21 Problems Of Census In Nigeria

Problems of census in Nigeria
Problems of census in Nigeria

When you conduct a major event like a census, there is bound to be problems.

In this blog post, we are going to look at 21 problems of census in Nigeria.



A census is a physical count of the people living within a country or a geographical area. Censuses are conducted every 10 years.

However, Nigeria’s last census was conducted in 2006, with another census scheduled to hold in 2023.

Who is responsible for conducting a census?

The census cannot be carried out by just anyone. There is a formal arrangement for census conduct.

Every country has a government agency tasked with the responsibility of conducting censuses.

In the United States, censuses are conducted by the US Census Bureau.

In Nigeria, the National Population Commission is responsible for conducting censuses.

The National Population Commission is currently headed by a Chairman. The current Chairman of the Commission is Hon. Nasir Isa Kwarra.

There is also a Federal Commissioner for each State of the country.

How often should the census be conducted?

A census should ideally be conducted every ten years, but not all countries follow this practice.

For instance, Nigeria last conducted a census in 2006, and the one before that was in 1991.

Importance of Census

If the census were not important, it would not be conducted.

However, census is important for a variety of reasons.

These include for planning the economy, making policies for virtually every sector of the country (health, education, economy, agriculture, etc.), and allocating resources.

It also provides data that can be used to analyze and evaluate how far a country has progressed in terms of its population and to make projections.

Now that we have briefly seen the benefits of conducting a census, we will now go ahead to explore the problems associated with census conduct in Nigeria.

The 21 Problems Of Census In Nigeria

We will quickly run through the problems of conducting a census in Nigeria. They are as follows:

Access to all localities

In Nigeria, not every community has motorable roads. Some places have dilapidated road networks. In some other places, the major way of gaining access is through the water, with the use of canoes and boats.

A large number of Nigerians still reside in the rural communities.

Some the roads are not even developed or well, properlygetting access to these areas is quite difficult.

This makes it difficult to for the enumerators to actually get to these areas and count the people.

Accuracy of results

Population Census results in Nigeria have been the subject of controversies in most censuses conducted in the country.

One or more regions, most times, disputes the population results.

Some claim there should be more, while other regions should be less. So this has made it that some of Nigeria’s population figures were disputed and subject of controversy.

Data collection

During census, a lot data or information is collected.

When data collection methods that are used are outdated and not what is in line with international best practices, then there is bound to be a problem.

Incidentally, Nigeria is working towards correcting this by using the latest software and the latest trends in international census conduct.


By funding, we mean “money”

Census conduct gulps money. For instance, the budget for the 2023 Nigerian Census is 532 billion Naira.

This is a huge amount of money.

If this money is not released and on time, it will definitely hamper the effectiveness of the conduct of the census.

So it means that if the money is not even available, conduct of the census will be a problem.

Public knowledge or awareness about the census

Everybody living in a country should have information about a census long before it is conducted. It is not just the government or few people that should be aware of the census.

So, in the build up to the conduct of a census, there should be proper awareness.

The problem, of course, arises, when the awareness is not properly carried out and the members of the public are not aware of what is going on and what should be done

This is because on a census day, you are going to see people come into your houses to ask questions and to take details.

Somebody who is not aware or properly informed or does not know the reason for this may not even cooperate or may look at those people with suspicion or even attack them.

When a public awareness campaign or mobilization is not properly done, then this really leads to a problem because you’re going to get limited cooperation from the people.

Security Challenges

As we all know in the past years and counting up till presently, Nigeria is facing security challenges on many fronts.

This includes the North, the East, the West and even the Southern parts of the country.

Most regions are all enmeshed in one security situation or the other from armed robberies, kidnappings, insurgencies and so on.

This is actually a major problem of census in Nigeria, because, first of all, you are going to have issue of people being skeptical to allow people they do not know into their houses in the name of census.

What if these people are fake or a group of criminals that just want to perform their evil acts? You may not be able to tell.

So some people may want to be safe and will not want to allow anybody they do not know to have access to their homes.

Secondly, it is also a security risk, even for the census enumerators; these are the people that will be going from house to house to conduct census. They are going to be entering into areas they do not know. And it is also important that they are safe.

Religious, Ethnic and Political Unrest

Nigeria is a country that has over 250 ethnic groups. There is bound to be crises at one point or the other, moreso over an issue as critical as census.

Even politicians and religious groups are not left out. There will be accusations and counter accusations of marginalization

This also makes it a problem for the conduct of a creditable census, because an ethnic group may start spreading ideology to its members concerning the census, and this will jeopardize the successful conduct of the census.

Training of staff and field workers.

Censuses are not something that is conducted every day. It is at best once every ten years. We don’t even do once every ten years in Nigeria.

This means we need trained staff during this period.

If we don’t have adequately trained staff, both permanent and adhoc staff who will be responsible for that census, they may mess up the process.

They may not even know how to collect the data properly.

They may also not be able to handle the machines satisfactorily.

At the end of the day, this will have a negative impact on the results.

Language issues

Like we earlier stated, Nigeria has many ethnic groups scattered all over the country. Many of these ethnic groups speak different languages.

When the enumerators meet people that cannot understand English or the major Nigerian languages, it becomes difficult to communicate, especially if you are not from that area or do not understand the language of those people.

So getting them to understand and to answer appropriately the questions that will be asked may be difficult.

Also, getting to properly interpret their responses is also another area of challenge.

Appropriate Technology

Census conduct, analysis and interpretation is a highly technical endeavor.

Data analysis alone is a complex activity that requires software and different skills, including analytical skills.

When adequate funds are not released or properly utilized, gaining access to the latest technology required for conducting and analyzing the census results will become difficult

Falsification and Manipulation of data

After the enumeration is done, the census is analyzed and different statistics compiled.

