The National Population Commission has called for a review of the statutory mandate establishing the Commission to enable it to use digital technology in conducting the 2023 Population and Housing Census.

The NPC Chairman, Hon. Nasir Isa Kwarra, stated this during a 5-day legal workshop organized by the Commission, themed “the legal framework for a digital census – prospects and impediments,” which was held in Nasarawa State.

He added that with the use of electronic equipment like Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), the deployment of high-resolution satellites, Geographical Information System (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), and digital maps of Enumeration Areas (EAs), it is crucial for the NPC to operate on the right legal framework.

According to the chairman, this review and recommendation are necessary for the 2023 census to be credible and the result reliable.

He said that the Commission in consonant with its determination and commitment seeks to evaluate the proposed use of electronic equipment in relation to existing laws establishing the Commission and its functions.

“This step is necessary to ensure that the Commission operates on a firm legal foundation as it sets to deploy digital technology to execute the forthcoming census in 2023.”

Hon. Kwarra added that the cardinal focus of this workshop was to review the legal framework for a digital census and propose Amendments that will among other things seek to strengthen the statutory mandate of the Commission without fears of contravening the law and at the same time build confidence in the census-taking process. He said that with a strong law to safeguard the process, Nigerians will have greater confidence in the census results when released.

The Honourable Federal Commissioner representing Borno State in the Commission and Chairman of the Legal Committee, Barr. Audu Isa Buratai, in his address, noted that the Commission would continue to take necessary steps in line with the law to ensure a successful digital census.

Hon. Buratai said any action taken outside the dictates of the law amounted to exercise in futility. He solicited the collaboration of the members of the legal community to drive a law-compliant census in 2023.

Barr. (Mrs.) Chioma Umeh-Kalu, Director, Legal Department of the Commission stated that the workshop was aimed at achieving a census with the full backing of the law.

Mrs. Umeh expressed optimism that the Commission would continue to comply with census laws in tandem with global best practices.

While delivering a goodwill message, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Population and Identity Management Sen. Yau Sahabi, expressed satisfaction with the preparations for the National Population and Housing Census.

Sen. Sahabi, represented by his Senior Legislative Aide, Salisu Usman Zuru, who described the National Assembly as the symbol of democracy in the country, restated the commitment of the legislature to supporting NPC for a successful digital census.

The Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Compliance, Hon. Dennis Idahosa, while making remarks, said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to a credible and reliable census in order to know the actual number of Nigerians living in the country as well as tracking foreigners entering the country.

Hon. Idahosa, represented by Timothy Emmanuel, a Senior Legislative Aide, commended the NPC for taking advantage of emerging technologies as done in Ghana, Mali, Kenya, South Africa and many other countries to conduct a census, adding that digital technology has enabled those countries to capture the actual number of their citizens especially the vulnerable group and Nigeria should not be an exception.

He explained that a digital census would not only guarantee speed, but drive an accurate census with fewer errors as well as enable the country to have a robust database for better socio-economic planning and development of the country.

Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Population, Hon. Lawal Muhammadu Idrissu, represented by the Clerk of the House Committee on Population, Ali Yusuf, pledged the willingness and readiness of the House of Representatives to support and collaborate with the NPC towards amendment of the Commission’s Act in order to come out with a legislative framework that will drive a digital Population and Housing Census in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the opening ceremony of the workshop was also attended by the Honourable Federal Commissioners, Acting Director-General, Directors and staff of the Commission as well as the legal community and other relevant stakeholders.

The Hon. Justice Muhammed Mohammed, a Justice of the High Court Minna, who was a member of the Census Tribunal in the 2006 Census and Chief Mike Ahamba SAN, who was one of the Census Tribunal lawyers that defended the Commission as well as Prof. Larry O. C. Chukwu; Barr. Miannaya Essien SAN; Barr. Eucharia Nwakpa; Barr. Maureen Nwosu, the chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Abuja branch presented papers centered on legal framework review for a digital census during the workshop.

Stakeholders at the Legal Workshop in Nasarawa State