History Of Population Census In Nigeria

Ever thought of why they count the entire number of people living in a particular area or country? 

Have you asked yourself these questions when you see the population census officials?- What is population census? how does the program start? Who started it? Reasons for the program? All of these will be clearly answer in course of your reading.

Population Census In Nigeria

Population Census is the process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing demographic, economic and social data characterizing each inhabitant of a specific(delimited) territory at a specified time.

History Of Population Census In Nigeria
History Of Population Census In Nigeria


The importance of population census cannot be over-emphasized as it helps to appraise the past, accurately described the future and forecast the future. Because of this importance, the population census is necessary for a country developmental planning. For a country to be able to cater for all individual in the country, population and statistics of people leaving in that country will play an important role.


Nigeria has a country has carried out the count of human in the country over time but this was as a result of her own fair share of census experiences and these experiences can be divided into The pre-independence or colonial and post-independence era.


Population census predated the nation Nigeria as the nation was birthed 48 years after the first census that took place in Lagos colony that later become a territory of Nigeria in 1866.This census was to be observed by the start of decennial census(census in the year that ends with 1) in line with the British census tradition in 1871,1881,1891 and 1901.And all these censuses was limited to the colony comprising of the present Lagos island and some part of Lagos mainland.


The amalgamation of the Lagos colony with the Southern Nigeria protectorate in 1906, resulted in a wider coverage of the census exercise of 1911, but this census was an estimated census, as the main person enumeration only took place in 11 ports spread across the Southern protectorate while in the rest of the protectorate census was by sampling.


The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates into Nigeria by Lord Lugard gave the 1921 census conducted during the tenure of Sir Hugh Clifford as Governor General a wider reach as for the first time, census was conducted in the North, yet this census did not pass all the yardstick for a well-conducted census as the issue of individual enumeration and universality within a defined territory was compromised. This census was conducted in two parts: one for the town, called the township census, and the other for the rest of the country, called the provincial census. In the township census, 13 townships were enumerated only and it was conducted in one day and yielded fairly accurate results. The provincial census spread over a period of two months and was partially successful as it was based on tax records in the Southern Region and thus tax evaders were not enumerated and the Northern Region census was based on estimation from records and not from a household-to-household enumeration.


The 1931 census, during Graeme Thomson and Donald Cameron tenure as governor-general, was marred by the economic depression at the time, locust invasion in the north, and the tax riots in Aba, Onitsha, and Owerri during 1929-1930, therefore the census did not cover the whole country. Rather, actual counting of persons took place only in Lagos and five other townships, in 201 villages in Northern Nigeria, and for all foreign population in the country at the time. For all other persons and places, an estimate of the population was derived from existing tax returns and records. The census of 1941 could not hold because of the world war 11.


The next census was to take place between 1950 and 1953 during the tenure of Sir John Macpherson as Governor General, this census also breaches another important yardstick of a good population census which is the “simultaneity” because the census was staggered. The Lagos province held her census between 1950-1951, the Northern Region between May and July 1952, the Western and Mid-western Region between December 1952 and January 1953 and the Eastern region census took place in May, June and August 1953.This census was marred by large under-enumeration as so many people viewed the exercise with suspicion and unfortunately, these census figures were what was used to give Northern Nigeria 50% parliamentary representation and thus mark the beginning of the politicization and ethnicization of the population census in the country. The 1950s census was the first national, modern and well-planned census in the country.


Because of the politicization of the 1950s census, the 1962 election conducted by the government in which Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister was also marred by more irregularities, the results were rejected by the regions and as a result of this another census was quickly conducted in 1963 which was accepted by the Balewa-led federal government without recourse to the regional government despite opposition from the regions also with recourse to the judicial arm of to the supreme court.


The National Census Board was created by General Yakubu Gowon as an ad-hoc body simply to conduct the 1973 census under the chairmanship of Late Adetokunbo Ademola, between November 25 and December 2, 1973, but it was inconclusive as it was not published, though it was more detailed, this was the first time the officials took into account the homeless people, but when the provisional figures were released, it was not in sync with the 1963 population growth predictions as some part of the country recorded a negative growth rate coupled with the rancor of political and ethnical coloration.


So the 1963 census was still the model for all planning until the regime of General Ibrahim Babaginda who by decree 43 of 1989 re-established the National population commission as it had been in existence since 1981, though it never conducted a census before it was dissolved into National population bureau but by the decree No  43, the Alhaji Shehu Musa led NPopC was established and saddled among other things with the conduct of population census in the country, and the commission conducted the most scientific and accepted census in the country in 1991.

The census featured the introduction of local government areas to replace the state as the unit of operation for easy monitoring, the deployment of cartographers to carve out the enumeration areas mapping, the splitting of the country into zones under a commissioner who is not native to the zone. This population census acceptability made it possible for the novel population and housing census of 2006 by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo led government.

The NPopC introduced novel features like the deployment of GPS and satellite imagery to carve out Geo-Referenced Enumeration Areas and machine-readable forms were introduced for the first time. The National population commission saddled with the conduct of census in Nigeria is an independent and autonomous body not subjected to any external authority but only reports to the president of the country when necessary. According to United Nations, Census is recommended to be conducted every decade and is over a decade now since the last census in Nigeria, we hope we will be experiencing another population census soon.

Nigeria Population – 198,000,000


We have been able to dissect everything regards to the history of population census in Nigeria and how it emanated , the flaws and best so far, and also we have been able to discuss how population census was conducted under different administration also the imitating factors and how it was improved in course of time and different recommendation been made to sustained efficiency and dependency of the census results.

That’s all about History Of Population Census In Nigeria.


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