Some of these statistics are the things we are going to be hearing when the census result or figures are released.

Some unscrupulous elements may, because of political or whatever gain, be tempted to manipulate or falsify figures. When adequate measures are not put in place to check this, it may occur.

Political will

Just like we noted, censuses are to be conducted every 10 years, in an ideal situation.

The last census in Nigeria was conducted in 2006, and the next census, scheduled for 2023, is more than 16 years later.

It actually takes a lot of work from the government because of the great mobilization of financial and human resources involved to conduct a census.

So some governments may come in and they may not want to follow the right to conduct the census at the right time.

Dilapidated infrastructure

Nigeria has a landmass of. Several hundred and something square kilometers.

What this means is that potentially these census enumerators have a long expanse of area to cover in a bid to get the census conducted.

This becomes a problem when they have to go through places with no reliable means of transportation, where the roads are bad and dilapidated. This is worse in the rainy season.

Data analysis

Conducting census in Nigeria has been fraught with controversies.

If the process is not made transparent, such as all the things that are supposed to happen during the census, even down to the recruitment of staff for the census, then it is going to be a problem because people will still continue to look at the process as shrouded in irregularities and they may still reject the results at the end.

Time Constraints

In a census, you have to count everybody in the country.

Imagine having to count over 200 million Nigerians within few days.

This is actually going to take a lot of time.

And it is not just a straightforward thing because people have to get into different areas, have to reach areas, every single area, in order to count people.

This is actually one of the reasons why some governments shy away from censuses because of all the rigours associated with it.

Wrong use of data

The census information is supposed to be kept confidential.

So if the wrong people begin to use the information of people that are supposed to be private and reveal their privacy, then it becomes an abuse of the process.

Data security

When we consider the large amounts of data collected during a census and understand its importance, hackers will definitely be on the prowl in order to compromise the data.

Dissemination of data

After the census is conducted and the data analyzed.

After that, the results and conclusions derived from the exercise need to be disseminated.

It is not just enough to conduct the census.

Stakeholders and the general populace need to know the outcome of the census, how it affects us so that we can use it to plan at least the next ten or more years.

So when this information is not disseminated in a way that the people, the relevant agencies or stakeholders will understand, then the exercise has not been maximized.

This is because the idea of censuses is that, at the end of the day, the information will be used for better or proper planning.

Policy issues

Censuses, ideally, are supposed to be used in order to plan every sector of the country.

This include the economy, the health sector, education, transportation and so on

However, in many developing countries, these census figures are not properly used the way they should.

Most times that is why some people are skeptical about wasting so much resources on conducting censuses, because at the end of the day, they fear that the government may not even do anything tangible or reasonable with the information obtained from such censuses.

Intersectoral Collaboration

Census does not just involve one government ministry, agency or parastatal.

For instance, in Nigeria, the National Population Commission (NPC) is the agency charged with the responsibility of conducting census.

However, the National Population Commission cannot conduct census alone.

For instance, they need the police to ensure order and security of their personnel during the census.

They also need Ministry of Transportation, for instance, in order to ensure that they have a seamless movement to the areas they need to conduct the census.

They also again, need the Ministry of Information for mobilization and information dissemination.

In some cases we have government agencies that are not so much in harmony with one another.

There are also some bureaucracies that may not be necessary.

These can weaken or stall a serious drive such as a census when the government agencies are not working together as they should

Political Interference

Some politicians may want to interfere with the process of the census.

Some may want to get a large number of people accounted for in their communities, maybe for sharing of resources or for the future political advantages such as in elections, that they will benefit when they have a higher number of people.

So you might have some of them try behind the scenes to manipulate some people involved in the censuses in order to adjust the figures of the of their areas of representation.

Undue political interference does not mean well for the census of the country.

Remember, we said that some previous censuses in Nigeria have been accused of being inaccurate because people rejected the results and said that one region was higher while they were wrongly giving a smaller population figure.

How can we solve the problems of population census?

What is the way forward?

1) Proper Planning

A census ideally should be conducted every ten years

The National Population Commission should be up and doing. They should start preparing the groundwork for the next census once the one at hand is over.

For instance, after the 2023 Nigerian census, the country will be due for another Census by 2033.

The National Population Commission should start planning ahead, look for potential obstacles to the next census as well as proffer workable solutions to them.

2) Adequate Funding

When we talk of funding, we mean that resources should be released ahead of time to the agency that is responsible.

Some of this funding will be needed in order to recruit ad hoc staff and to get materials for the census and even for mobilization campaigns.

Saying that there is no money for a census to be conducted puts the census at jeopardy because some of the things that are needed in order to get this census done may not be put in place on time and it may even lead to postponement or cancellation of the census.

3) Continuous publicity.

Early mobilization of the populace towards the census exercise. This will increase the likelihood of people cooperating with the census enumerators.

4) Adequate engagement of stakeholders

This means that the census body should sit down and identify the people who are opposed to the census, such as key community leaders and begin to discuss with them.

By enlightening these leaders and making them key players in the census process, they can go back and tell their people about the census and encourage them to cooperate with the enumerators.

In order to ensure the success of the census, it is important to also engage in adequate publicity through radio, television, advertisements, flyers, and handbills to remind people about the census and what they need to do.

5) To prevent fraud, it is important to put systemic checks in place to ensure the credibility of the census


Census conduct faces a lot of challenges. In order to conduct an acceptable census exercise, most, if not all of these problems must be tackled headlong.

When a credible census is conducted, nobody can question the results. It will also be beneficial to government and nongovernmental organizations in planning, implementing and evaluating policies and actions that will be of benefit to the residents of the country.


We’d love to keep you updated with our latest news and offers 😎

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Oh hi there 👋 It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, once a week.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.