additionally, the census of 1911 was reported to be marked by insurrection in the North and hostility in the South. At this juncture, their possible impact on National population census, that is Ethnicity and Religion may not be effective because of the selfish interest within in the different ethnic group in the country. And in the other hand may be possible, if the selfish interest is removed out and allow a proper representation to take place in Nigeria. Between 1866 and 1931, census in Nigeria was largely inaccurate as they did not meet all the accepted characteristics of a census; Government responsibility, individual enumeration, Universality, simultaneity periodicity.

In 1950, a successful census of Lagos was conducted and national one was planned. Hence, the details of the above paragraph showed that the census was conducted in the north in July, 1952, in the west in December, 1952 and in the East in June, 1953. Those were collected to form the 1952/53 census.

Briefly, it is be noted that from the first modern census one, in 1991, there were common features to all of them; undercount, over count and falsification and inflation of figures.

That of 1962 census was from may 13 to 31 of that year. The census being the first to be taken in an independent Nigeria and in a period when several newly independent African countries were becoming development conscious was elaborately planned.

The provisional result of the census given by the federal census officer, Mr. J. Narren, indicated that the population of the north, East, West and Lagos increased respectively from 18.8 to 22.5 million, 7.2 to 12.3 million, 6 to 10.2 million and 0.267 to o.675 million. Between 1952-53 and 1962, thus, giving a total of 1962 population census to be 45.7 million. In other words, the 1962 population of the south was a little more than of the north. It was probably because of this startling revelation that the north had a supplementary count and came up with an additional figure of 9 million, thus bringing its total population to 31.5. at the same time, the East was reported to have discovered what was numerically an unimportant village of 20,000 inhabitants not in the 1953 census records. These events led to violent disagreements, and it was widely feared that they might lead to civil disorder.

Violent disagreement, because Nigerians have gradually come to base seriously the result of population as determinant for other development processes, like sharing of amenities and equitable representation. To further support the above assertion. The primer of the former Eastern Region, Dr, M. I. Okpara said in Nigeria outlook (published in Enugu) of 11th may, 1962, during the launching of the census publicity campaign, “that on it (the census) will be base future legislature representation, siting of industries and provision of amenities”. If a whole premier of region about population census, one could see how difficult it is to salvage the situation. It then means that the whole idea of tieing census figure to activities like politics has so permeated the society that undue process, would be like forcing water to climb a hill.

Another population census was agreed upon and taken in November 1963. It was supervised by the census board set up by the federal government. The exercise lasted only for day (5-8 November) and about four times, the number of enumerators and supervision for the 1962 count (45,700) were employed. These was exchange of enumerators between religions and a team of female enumerator from Eastern religion West to the North to assist in counting women in purdah. The result released about four months later in February 1964 put the total population of Nigeria at 55.6 million. In spite of further disagreement, the federal government finally accepted the result without consultation with the regional governors.

Olusanya stated that, “the question as to whether or not the 1963 census was “rigged” as was widely alleged, will unfortunately never be answered. However, a test on the 1963 census population indicated that, although the population might have been over enumerated because of organization problems and over-enthusiasm on the part of Nigeria leading to “census migration” the scale on which this might have occurred was probably very limited.

1973 census was taken in November, 1973. The provisional figures indicated what happed to be a staggering total population of 79.79 million for Nigeria. The census result was declared acceptable by the military Government of General Yakubu Gowon in spite of loud protests as usual. They where high hopes among the people that it would be less controversial than that of 1962-63 counts. Those hopes were justified on the number of grounds. First, Nigeria had been under military rule, and, and members of the government were mainly top military government were used to a unified command. The question of favouring one state or ethnic group to the disadvantage of another, therefore, hardly arose. Secondly political parties had gone with the first civilian republic in the military coup de’tat of 1966 and no election was in views. Thirdly, the civil war ended three years before and the country was pre-occupied with reconstruction or with the famous Yakubu Gowon’s 3rd rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation. Fourthly, in May 1967, twelve states had been created out of the former four region so that the north-south problem will be presumably irrelevant.

