The theme of the 2022 World Population Day – “A World of 8 billion: Towards a Resilient Future – Harnessing Opportunities and Ensuring Rights and Choices for All” Is a call for celebration arising from the benefits of improvements in medical sciences and education that have led to people living healthier and longer, but evenly spread. It also, draws attention to the enormous consequence that accompanies the numbers and for a switch in conversation from numbers to emphasis on the people that make up the numbers around the world, pivotal on Rights and Choices. The switch takes us back to Cairo (1994) commitments, connects with Nairobi (2019) transformative results enshrined in the three zeros, and aligns with the 2030 Agenda “Leaving no-one Behind” and “The Africa We Want” being the central end-point of Africa’s Agenda 2063.
2. The call to place emphasis on the people, requires looking beyond the numbers to according attention to the profile and characteristics of the population, explained by the age structure which shows the ratio of various age groups which determines the current and prospective fertility/reproductive status of the population; spatial distribution, socio-economic status; mortality and mobility outcomes and depending on the hemisphere, issues of insecurity and humanitarian emergencies. Therefore, focusing on numbers underplaying the importance of Rights and Choices necessitates the urgency to shift the conversation from quantity to quality and from liability to creating assets for the people across Nigeria.
3. Nigeria is among the eight countries globally sustaining the world population growth and leading in Africa. Current projections at 216 million people, who represent 216 million opportunities; if aptly harnessed, could transform the development landscape of our nation. The people’s age-structure favours the young people (those below the age of 30 years) who make up over 70% of our population. The current youthful age structure holds the momentum that will drive a sustained increase in our population growth well into the future, without immediate interventions. The situation calls for attention to providing quality and sustained investments in health care, particularly in family planning for women and adolescents, transformative and relevant education for growing numbers of children and young people – that fits into current and future jobs requirements, housing and decent employment/jobs – across successive administrations and governance.
4. To address the above, I would draw inspiration from part of the Statement of Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), that “Societies that invest in their people, in their Rights and Choices, have proven that such investments’ creates the road to enduring peace and prosperity that everyone desires and deserves”
5. I am glad that today, Nigeria has an innovative and transformation Revised National Population Policy. A policy that is people-centered, not numbers, and if well implemented will promote the rights of individuals and couples to freely and responsibly decide (with sensitivity to the changing economic situations and existing welfare systems) whether, when, or how often to have and space their children, in a manner they can comfortably have the means to support them. Indisputable evidence has demonstrated that population policies grounded in individual rights and choices improve the well-being of women and girls, transform families and societies, and accelerate national and global developments because people are the solution, not the problem.
6. Reporting on progress, 44 percent of currently married women in Nigeria, participate alone or jointly with their husbands in decisions addressing their health care – which include using contraception, seeking health care and having sexual intercourse with their partners (2018 NDHS). Let us double this progress ahead of 2030.
7. To have the right information/evidence/data for measuring and predicting likely demographic shifts, we need to hold a census that will provide current, reliable and acceptable data required for addressing the different needs of the various population groups and implementing interventions that will create opportunities for progress and removes barriers that inhibit them. This will guarantee individuals realize their full potential.
8. Before I conclude, I wish to reiterate that the theme draws attention to realities staring at all categories of stakeholders – the people, government, Civil Society organizations (CSOs), Partners, Donor, leaderships of Religion, Culture and Tradition including the private sectors and influencers to reflect and evolve a common front/platform of commitment needed to harness the opportunities embedded in our people and establish resilient in addressing the challenges that our rapid population growth poses through accelerated equitable access to family planning at all service points across all communities.
9. With these glaring realities, let us be united in purpose to change the story by putting the People, particularly women and girls first before the numbers.
I thank you all