A public policy think-tank, Nextier SPD has said population would only be mostly be accepted when it is based on census figures that constituency demarcation could be realistically done noting that the last constituency demarcation that took place in Nigeria was 25 years ago.
Nextier researchers argued that at the moment, INEC cannot fall back on any reliable census data for making such demarcation or meaningfully cleaning up the voters’ register because it cannot delete registered voters as under-aged or as non-nationals when no other source is available for reference and validation.
The group in a report authored by Dr. Ben Nwosu, an Associate Consultant, Senior Lecturer at University of Nigeria, and Dr. Ndu Nwokolo, a Managing Partner and Chief Executive at Nextier SPD, said future data coordination and comparison between National Population Commission (NPC) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “is possible only after the 2023 presidential elections.”
According to Nextier SPD, the Federal Government has earmarked the sum of N187 billion for 2023 for a national census in 2023, saying some steps are necessary for making the census useful for election data management and other policy planning.
“The challenges of poor census data for elections in Nigeria requires that the authorities should consider how to address the questions related to the integrity of voters’ register and proactively plan how to use census data for electoral and other national planning purposes by doing the following:
“Investigate the allegations by CUPP and publish verifiable findings for the citizens to see. If the claims are valid, culprits who penetrated the security of the INEC information system and flooded it with false data should be punished.
Also, reports of underage voting in the 2015 presidential elections, 2018 Kano local government elections and 2019 presidential elections should be made public, in addition to sanctions for those who enabled it.
“INEC must, in light of allegations of over-registration, clean up its voters’ register and urgently publish the final register for public scrutiny,” the group recommended.
Nextier SPD also suggested that NPC should introduce technologies that require biometric information in the next census to minimise any group’s inflation of census figures adding that the database emerging from this serves as a reference point for validating people’s claims about their biodata during voters’ registration.
Also, the National Identity management department should be housed under the National Population Commission so that the national population census could build on their national identity information gathering method, it suggested.
Furthermore, Nextier SPD said the National Assembly should make birth and death registrations compulsory, and that NPC must constantly upload information about deaths and births to have a realistic approximation of the national population figures.
On policy, it said law enforcement agencies should Investigate the allegations by CUPP and publish verifiable findings for the citizens to see and if the claims are valid, and INEC must, in the light of allegations of over-registration, clean up its voters’ register and urgently publish the final register for public scrutiny.
The population commission, the group said, should introduce technologies requiring biometric information in the next census to minimise any group’s inflation of census figures while National Identity management department should be housed under the National Population Commission and the National Assembly should make birth and death registrations compulsory.
it further stated that the challenges to Nigeria’s electoral data represent one of the spinoffs of planning without data as it affects every sphere of national life.
Nextier SPD pointed out that for elections which are usually a space of massive contestations in Nigeria, its preparations are usually fraught with tensions because it is commonly felt that voters’ data are suspect.
These, the think-tank said, are all grounded on poor population data gathering and management through a census.