However, the General Murtala Mohammed regime, that, came into power in July, 1975, cancelled the census for no reason other than, that it was controversial, and directed for palming purposes, the government should continue to use the 1963 census figures which were then twelve years old.

In Olusanyais own words “ looking back, as of 1985, any one that is familiarity with census operation and the uses of census will conclude that, this military decision, on regard to the 1973 census, was really unfortunate in the sense that, it has continued to deprive Nigeria of much needed data”.

Okeibunor (1995) however stated that the 1991 census was “Subjected to serious controversies as accusation and counter accusations were made about falsification and inflation of figures. In the order hand, it was on the total population of 88.5 million, which was assumed to be low and inconsistent with earlier perfection and projections. Further more, the reported sex ratio of 101.3 was contested as it was found to defy world standards and expectation.”

Lastly, the recent concluded census from 21st – 25th March 2005 in Nigeria, is Africans most populous country yet nobody knows exactly how many people that is living there. “A five day” government census launched on Tuesday seeks to end the guessing game. Nigeria, the world’s eight largest oil producer, is a republic and central government allocates resources among the states according to population size. Previous headcounts have been mired in controversy an estimates of Nigeria’s population ranged from 126 million to 150 million people .

According to president Olusegun Obasanjo in a national broadcast on radio and television on Tuesday urged Nigerians to support the census as a necessity for social and economic planning insisting that the exercise bears no hidden agenda” contrary to widespread suspicions. He further said that people should desist from misrepresenting the “purpose of the exercise for their own selfish interest.” Obasanjo in his broadcast expressed confidence, the 2005 census will represent a dramatic departure from previous counts by providing accurate and reliable figures. He also cited the deployment of new technologies, including satellite imagery and global positioning system to verify census data. With computer readable forms being used for the first time to record information in combination with automatic finger – print identification, the results are expected to be foolproof.

But on the other hand, it is quite understandable, that the computer will be operate by human being and not animal, and therefore, there will be manipulation of figure that will result to unrealisable and inaccurate figure even, the national media were skeptical. The popular daily, the guardian said that the major problem between “population figures and political appointments, resources distribution and power sharing” remained, as did the worry over “the incentive for political elements to return to home bases and attempt to boost census figures”.

At this point, stated (Adamu, 1984), “It seems reasonable to pass some remarks on all these censuses. By modern standard, all these censuses cannot be acceptable as such. They were grossly inadequate partly due to the poor cooperation given by the people.

At this point again, it would be necessary to display the final figures of population censuses conducted in Nigeria, 1952 – 2006. These figures were culled from various official census publications, especially from the National population commission, zone 4, Enugu, Now Nigeria’s Newspapers and the federal office of satieties (fos) as supplied by the above mentioned documents:-

The 1952/53 census recorded our total population as 3.26 million with the provision that the figures in respect of the Eastern Region was incomplete.

The break down shows:

North – 16.9 million

West – 6.136 “

East – 8.00 “

The figures for the 1963 verified census give 56, 558, 153 a our population.

The break down also shows the following:

North – 29 million

East – 12 ”

West -12 ”

Mid west – 2 ”

Lagos about – 1 ”

1973 Census Provision Result (Culled From New Nigeria Newspaper.)

State Figures (in millions)

1. Bema – plateau – 5:17

2. East – central – 8.06

3. Kano – 10.90

4. Kwara – 4.64

5. Lagos – 2.47

6. mid western – 3.24

7. North central – 6.79

8. North Eastern – 15.38

9. North western – 8.50

10. Rivers – 2.23

11. South Easter – 3.46

12. Western – 8.92

Total 79.76 millions)

1991 census figures (in millions)

1. males – 44,529, 608

2. Females – 44, 462, 612

3. Both Sexes – 88, 992, 220

1996 Projection

—- 102, 514, 412.

