Opinion: National Population Commission, Festus Odimegwu and the burden of truth

by JD Zubema


To put the records straight, Eze Odimegwu on assumption of duty as Chairman NPC in June 2012, told whoever wanted to listen that appointment of Directors and other staff in the commission was lopsided and he was going to correct it.  He started by directing that all staff in his office, as the Chairman, must be of his faith (Christianity) and his ethnic group (Ibo). 

My attention has been drawn to a newspaper report captioned “No Census In Nigeria Was Credible — NPC Chairman” in which the writer accused Alhaji Halilu Pai and my humble self, Jamin Dora Zubema, immediate past Directors General of the Commission of peddling wrong information about the Commission and trying to promote ethnic and religious sentiments.

I will not want to dwell on the issue of credibility of past censuses in Nigeria as much of such comments come from non-professionals who hide under the umbrella of political representatives of their people even when the people they claim to represent have since disowned them.  Most certainly, Eze Odimegwu has not yet grasped the knitty-gritty of census taking in his one year in the Commission and this is aptly demonstrated by his utterances.  Unfortunately, he seems not interested in learning as he thinks that he already knows better than anybody.

If comments on the credibility of census should come from a professional, I will be better placed in discussing the issue.  Many non-professional Nigerians are known to have pointed accusing fingers at the outcome of censuses mostly out of ignorance of what a census is, how it is conducted and how it is evaluated.  Rather, they tend to compare census figures with their perceived size of the population of their localized areas.  Some go as far as interpreting their perceived size along ethnic, political and/or religious divide.

Whenever census figures are not in tandem with their perception, they are up in arms against the National Population Commission.  They will go to any length to whip up sentiments.  I am a living witness to such comments ever since independence.  It is however, interesting to note that most of such comments come from the same group of people.

Nigerians should not be deceived by such comments as technology has availed us enough tools to evaluate any census exercise in any part of the world.  As a professional in the Commission, I know the number of stringent national and international checks ensured through monitoring, the last two censuses have been exposed to.  The Constitution of Nigeria has always provided enough safeguards to guarantee the credibility of the census exercise and the results.  In particular, the 1991 and 2006 censuses made room for complaints just like the other censuses did.  The fact that Eze Odimegwu did not avail himself of such opportunities to castigate census figures over the past 60 years that he has lived, until now that he is the Chairman of the Commission who is expected to conduct the 2016 census, speaks volumes.  So all past dozen of censuses in the country have been wrong and Eze Odimegwu is going to give Nigeria the only credible census in 2016.  I think Nigerians should be weary of Eze Odimegwu’s real intentions.

No wonder, he has refused to present the compendium of localities and their population figures to the Commission and subsequent release to the public in spite of the fact that such details were made available to him almost a year ago.  His action can be judged as a deliberate effort at discrediting in particular the 2006 census and not to avoid creating rancour among communities as he is claiming.

On the funds used in conducting the 2006 census, the federal government told the nation (in the Census Administrative Report) that she spent N38 billion (48% being donation from the Development Partners) in conducting the 2006 census but Eze Odimegwu is now reeling out an outrageous figure.  Whose figure should be believed, the government’s or Odimegwu’s?

On the issue of peddling wrong information about the NPC, Festus Odimegwu should have known by now that the two of us spent our entire public service life with the NPC.  In the process, we developed a lot of reputation for ourselves as individuals and for the country at large.  The expertise we garnered overtime is not one that can be purchased off-the-shelve and many countries and international organizations are proudly appreciating and utilising the much that we have to offer.  Eze Odimedwu should look elsewhere if indeed people are peddling wrong information about the Commission and better still utilise his Public Affairs Department to sell the Commission.  I believe two retirees cannot muzzle enough resources to overshadow the huge human and material resources at his disposal to dispel such rumour.  Eze Odimegwu should stop dissipating his energy on two professionals who have excelled in their chosen professions and concentrate on the mandate of the organization he is heading and provide for Nigeria and Nigerians ‘credible census’ which hopefully will stop his people from complaining since it will be perceived as ’having been conducted by our son’.

On the issue of promoting ethnic and religious sentiments, the public and Eze Odimegwu should know that Alh. Halilu Pai is a Muslim and Mr. Jamin Zubema, a Christian.  On the other hand, two of us are not from the same ethnic group.  Alh Pai is a Fulani from Pai in Kwali Area Council of the FCT while I am Hoba from Hong LGA in Adamawa State.  Is it that both of us are promoting our ethnic backgrounds?  How many people from our ethnic origins are in Population Commission compared to that of Eze Festus Odimegwu?

To put the records straight, Eze Odimegwu on assumption of duty as Chairman NPC in June 2012, told whoever wanted to listen that appointment of Directors and other staff in the commission was lopsided and he was going to correct it.  He started by directing that all staff in his office, as the Chairman, must be of his faith (Christianity) and his ethnic group (Ibo).  I challenge Eze Odimegwu to tell Nigerians the composition of staff in his office at the time he joined the Commission and what it is now.

The recent newspaper advertorial signed by majority of the Commissioners disassociating themselves from his doings speaks volumes for all Nigerians to understand who Eze Festus Odimegwu is. Now who indeed is the promoter of ethnic and religious sentiments?  Is it Odimegwu or Alh Pai and Mr. Zubema? The Nigerian public should judge.

– JD Zubema is a retired Director General, National Population Commission.
Read this article in the Leadership Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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