NPC Recruitment: N200 Billion Expenditure on Preparatory Activities for the 2023 Population and Housing Census

NPC Recruitment: N200 Billion Expenditure on Preparatory Activities for the 2023 Population and Housing Census

NPC Recruitment: N200 Billion Expenditure on Preparatory Activities for the 2023 Population and Housing Census

Speech: Press briefing on the N200 billion naira expenditure on preparatory activities for the 2023 Population and Housing Census delivered by the Director, Public Affairs Department, Dr. Isiaka Yahaya at NPC's HQ, Abuja today.


I am pleased to welcome distinguished gentlemen of the press to this briefing to clear the air on the needless controversies being generated around the expenditure on the preparatory activities for the 2023 Census. However, my first task today is to express the profound appreciation of the Commission to the Nigerian media for the robust and professional manner they have consistently disseminated information and educated the general public on the next census. The positive and incisive reporting of the census preparatory activities so far has placed the 2023 Census at the centre of national discourse thereby mobilizing Nigerians for its successful conduct.

In what ordinarily could be regarded as an open display of transparency aimed at assuring Nigerians and the international community that the journey towards the 2023 Population and Housing Census remains on course, the Chairman of the National Population Commission, Hon Nasir Isa Kwarra at a breakfast meeting with Media Executives on 18th May 2023 in Abuja disclosed that the sum of N200 billion had been spent so far on preparations for the 2023 Census. 

It was a very engaging session in which the Chairman and other principal officers of the Commission took turns to explain in detail innovations and the giant strides that have been recorded in preparation for the first ever digital census in Nigeria. In response to the question on what has been spent so far on preparations for the census, the Chairman forthrightly disclosed that about N200 billion had been spent on preparatory activities for the census. 

Regrettably however, in a sensational move that betrays the essence of professional journalism, some sections of the media came up with the screaming headline that the sum of N200 billion had been rapidly expended on the 2023 Census, ignoring totally the substance of the event, which was to give a detailed account of what has been done to make the 2023 Census a success. Emphasis was needlessly placed on expenditure, rather than the easily verifiable achievements and innovations on the 2023 Census.  Comments by other public analysts who did not attend the event were even more damaging, creating the impression that the Commission had ‘squandered’ N200 billion on a ‘botched census’. 

It has therefore become necessary to set the records straight and put into proper context the expenditure of 200 Billion Naira by the National Population Commission in preparation for the 2023 Census. Consistent with global practice and inspired by an unswerving commitment to positively rewrite the history of census in Nigeria, the Commission opted to conduct a digital census deploying technology on a massive scale. In a country struggling with acute infrastructural deficit, this massive undertaking can not come cheap but at a huge cost. Yes, it is true that N200 billion has been spent on preparations for the 2023 Census so far. However, this fund was not expended in the last few weeks, months or years but rather since 2014 when preparations for the 2023 Census actually began. Indeed, part of the N200 billion was expended before the coming of the present Commission, which was inaugurated twice between 2018 and 2020 and even before the inception of the Buhari Administration. 

The first preparatory activity for the 2023 Population and Housing Census was the Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) which the Commission implemented in phases on an incremental basis spanning over a period of 8 years. The EAD involved the division of the 774 Local Government Areas of the country into Enumeration Areas. The Enumeration Area Demarcation was done digitally from 2014 to 2022. Given the size of Nigeria, carrying out such expansive field operations must of necessity come with a huge cost. Major cost elements in the EAD project include the acquisition of high-resolution satellite imageries of entire land space of Nigeria and equipment, deployment of logistics across the country and training and deployment of tens of thousands of ad-hoc workers for several months to carry out the field operations. All of these were paid for, and heavily too. 

Another major cost element of the 2023 Census is the series of test runs carried out by the Commission to determine the appropriateness or otherwise of the methodology, processes and systems being put in place for the exercise. The Commission carried out an elaborate consultative process in designing a census questionnaire that responded to the country’s data needs for sustainable development. Series of workshops involving the academia, professional bodies, Civil Society Organizations and stakeholders were organized at the national and state levels between 2015 and 2017. The first Pretest was conducted between 31st May, 2021 and 13th June, 2021 in the thirty-six states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory while the second Pretest with larger coverage and broader objectives was conducted from November 24th to December 10th 2021 also in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). These test runs cost huge amount of money in terms of training, deployment of personnel, and procurement of equipment and software. 

The Commission conducted a Trial Census in July 2022. The Trial Census was a dress rehearsal of the main census and was conducted to assess the overall preparedness for the conduct of the 2023 Census and it took place in all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT with over 13,000 personnel trained, deployed and paid allowances for the training and fieldwork for about one month.  