And lastly, the already concluded (2005) – population census, which the result are not yet to be out.

From the about figures, which have been build up to the last population census in this country, one could easily see the various attempt made by Nigeria to achieve accurate and reliable population census figure, which has not been successful.

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However, critical looking at the census ever conducted in Nigeria, it is understandable that, the Nigeria census has sufferer from many misconceptions, half-truths and myths’ some myths about the population count have their origins in our traditions and religions beliefs or misconceptions about the causes of events around us. According to “ Everybody’s Gauid to the Nigeria census, published by the population Association of Nigeria, “some of the reasons for the failure of the past censuses include:

(a) Suspicious, uncooperative and some times hostile attitude of Nigeria citizen to censuses functionaries.

(b) The wrong notion country children affects infants and child mortality.

(c) Invasion of individual privacy

(d) Racism: that is a role played by the whites to convince Nigeria to accept birth control.

(e) Diversion from economic development efforts – it is some times alleged that census taking is a diversionary tactics to avoid the real issue of social and economic development. That money spent on census should have been spent, instead on development projections.

(f) Many persons did not agree to have their wives and children committed since the number of wives and children was a measure of a man’s wealth.

(g) It is suspected that it will enable tax collectors demand heavier taxes from persons who had many wives and children.

(h) It is also held that, the superstitions belief in census brought about ill-luck famine or misfortune.

(i) The problem of head count in Nigeria also include, shortage of qualified personnel to undertake actual house – to – house enumeration.

(j) Lack of adequate fund

(k) Problem of communications, such as, in the river line area.

(l) Over politicization (population has been tied to revenue sharing, membership of the legislatures, federal appointment and patronages.

Effort made by Nigeria Government to have reliable census figures:

To ensure accurate and reliable census figures, the various government in the country had embanked upon:

(a) Enlightening the general public about the concrete meaning and utility of population statistics, particularly accurate population statistics.

(b) “The census News”, a house magazine of National population commission, published in May 1990 added the following as other efforts made by the government to secure accurate figures out of population census emphasizing the statistical, technical and planning values of census.

(c) Redirecting the thinking of our people towards objective value and achievement through census.

(d) De – politicizing the issue of census.

(e) General mobilization and orientation of our people.

(f) Census exercise in Nigeria has graduated from being an ad-hoc affair to a permanent business.

(g) Last, was the effort made by the government of olusegun obasanjo. Who cited the deployment of new technologies, including satellite imagery and global positioning system to verify census data.

At this point, it is pertinent to note that, the conduct of population census is by its nature project, oriented, the commission under the leadership of Alhajj S.A musa, makama Nupe has adopted the following techniques and tools Recruitment and training census officials, Enumeration Area Demarcation, first and second post-test census, trial census exercise, actual enumeration and post enumeration survey.

Apart form the above efforts made by the government to have an accurate head count, it has been seen that each census always riddled with utter failure.



Population is the number of people living in a particular place or country. On the other hands census is the official counting of this people living in that place. The main focus in population census may be the entire people or group of people living in a defined territory. It is also the official head count and their residents. The relevance of census to any country cannot be ignored. In the words of kucyzcky (1948), it is the process of collecting, compiling and publishing demographic economic and social data pertaining to all persons in a country or delineated territory. To the extent of this conception, human being is as important as the very natural essence of societal existence. Man gives every other creatures, name and put to use every other existing creature. In determining the societal development rate as well as men’s interaction with nature, there is imminent need to know population of that particular society or a delineated territory. As a yard stick for developmental measurement united national (1945) referred population census as the simultaneous recording of demographic data by the government at a particular time to all persons who live in a particular territory. Both definitions are similar only by pointing out government as the central organizing body. It is also emphasized that government is the principal actor in carrying out the exercise. However, the united Nations definition pointed out some salient point in the exercise, which precludes “Simultaneous recording of the data at a particular time”. The essence of this simultaneous is to ensure that, within the same frame of time, other social factors such as death, birth, migration and natural demands does not affect the head – count. However, since “change” is the only thing that is permanent, simultaneous recording at a particular time will help government determine the expected change when it occurs. The united Nations definition however is not elaborate as kucyznck definition. The later tries to point out the whole essence of population census to any society. Economic and demographic data of any society are expedient for the state to satisfy the citizenry. Demographic data is the birth, death and disease in a particular area at a given period. Data could be reeferred to as an enquiring in for nation document about a particular place or thing over a specified period. In other words government is the principal initiator as well as the actor regarding census data. Man live to learn, share experiences and pilot his affairs in the entire society.

