Efforts by the Federal Government and the United Nations Population Fund to get funding for the 2023 population and housing census are yet to yield any result, The PUNCH has learnt.
Earlier in March this year, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, disclosed that the Federal Government was planning to establish a basket fund to collect donations for the census.
He made this disclosure at a high-level partner engagement to seek support for the 2023 census.
Agba noted that a total of N869bn was needed for the census, adding that the government committed N291.5bn with the need for an additional N327.2bn.
He said, “The total requirement for the census (including post census activities) is N869bn ($1.88bn): census requirement – N626bn ($1.36bn) which is about $6 per capita (just slightly above the threshold of up to $5 per capita); Post-Census (up to 2025) is N243bn ($527m).
“So far, the government has committed N291.5bn ($632m) to the census, making it 46 per cent of total funding for the census. An Additional (immediate) sum of N327.2bn ($709.9m) is required to complete the census.”
The minister urged members of the private sector to either donate cash or offer to buy some of the materials needed for the census.
However, during a breakfast meeting with media executives in Abuja on Thursday, the Chairman of the National Population Commission, Nasir Isa-Kwarra, has disclosed that no donation has been made despite two donor meetings.
He added that out of about N800bn budget for the census, the Federal Government has provided about N224bn, which is 28 per cent of the required fund.
Isa-Kwarra said, “What we’ve been able to expend is about N200bn. That N800bn is a budget and that budget covers the cost of conducting census in Nigeria, including salaries and others… It is not that the government has given us N800bn but it is a budget and we believe that we may spend up to that or we may not spend up to that.
“To be straightforward, the Federal Government has actually provided N224bn which we have utilised for the census so far.”
He noted that the N800bn budget was to be funded by the government and donors but the donors were yet to fulfil their pledges.
The NPC chairman said, “This budget may be financed by the government as well as donors. Yes, we had two donor meetings. One organised by UNFPA, and the other by the Ministry of Finance. So far, we have received pledges but nothing has come.”
In an earlier telephone conversation with The PUNCH, the Director of Public Affairs, NPC, Isiaka Yahaya, had said that consultations were ongoing.
He said, “Consultations are ongoing. But you know the way they operate, it is not as if the money will come like that. They have to talk with their own government and look at their budget. So, that process is ongoing. But we cannot say any money has come in. It is a process, and the process is unfolding.”
At the breakfast meeting on Thursday, the NPC chairman, however, noted that UNFPA has supported the commission with funding for training, development of computation strategy, ICT equipment, and technical guidance.
He added that the UNFPA is collaborating with foreign donor agencies that have committed to supporting Nigeria.
During the donors meeting in March this year, the Resident Representative, UNFPA, Ms Ulla Mueller, noted that financial support from the UNFPA may be around $10m alongside the technical support that would be provided.
The NPC chairman admitted that the commission was faced with financial constraint, especially since the donors were yet to fulfil their pledges.
He said, “Yes, there is an element of financial constraint but for the commission, we are practically prepared to conduct the census.”
He further said if the donors failed to fulfill their pledges, the government might decide to sell its geospatial data to raise funds.
The NPC chairman said, “It is important to emphasise that our data is very valuable. If at the end of the day, we don’t receive contributions from Nigerians, the data is supposed to be free but we may have to attach some little cost-recovery value to our data to make sure we are able to provide the services for everybody. But it is not our decision. It is the government’s decision. We will make a proposal to the government on that.”
He added that the Federal Government might offer its $3bn worth of geospatial data to Google Maps for a fee.
“In terms of value, experts have estimated that the geospatial data we have is up to $2bn-$3bn. It is far better than Google Maps. In fact, we will be reaching out to Google Maps if they will take some of our data and pay us so that they can also update some of their own data,” he added.
Isa-Kwarra also explained the reason for the high census budget, saying, “People think we are spending so much money on the census. We are employing technology and this technology is not cheap. It is very costly. Because this is the first time we are doing this, the cost is high. The future census will not be costly as this.”