Nigerian 2006 Census: Pro-active Reaction?

Nigerian 2006 Census: Pro-active Reaction?


Prof. L. Obibuaku


It has come as a surprise to many that some Nigerians are already commenting extensively on a population census whose result is yet to be published. One of such premature reactions came from a piece credited to Sani Zorro and Adamu Fanda which appeared in Daily Triumph of March 20, 2006 and which strove to establish the rationale for the superiority of the number of people in Kano State to that of Lagos State. Their position was based on 1991 census figures that placed Kano and Lagos population at 5,810,470 and 5,725,116 with Kano State topping Lagos with 100,912 people. They added that 1997 projected figures for the two states were 6,869,582 and 6,768,670 respectively, stressing that the estimates were based on 2.83 percent growth rate per annum. Other variables employed by the authors to support their case included the movement of civil servants from Lagos to Abuja, greater number of wives and correspondingly higher number of children as well as Kano’s superior land mass.


Assuming for the sake of argument that the 1991 figures are correct, it will still be difficult to see how the population of the two states can grow at the same rate. This is because new migrants arrive in Lagos almost on daily basis while a lot of people have left Kano State for reasons that will be shown later. A look at a few variables will convince doubting Thomases that there is sufficient ground for the Lagos population to grow at a faster rate than that of Kano. In the first place, all the major and minor ethnic groups are heavily represented in the total population of Lagos. Zorro and Fada admitted this while pursuing their argument that Lagos is home to a massive number of Igbos, Hausa, Efik and other tribes. They also affirmed that Hausa communities have since occupied settlements such as Agege, Idi-Araba, Ijora-Badiya and Obalande. More of them are arriving in the state particularly after the collapse of commerce and industry in Kano.


The role of commerce and industry as active drivers of population growth should be clearly understood. Kano has historically been known for its industrial activities. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kano developed into a bouncing commercial and industrial city with active encouragement from the federal and state governments bringing in its trail rapid population increases. These commercial and industrial enterprises collapsed in the late 1980s and through the 1990s bringing in its wake capital flight and serious population depletion. The downturn of commercial and industrial enterprises in the state was attributed among other factors to the frequent riots, which took a heavy toll on the lives of city residents. According to Sani and Sulaiman (see http/, disruption of peace as a result of rioting on the basis of religious, tribal or political reasons negatively affected industrial activities in Kano State and led to capital flight and relocation of firms to more peaceful environments. They added that it also discouraged fresh investments in the expansion of existing ones and led to loss of qualified indigenous and expatriate manpower as a result of insecurity of life and property.


Furthermore, Sanusi (see, asserted that 80 percent of the commercial activities in Kano was carried on in only three local government areas, namely Fegge, Nassarawa and Municipal. He also stressed the point that wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few persons and families who dominated and still dominate commerce and industry in Kano. Wealth from industry is in the hands of Chinese, Indians and some Lebanese families and corporations. He further notes that, “in commerce, wealth is concentrated in the hands of Lebanese and Hausa families. The vast majority of the indigenous population is dependent on the minority as factory workers, distributors or as hangers-on generally without much education or skill base….With the collapse of their patrons (businesses) all the hangers-on, workers and employees are on the street begging.” Sanusi further stressed the effect of the collapse of commerce when he said, “many top players in commerce left Kano for Abuja and became contractors and commission agents looking for quick money.” This means that a host of other people who depended on the top players as sub-distributors and retailers, house and office help and others became stranded and were forced to leave or join the beggars.


The influence of Kano’s attitude towards non-indigenes should be noted. While Lagos is stranger friendly, Kano is notoriously stranger-unfriendly as evidenced by frequent riots and killings usually targeted against non-indigenes. Such riots forced large numbers who felt that their lives and property were threatened to relocate their businesses thereby turning some villages in the south into major industrial and commercial towns. An example of such a village is Nnewi, while towns such as Owerri, Onitsha, Enugu, Lagos and others have virtually doubled their population as a result of movement of people from the North to the South.  The foregoing paragraphs have dwelt on migration as it affects growth or decline of the population of Kano and Lagos States. It is also necessary to examine briefly other factors, namely, birth and death rates that play important role as drivers in population growth and landmass which Zorro and Fanda evoked in support of their argument. With respect to number of children, per family, one would admit that Kano has an edge over Lagos if for no other reason because of the number of wives a man can marry. While men in Kano can marry up to five wives, those in Lagos are, in general, restricted to one wife for economic and religious reasons.


Literature on fertility in Nigeria confirms that the rate is higher in the Northwest including Kano than in the Southwest. According to Odusola (see, fertility rate in the Northwest is 7.0 births per woman compared with Lagos, which has fertility rate of 5.41 births per woman. This represents a difference of nearly two children per woman in favor of Kano State. While acknowledging that higher fertility and birth rates will tend to lead to elevated population growth rate, a look at death rate may alter the equation. Although overall figures for death rate are not immediately available, a look at infant mortality rate will help. A publication titled, Strategic Assessment Of Social Sector Activities, authored by Ejimbi, Suleiman, Khalid, et al (see www.usaid.Gov/ng/downloading), reported that infant mortality rate in the Northwest was higher than that of the Southwest of which Lagos is part. They gave the figures as 114 per 1000 births for the Northwest compared to 45 for the Southwest. For children under age five, the mortality rate is 217/1000 in the Northwest and 119/1000 in the Southwest. These figures indicate that an infant born in the Northwest is 2.5 times as likely to die as one born in the Southwest. Similarly, a child born in the Northwest is more than 2 times as likely to die before age 5 as one born in the Southwest. These sobering statistics are even worse when maternal mortality is considered. The authors report that maternal mortality rates are 1,0 25 per 100,000 in the Northwest and 165/100,000 in the Southwest—indicating that a mother in the Northwest is more than 6 times as likely to die in childbirth as one in the Southwest. It will therefore be reasonable to conclude from the foregoing statistics that the Northwest and therefore Kano State has higher death rate. What it gained in higher birth rate it lost through increased incidence of higher death rate.


With respect to landmass to which Zorro and Fanda devoted much time and space, one has difficulty in appreciating its relevance to population growth rate. Had they focused attention on population density and its associated problems, perhaps would begin to understand what they were aiming at. A state that is catering for 2,000,000 does not have the same problem as one catering for 4,000,000.the size of their landmass notwithstanding.  For each state, the purpose of head count is to ascertain the actual number of people to plan and provide for. This is the essence of a population census and therefore it is not useful to over-count or undercount.


For Kano State, it would be helpful to know the exact number of people that live on the extensive landmass of which the authors boasted. In earlier periods that landmass was home to a large number of farmers who produced impressive pyramids of groundnuts for which the area was famous. The pyramids have since disappeared principally because the hardworking farmers who cultivated the land have either died or aged. Their would-be replacement had since deserted the countryside and crowded into Kano city following the development of commerce and industry in the 1970s. With the collapse of commerce and industry in the state, these people were stranded and a significant number of them found their way to Abuja, Lagos and other places.


In summary, it will be fair to conclude that Kano State witnessed downward trend in commerce and industry over the past few years, and as a consequence lost significant proportion of its population through outward migration. It also recorded significantly higher rates of infant and maternal mortality and arguably that of death rate. The point being made is that we should all acknowledge the fact that the population of Lagos is growing at a much faster rate and therefore the state is more likely to have more people in it than Kano. In effect, Nigerians expect the result of 2006 head count to reflect reality on the ground.

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