On behalf of the National Population Commission, I am pleased to have the rare privilege of delivering a remark on this auspicious occasion of the 2022 Annual Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Lecture and Merit Awards taking place in the ancient city of Kano. Within the context of the current security challenges confronting the Nigerian nation and the spirited efforts of the present Administration to address them on a sustainable basis, the theme of this annual lecture is timely and inspiring. Economic and social development can only take place and thrive in an atmosphere of relative peace and in which the lives and properties of citizens can be guaranteed. Insecurity as we have witnessed in the last few years not only stifles economic growth and human development but also leads to diversion of scarce resources that would have otherwise been invested in education, health and infrastructure into needless allocation of resources into security matters.

While the escalating nature of the security challenges calls for drastic and military solution, there is however a general consensus that the war against insecurity will not only be fought and won on the battlefields and trenches but rather through innovative socio-economic interventions that will address the root causes of insecurity on a permanent and sustainable basis. It is also a war that requires non-military solution through the use of time tested and respective institutions with immense capacity, goodwill and respect to foster enduring peace. It is in this regard that the focus of the 2022 Annual Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial lecture is very apt.

The traditional institutions especially in the Northern Nigeria has century long reputation of promoting peace among the people and dousing tensions at the grassroots. Indeed, the degeneration is a direct product of systematic alienation of the traditional institution from the governance process. The traditional institutions are connected to the people and have structures that sustained peace, equity and strong moral values. With the array of relevant stakeholders that have been slated to speak at this lecture, I am confident that this forum will come out with feasible strategies that will restore the relevance of the traditional institution in national affairs and constitute them into veritable agents of combating insecurity in Northern Nigeria.

Permit me to seize this opportunity to harp on the significance of the 2022 Census and its relevance to the theme of the today’s lecture. As you are aware, the Federal Government has given the National Population Commission the approval to conduct a national population and housing census. Preparations are in top gear to deliver accurate, reliable and acceptable census. The Enumeration Area Demarcation which is the division of the country into small enumeration areas that a pair of enumerators can cover during the census period is 99.5 completed with the demarcation of 772 out of 774 LGAs in the country. The first and second pretests have been concluded to among other things finetune the methodology for the census. The Commission is planning to conduct a digital census in which the particulars of respondents will be captured through the use of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and the data transmitted real time. The Commission plans to recruit about 1.2 million field functionaries for the census.

Conducting the census is a complex process that requires the support of multiplicity of stakeholders in order to ensure the smoothness of the process and the acceptability of its outcomes. Among the stakeholders, the traditional institution occupies a very strategic position. Census is a grassroots oriented activity and the traditional institution as the custodian of the people’s culture and beliefs, are better placed to mobilize the people for the census. Firstly, the traditional institution has well tested channels to convey credible information to the people, which is required convince the people to cooperate and actively participate in the census process.

Secondly, the traditional institution has important role to facilitate the logistics process of the census. Being the biggest peacetime activity, census requires extensive deployment of personnel and materials to every nook and cranny of the country. While the Commission will bear the costs of putting in place the required logistics support, the contributions of the traditional institution in the provision of accommodation, transport and welfare of field functionaries will be very critical particularly in the rural areas and hard to reach areas of the country.

The question of whether a census can be conducted in a context of escalating security situation has been raised. While the Commission recognizes that the security situation remains a potent threat of the census that must be addressed, we are however convinced that the security situation does not provide sufficient ground for the postponement of the 2022 Census. With proper planning and operational deployment as done in successive elections, the census can be conducted in Nigeria. Our optimism in this regard is reinforced by the patriotic roles of the traditional institution who provided adequate security cover for the Enumeration Area Demarcation in their various communities during the exercise. Relying on their moral authority, goodwill and contact, the traditional institutions, collaborated with the security agencies to ensure that the Commission’s functionaries were well protected on the field.

As the nation takes the march towards the 2022 Census, the Commission will continue to count on the support of the traditional institutions across the country to ensure that the census is conducted in an atmosphere of relative peace and security. Towards this end, the Commission has embarked on nationwide advocacy visits to traditional rulers in all the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. The aim of the advocacy visits is to solicit the support of the traditional institutions for the security of the census process, welfare of functionaries and acceptability of its outcomes for planning purposes.

To further deepen the partnership with the traditional institution, the Commission is working out a formal arrangement in which the traditional rulers will serve as members of relevant census committees such as publicity, logistics and security. It is our expectation that such institutional engagement will provide the platform for a more robust engagement of the traditional institution in the successful conduct of the 2022 Population and Housing Census.

I wish to assure Nigerians of the commitment and capacity of the National Population Commission to deliver to this great nation accurate, reliable and acceptable census. Coming 16 years after the last census and at a time when the nation is in dire need of demographic data to facilitate the transformation agenda of the present Administration, the present Commission has an historical mission to ensure the successful conduct of the 2022 Census. The expectation is high and we cannot afford to fail President Muhammadu Buhari and indeed all Nigerians. I therefore call on all Nigerians to extend maximum hand of collaboration, partnership and support to the Commission in this bold endeavor to lay a solid foundation for evidenced based and sustainable development of Nigeria.

I wish to end this address on a note of appreciation to the Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation for extending to the Commission the opportunity to present a remark on the occasion of the 2022 Annual lecture and Merit Award. We are indeed very grateful for this kind gesture and look forward to a more continuous and stronger partnership with your highly revered organization before, during and after the 2022 Census.

I thank you for your kind attention.