The backbone of any digital operation including the census is the acquisition of hardware equipment and development of appropriate software. Putting in place a corresponding technological structure and facilities for the 2023 Census cost a fortune. In addition to the procurement of computers, laptops, desktops, printers and solar power system for the census, the Commission developed numerous softwares not only for census operations but also to manage its processes. The software procured for the census include Censuspad and Century for data collection, Azure Cloud Infrastructure for managing data storage, security and processing and Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) geospatial data for integration, analysis and utilization. In recognition of its work in the 2023 Census EAD, the Commission received the Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) award at the 2022 Users Conference of ESRI held at its headquarters, California, United States. ESRI is the World Leading Developer of GIS Software. Other software acquired include Enumeration Dashboard for monitoring of data quality and coverage Geo spatial dashboard, recruitment portal, logistics management information system and Mobile Device Monitoring System. 

The most significant hardware for the 2023 Census is the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or tablets to be used for data collection and transmission during the census. The Commission procured a total of 810,000 for the 2023 Census. Given this huge number, the item was procured in phases and a significant proportion of these mini-computers have been procured, configured, and now stored in all the Central Bank Offices across the country. The procurement of the PDAs, which followed a rigorous competitive process approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) constitutes about half of the entire census expenditure. 

For a census project that has been described next to war in terms of mobilization of human and material resource, movement of personnel across the length and breadth of the country will definitely constitute a major cost element. The Commission procured vehicles, motorcycles and boats for the movement of personnel and equipment across the length and breadth of the country. This was done along with renovation and equipping of all the 37 state and 774 Local Government offices for effective operational activities and storage for the 2023 Census. Conducting a digital census requires constant supply of electricity not only in the cities but also in the hinterland and hard to reach areas of the country for charging of PDAs and other equipment. Given the epileptic nature of power supply across the country, the Commission procured generators, power banks and install solar power system across the country.  

Training constitutes an important element of the census project with direct implication for the quality of data collected. This informed the elaborate nature of the census training which takes a minimum of two weeks of intensive classroom teaching, practical and simulations. The Commission had trained about 62,000 facilitators across the country who will in turn train about 850,000 Supervisors and Enumerators for the Census exercise. The cost element in the census trainings include payment of training allowances of not less than N12,000 per day to each facilitator for two weeks, transport allowance, hiring of venues, refreshment, procurement of materials and logistics for field operations. In readiness for the training of the supervisors and enumerators, the Commission had printed over one million copies training manuals for various categories of field staff with paginations ranging from 150 to 300. In addition, all the materials required for the fieldwork for the 2023 Census such as reflective jackets, raincoats, rain-boots, biros, chalks, indelible inks, first aid boxes, memo pads, call back cards and pelican boxes have been procured in millions and delivered to all the state and LGA offices of the Commission across the country.  

Mobilizing the citizenry and creating necessary awareness for a census in a diverse context like Nigeria requires extensive engagement of stakeholders and aggressive media campaign. The Commission has funded the Census Publicity Committees at national and state levels to carry out grassroots sensitization. Working with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the Commission had organized the 2023 Census Roadshows and grassroots sensitization in Abuja and all the state capitals. Publicity materials have been produced and disseminated in English and local languages while radio and television jingles and documentaries have been produced and broadcast on major networks. 

Even before the conduct of the census, the outcome of the preparatory activities is already yielding dividends that are far in excess of the ₦200 billion spent so far. The Commission generated the largest volume of geospatial data from the EAD in which every building in Nigeria has been captured and geo-referenced. The monetary value of this data alone run into trillions of Naira. This has also provided Enumeration Area frames that can be used for future censuses and surveys. Through the recruitment exercise for the census, the Commission has generated a data base of young persons who applied for the census jobs with information on their names, ages, qualifications, addresses, phone numbers and account numbers. These are valuable information that can be used for youth empowerment programmes and other social welfare programs. 

The skewed media narratives behind the ₦200 billion expended in preparation for the forthcoming census is an attempt to divert national attention from the great work the Commission has done and is doing to deliver a world-class census data for development planning. The items for which the sum of N200 billion was expended are available, verifiable and remain useful for the next census anytime it is to be conducted. The scope and quality of arrangements put in place will not only be useful for the next census but also makes future censuses less expensive. The Commission wishes to assure Nigerians and indeed development partners of its irrevocable commitment and competence to deliver a credible, reliable and acceptable census data.

In conclusion, I wish to state unequivocally that the Commission has nothing to hide as regards the preparatory activities for the Census. The implementation of the Census project is being carried out in a professional and transparent manner; therefore, the Commission is open to inquiry and is ready to offer clarification if the need arises. 

Let me use this opportunity to appeal to the Nigerian Media who are our strategic partners to join hands with the Commission in realizing the dream of providing the needed demographic data that will facilitate and place our country on the pedestal of sustainable development. Our expectation is that you will continue to report the 2023 Census truthfully and professionally in order to positively sensitize the general populace for a successful and fulfilling national assignment. 

I thank you all for your kind attention.

Isiaka Yahaya, Ph.D

Director, Public Affairs 

National Population Commission 

16th June 2023

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