According to Omoboe (1960) noted that the role of government in census taking is of crucial significance. The conscious nature of the few elites and their charismatic quality of advocating for support on these issues makes it (census) volatile. For the fact that government holds on trust, the freedom of every member of the society, it is therefore, her responsibility to defend the people by providing all the necessary atmosphere for peaceful co-existence. This is for it become the responsibility of federal and regional governments to ensure its (1962) successful competition (Aluko 1965).

Ekanarm (1972) noted that the (1960) Nigeria constitution put it under the schedule of concurrent legislative list. Impliably, all the federating units (religion /states) have crucial roles to play. No development or developed state can be said to achieve



In 1962, population census which was the first since independence, was conducted on the 27th of May, 1962. but at the end of the exercise, it was found that the census exercise was bedevilled by three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, especially (Hausa/Fulani) ethnic group and as such had to be rejected. Following the rejection of the results, the prime minister set up a committeto supervise a new head-count from the 5th of November till 18th November, 1963. The exercise established Nigeria population as 53.7 million. It is important to note that, “national development plans failed woefully because, estimate and projections were based on inaccurate figures”.

In 1963, the prime minister had to remove census commission to his office and be fully participated in the supervision of the exercise. In the end the census remained unfair one, which was caused by the political power struggle among the ethnic era, religious groups in Nigeria.

The 1973 – census was conducted during the regime of Yakubu Gowon. To prepare for efficient and reliable exercise, he ordered for the transfer of census officials outside their state of origin to avoid repeat fo the incidents of 1962 census exercise. He also made army and security agents available for census officials and enumerators

In like manner, the exercise failed to produce accurate and reliable head-count. In spite of the efforts made to ensure acceptability , there were reports that the figures were inflated in some states. Eventually, the census was cancelled. After the enumeration stage no data were published. The census provisional figures of 79.76 million was rejected and comments and observation by people rented in air. The problem of ethnicity and religion remains t he chief causes of failure of accurate and reliable census. The observation reflect the views of Godwin Nwaorgu, Sunday Times, October, 3 1973 Chancellor Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Sunday Sketch July, 1974 respectively. Adam Fika supported the figure-Daily Times July, 11 1974, P.1.

Finally, the chairman, census commission, Chief A. Ademmola in Daily Sketch issue of Saturday July 13, 1974 stated that aggrieved states could protest. The federal government then used Decree to validate the figure and to stop further debate and comments on the issue.


Comments from the members of the public have been on with regard to the conduct of the population census in Nigeria. Mr. Godwin Nwaorgu suggested that there should be enough propaganda that the word “census” should be spread in a favourable way so that none will confuse it with tax drive or some of governmental ruse. People should be persuaded to understand has no harm in answering questions of officials while in this case would be reaching if they are to give the kind of detailed information anticipated.


The most current census conducted in Nigeria that is (2005/2006) remains indescribable census, despite that the result is not yet out, but the way it was done also will create more problem to the life of the country (Nigeria).

And, on this note, it will be surprising that when the result will be out, the result will made to favour a particular ethnic group. Population census in Nigeria has suffered because of politics, ethnicity, religion, inter-ethnic struggle for political power, inter-state struggle for federal resources and inter-ethnic for socio-economic competition.

Finally, it is good for both the state and federal government to join hands together to build national development plans through population census, by no consideration of any ethnic group in Nigeria.



