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Amid Funding, Security Concerns: Court Stops Moves To Postpone 2023 Housing, Population Census

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In the midst of rising calls from some quarters that the 2023 National Census be put on hold, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Thursday declined a prayer asking for an order postponing the exercise scheduled to hold from May 3 to 5 May.
In its ruling, Justice Inyang Ekwo refused to grant the application, but rather asked the applicant, Omotuyi Ademola, to put the defendant, the National Population Commission (NPC), on notice.
While acknowledging that the applicant’s lawyer moved a motion for an interim injunction to postpone the exercise, the court declared that “however, on considering the motion, I am of the opinion that the defendants should be put on notice.”
The trial judge therefore ordered the applicant’s counsel, Victor Opatola, to put the NPC on notice for the commission to appear in court and show cause why the applicant’s motion should not be granted.
The matter was adjourned until May 5, for the defendant to show cause.
The prayers
In his ex parte application, Omotuyi prayed the court for an order postponing the forthcoming census for six months.
This, he said, was to ensure adequate preparation, publicity and adequate funding for the commission.
In addition, he asked for a declaration that the NPC currently lacked effective preparation and adequate publicity towards the conduct of a credible, effective and constitutional census in the country.
He requested a declaration that the commission was currently underfunded and thus unprepared to conduct a credible, effective and constitutional census.
The applicant also asked for any further order as the court may deem fit and proper to make in the circumstances of the case.
Legal questions
The applicant also set out two questions for determination by the court.
“Whether by a true interpretation and construction of the 1999 Constitution and Section 6 of the National Population Commission Act, the aim, intent, importance and purpose of the 2023 Census will not be defeated for lack of adequate preparation, lack of adequate awareness and publicity and paucity of funds.
“Whether if the above is in the affirmative, it will not lead to an exacerbated undercount and inefficiency of the census purpose.”
FOI to NPC
In a related motion, Justice Ekwo granted an application seeking permission to apply for judicial review of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made to the NPC.
A lawyer, Rhoda Aransiola, who made the application on behalf of her client, Victor Opatola, said the application became necessary when the commission refused to grant the request made by her client under the FOI Act.
The court asked Ms Aransiola to file the application within seven days and adjourned sitting until May 25 for hearing.
In the application, Opatola prayed the court for an order granting him leave to apply for an order of mandamus compelling the NPC to furnish him with information concerning the forthcoming 2023 General Census.
“A comprehensive and detailed information concerning the Quality Test Assurance report on the devices and technology to be deployed by the commission towards the coming 2023 General Census until Judgment is delivered in this case within 7 days of the delivery of judgment.
“An order granting leave to the applicant to apply for an order of mandamus compelling the defendant to furnish him with comprehensive and detailed information concerning any conflict of interest in the allotment of contracts or jobs given by or to contractors towards the coming 2023 General Census until judgment is delivered in this case within 7 days of the delivery of judgment.”
The applicant is also seeking an order granting him leave to apply for an order of mandamus compelling the defendant to furnish him with comprehensive and detailed information concerning Information on the funds received so far by the Commission towards the conduct of 2023 Census.
He further asked the court for a declaration that the refusal by the defendant to release the information or record requested amounted to a violation of Section 7 (1) and 4 (a) & (b) of the Freedom of Information Act and the action was illegal and unconstitutional. (NAN)
Why Census must stop – Afenifere
Notwithstanding the court’s position, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation,  Afenifere, Thursday, asked  the federal government to discontinue all the plans and arrangements to conduct the forthcoming National Housing and Population Census in Nigeria.
The group said the timing of the exercise was inauspicious, arguing it would be impossible in credible implementation.
This was the highpoint of the group’s monthly meeting held at the residence of Afenifere’s Acting Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, in Isanya Ogbo, Ogun state.
The communiqué was issued Thursday at the end of the meeting, a copy of which was made available to our correspondent in Akure, Ondo state by the Secretary General of the group, Chief Sola Ebiseni.
The group said some stakeholders had raised concerns over the planned census in the same year the nation just had its general elections, describing the N100billion budget as a “scandalous and economic offence.”
The communiqué said: “Afenifere recalls that in a paper it presented at the National Consultative Forum on the 2023 Census held at the Banquet Hall, State House Abuja on August 11, 2022, it reiterated the imperative of census in national development noting that the application and misuse of Census data had been our bane as a country where we lie to ourselves and the world about our number indulging in laughable projections sometimes based on assumed and fixed percentage of population growth across different parts notwithstanding glaring variables.
“It is in the light of the importance of credible exercise that, in the August 2022 Conference, we strongly advised against the conduct of the Census which, among other reasons, we said could not possibly hold in the same year of a General election. Other well-meaning personalities and institutions including the UNFPA Resident Representative in Nigeria who was at another Conference in Port Harcourt on March 26-29 2023 and most recently the Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Calabar all have raised concerns on the possibility of reasonable and genuine participation in an acceptable headcount in the current mood of the nation.
“Afenifere is particularly bemused that Government expects participation in headcount by citizens still incensed and distraught by the trauma of violence and brigandage of the elections or by those in IDP camps within their country in whose ancestral homes terrorists in occupation will now be counted as new indigenes.
“That all factors considered, including its inability to supervise a transparent electoral process, and a lesser headcount exercise, the integrity deficiency of this administration are abysmally compounded in conducting census in which partisan disputes in Nigeria are often at the level of communities, states and ethnic nationalities having been politicised over time.
“Afenifere decries the most insensitive deployment of over 100 billion Naira on this wasteful exercise as scandalous and an economic offence. Afenifere conclusively says there is no compelling reason why the census must be held by the expiring Buhari administration and calls for all steps and preparations in that regards to be stopped forthwith.”
The group also called on the judiciary to ensure that all petitions in respect of the just concluded presidential election be timeously and justly resolved before the end of the tenure of the “Buhari administration as the only way the confidence of Nigerians in its intervention may be earned.
“Precedents in this regard have been laid even by less endowed countries in Africa,” the group further argued.

We‘ve gone far – NPC
Meanwhile, the NPC Thursday said it had achieved a 99% physical presence in Nigeria, despite security challenges in some regions of the country.

NPC National Commissioner Dr Ismaila Sulaiman said this at a summit hosted by the Kano state government.
The summit was aimed at mobilising communities for the upcoming National Population and Housing Census.
Addressing the gathering, Sulaiman said the commission’s key activity is the Enumeration Area Demarcation, which, according to him, had been completed with the exception of areas in Borno, Zamfara, and a few others.
He said the commission had estimated these areas using the United Nations High Breed Enumeration Areas, supervised by the UN Resident Technical Adviser, and received a pass mark from the UN for its work so far.
Sulaiman further said despite security concerns, the commission had recruited 55,000 ad-hoc staff in Kano state, comprising enumerators, supervisors, field coordinators, and facilitators.
These staff members, the commissioner said, would be provided with handheld devices loaded with questionnaires and maps.
Highlighting the importance of the census, the commissioner stated that the data collected would be used for development planning both within Nigeria and internationally.
He emphasized that Nigeria is a signatory to international agreements, including the United Nations, which requires nations to conduct a census every ten years to aid overall global development goals.
Ganduje
In his remarks, Kano state Governor Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who was represented by Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Usman Alhaji, also stressed the importance of the census.
He called on traditional rulers, stakeholders, and the general public to mobilise and encourage people to participate in the exercise.

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