Nigeria’s dangerous population time-bomb, By Jerry Uwah

Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross River State kicked up the storm last week in his speech at the launch of the sub-national index report by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria. Duke, who arguably is the best governor of Cross River State since the return of civil rule in 1999, said that the lack-lustre economic performance of governors in other parts of the federation had unleashed an avalanche of migrants on Lagos.
By the former governor’s statistics, up to 750, 000 migrants flock into Lagos yearly. Duke is worried that at the current growth rate, the largest city in Africa could no longer provide the basic needs of its residents. Unfortunately, Lagos is not alone in Nigeria’s brewing population crisis.
Th ere are fears that by 2020 Nigeria’s population would hit the 200 million mark. We are sitting on a ticking population time-bomb. Because of the allure of its enormous economic muscle, Lagos population time-bomb might actually go off before other parts of the federation are engulfed. Nigeria’s population is growing at a rate the nation’s economy cannot sustain. Th e country’s fertility rate of 5.59 births per woman is simply overwhelming. The world’s four largest economies have fertility rates that make Nigeria look like a primitive society.
Th e United States of America, the world’s largest economy has a fertility rate of 1.8 births per woman. China, the world’s second largest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $11.2 trillion has a fertility rate of 1.5 births per woman. Japan’s economy with GDP of $4.939 trillion is a distant third in global economic ranking. Yet the Asian nation has a fertility rate of 1.4 births per woman. With GDP of $3.4 trillion, Germany is the world’s fourth largest economy. Influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq managed to pushed Germany’s fertility rate in 2016 to a 33-year record high of 1.6 births per woman. Germans are naturally not baby makers. An average German man delays his marriage till he crosses age 30.
Their women grudgingly enter wedlock in their mid-20. Even when they enter wedlock so late, they are not in a hurry to make babies. Nigeria’s population boom is foisted on a weak and sluggish economy by an antiquated culture that believes that children have to care for their aged parents. About 110 million Nigerians wallow in abject poverty in mostly rural communities with basically no modern health care facilities.
The fertility rate of the rural poor is higher than that of the urban elite. Millions of women living below poverty line raise six to seven children each. Many have no access to modern family planning facilities. In the northern part of the country where polygamy is seen as a religious rite, very poor men marry four wives and raise six children from each woman. How those children are raised is determined by a religious cleric who would have to foster them at their formative age in the name of fulfilling religious obligation.
The girls from such homes marry in their early teens. They go into motherhood without any experience or skill. About five million children of school age roam the streets hawking all sorts of wares. Nigeria parades the highest number of out-ofschool children in the Dark Continent. No one knows how to tackle the infrastructure defi cit foisted on the country by the population boom.
With a housing deficit of 16 million units, millions of citizens sleep under bridges in Nigeria’s boisterous cities. Th e recent exams for admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions clearly exposed the dearth of classroom seats foisted on Nigeria by the population boom. Out of 1.7 million candidates seeking admissions into universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, the institutions can only admit less than 500,000.
The situation is so bad that even Lagos State University (LASU) which had all along been the epitome of transparency in admission policy, decided to bend the rule this year. More than 33,000 candidates applied for admission in the university. Unfortunately there are only 3, 500 seats. Consequently, even successful candidates were dropped to accommodate nominees from top politicians and businessmen. Perhaps it is in the area of unemployment that the pulse of the ticking population time-bomb is glaringly noticeable.
Nigeria’s youth unemployment is menacingly high at 50 per cent. Only Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe parades a higher rate of unemployment.
That explains why kidnapping, robbery, human trafficking and ritual killings have become booming trades. The population time bomb in Lagos is perilously close to the 12th hour. Other parts of Nigeria are not faring better either. What is delaying the catastrophe in poorer states is the simple fact that people are fleeing to Lagos for the illusive greener pastures. Even the thieves are fleeing to Lagos because there is nothing to steal again in the villages.
The kidnappers are fleeing to Lagos because most of those who can pay the ransom live in the megacity. At the rate the population is growing, very soon there will be no place to run to.
There will be no hiding place for the rich because they will be calamitously outnumbered by the angry poor bent on venting their anger on those who foisted a skewed income distribution system on Nigeria.

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