In the course of this study, I had some findings, particularly during the oral interviews and when dealing with the questionnaire,.

Oral interviews granted me by the respondents, who preferred to remain anonymous revealed that people were fed up with the inability on the part of the government to wage a successful war against the cankerworm called “unreliable census figures”. It is pertinent to note that, ethnicity and religion are responsible for the failure of government in this regard. Various development plans in this country have not worked because of the inability of the government which is been caused by ethnic groups in Nigeria, to address the issue of population census data upon which any development plan is based. Because of ethnic politics in Nigeria, it is understandable that population census remains unnecessary project and thereby making nonsense of millions of naria spent on conduct of census exercise in this country (Nigeria).

I also found out that the activities of overzealous officials and enumerators have also contributed to over-count, under-count or spring controversies during the exercises.

Additionally, the following findings were recorded:

a. That most of the enumerators could not properly complete the forms of the shortness of time for training exercise.

b. That in some cases, individual enumerators cold not have all the necessary documents.

c. That the bulk of work was left for the enumerators instead of the officials being directly involved.

d. That the enumerators were not actually interested in the success of the exercise as they were poorly paid.

e. That the ethnic feeling and their struggle over the government resources and social amenities brought about unnecessary census figures.



From the opinion raised by the respondents to oral interview and questionnaire,, I arrived with the following conclusion:

a. That ethnicity and religion are the factors militating against accurate head-count in Nigeria.

b. That other various factors such as politics, inter-ethnic group and inter-state contribute to the downfall of population census exercise in Nigeria.

c. That the problems exists in various forms.

d. That government has taken a number of measures to solve the problem, yet not improvement.

The existence of a number of factors that make population census unreliable, in Nigeria, was a gradual process of the battering of the national development planning from the colonial era, also from independence in (1962), through the civilian and military governments. The military with all its might could not remove this cankerworm which is a factor capable of militating against national development in Nigeria.



It is my view that the magnitude of census problem in Nigeria is more that what more wish can achieve. The more the government and well meaning individuals proffer solution, the more those who do not want the problem to be solved will engage in scheming more atrocities. It requires prayers, dedication, commitments and an overhaul of the entire system.

In this respect, I hereby recommend the following:

a. That government should extensively and intensively use the church organisations to tell the people the need for accurate and reliable census figures, so that population census will bring about effective development in the nation (Nigeria). This medium is recommended because of the dogmatic effect of religion. Religion is described as the “Heart of the heartless”.

b. Representation in the National Executive and Legislative bodies and the sharing of the federal government resources should be on the basis of equality of state or according to needs. This will make census unattractive for political reasons. Similarly, voting in the international organisation – UNO, OAU, follow the pattern recommended.

c. The Peoples’ orientation and value system towards census and what should be their contribution in National development is still low. The people should be made to understand that, if government fails, that they will be worse of as nobody’s’ name is Mr. Government. Census propaganda is not carried out on until the had-count period. It should graduate from ad-hoc exercise to a full-time affair.

d. Above all, honesty is the “watch-word”. If all and sundry – the enumerators, the officials and the civil society treat the issue of census figures with honesty, the problem is solved.

e. Another recommendation, is that ethnicity and religion should be wiped out from the census exercise in Nigeria. It is clear that if Nigeria kindly agree to work as one nation, there will be accurate and reliable census figure, but if the ethnicity and religion is to be included, Nigeria can never boast of acceptable population census.

To achieve this idea, both state and federal government should join hands together to ensure equitable distribution of natural resources and social amenities to every individual or citizen in Nigeria.

I strongly believe that if the above recommendations are considered and implemented, the issue of inaccurate and unreliable head-count in Nigeria will be solved and national development data, when procured will be reliable.

National Population Census – Ethnicity, Religion And Their Possible Impact On it

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  1. was the 2006 census that took place in Nigeria globally accepted

  2. Adesina tunmise says:

    It is good keep it up

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