If everything works out according to plan, the 2023 National Population and Housing Census is scheduled to be held in April after the general election slated for February and March 2023. The last time the country had such an exercise was in 2006 during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

Globally, the significance of a credible national census cannot be overemphasized. It provides comprehensive and detailed data on the whole population in addition to demographic, social and economic characteristics by the lowest administrative or geographical level and related rates and indicators.

It also offers necessary data enabling the assessment of the population status during the inter-census period as well as monitoring demographic, social and economic changes taking place during the same period.

Similarly, it provides basic data for all sectors in the country (education, health, population, etc.) with a view to contributing to the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of plans related to the provision of services needed.

In addition, it gives data on housing units as well as their facilities and features related to living conditions, basic data needed to work out a clearly-defined housing policy aimed at ensuring prosperity for citizens, as well as indicators on houses conditions and extent of their relationship with public services.

A credible census also offers a comprehensive and modern framework for buildings, houses and households by various administrative divisions. Such a framework is necessary to design and use samples for conducting various household surveys.

This will be positively reflected on the accurate measurement of the various phenomena to be investigated such as fertility, mortality and migration, which are used as the basis for calculating population growth rates and estimates of the post-census population.

Additionally, census gives an accurate picture of the status and features of houses for the purpose of assisting in drawing up housing and construction plans for the future.

In a federal system like Nigeria’s, census provides the framework for revenue allocation, creation of local government areas and political representations, among others.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has passionately appealed to all Lagos residents to participate fully in the census by cooperating with the National Population Commission (NPC) officials and committees set up by the state government in the series of activities lined up towards the exercise.

Governor Sanwo-Olu made the appeal at the stakeholders’ summit on the 2023 Population and Housing Census held on Tuesday, January 3, at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa, Ikeja.

Everyone who resides in Lagos should be part of the coming census. It is not right for people living and earning their living in the state to travel out of Lagos during the exercise. That will be tantamount to short-changing the state in the scheme of things.

It is particularly crucial for residents of the state to fully participate in the exercise in view of the perceived anomalies in the previous census figures. The result of the last exercise indicated that the population of Lagos was 9,013,534, which was then reviewed upward to 12,772,884 in 2019, making Lagos’ the second-largest population in Nigeria, after Kano State.

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Although Lagos State has always contested these figures on the basis that they do not reflect the actual population of the state, they nonetheless remain the official population figures upon which national planning decisions and some resource allocation decisions are based.

That is why the opportunity of another census should not be treated with levity by residents of the state. This is the time to get it right. We cannot afford to have another round of census with disturbing, controversial and spurious outcomes. Hence, everyone living in the state must stand up to be counted.

As usual, Governor Sanwo-Olu is not leaving any stone unturned in the bid to draw the attention of Lagosians to the coming exercise. He has launched the 2023 Census Implementation and Strategy Plan. Besides that, he has also announced the setting-up of five additional committees in line with the National Population Commission’s strategy and vision. This is in addition to the technical committee he had earlier set up.

The new committees are: Census Advisory Committee, Census Logistics Committee, Census Publicity and Advocacy Committee, Census Security Committee, and Census Monitoring Group.

When added to the recently held stakeholders’ summit on the census, this is a strong indication that the Sanwo-Olu-led government attaches huge value to the coming exercise.

Fortunately, we can now count on new technologies that make enumeration easier and more credible. In that vein, it is heartwarming to note that the 2023 census will be a digital census, taking advantage of digital tools and technology.

Without a doubt, knowing exactly how many we are in the country is a basic foundation for socio-economic growth and prosperity. It is common knowledge that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. We cannot plan adequately for the future without possessing accurate data that show us today’s patterns and tomorrow’s trends.

Hence, for us to have a credible and nationally acceptable census in 2023, all stakeholders must deploy various means to ensure widespread sensitisation and enlightenment of all our people, in readiness for the commencement of this exercise.

We must get the word out, in various local languages and media formats, and let people know why it is important for us to have an accurate population count, down to every locality in the country. We have a responsibility to get it right this time, for ourselves and for future generations.

We cannot overemphasize the critical role a credible national census plays in achieving effective and result-oriented planning. The proposed 2023 exercise is extremely important because it will also provide the vital data and statistics that will enable the state government to plan better and deliver more effective infrastructure and social services to the people.

This is why all hands must be on deck to ensure a seamless and credible census in April. Every resident of the state is a stakeholder in the project. Therefore, everyone must be fully involved. That is the only sure path to sustainable socio-economic development. Again, this is the time for everyone who lives and earns a living in Lagos to stand up and be counted.

Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.