JOHN NWOKOCHA, examines the dynamics of a rapidly growing Nigeria’s population and critical initiatives towards addressing concerns such as hunger and housing among others, resulting from high population figure put at 198 million
Phenomenal population increase It was the United Nations UN that raised the alarm over Nigeria’s population which it said was rising at phenomenal speed.
The UN had about a fortnight ago released a statistics that put Nigeria’s population at a frightening figure of195,851,811, making it 2.57 percent of the total world population.
Still, the UN’s report projected that by 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population and one of the six nations with a population of over 300 million.
Expectedly, conversations in the country in the last few days have been centered on the rising population and fears over possible population explosion in the nearest future.
The conversations are timely because the World Population Day was just around the corner.
World Population Day, a United Nation’s initiative is celebrated on July 11 annually and aims at spreading awareness about the exploding global population and the importance of reproductive health.
Interestingly, the theme for this year’s World Population Day is: “Family planning is a human right”.
The essence of this is to bring on the issue of growing population and raise awareness among the public on importance of controlling population that has become a serious cause of worry.
United Nations’ Development Program Our fact check shows that the Governing Council of the United Nations’ Development Program initiated the World Population Day in 1989, due to the population toll in 1987.
At the time, it had already crossed the 5 billion mark and exploding world population had indeed become a serious cause of concern.
Ordinarily, the country’s increasing population ought to be its strength, but when population growth overtakes public infrastructure and development by far, as is the current situation, then it is a huge problem if urgent measures are not taken to solve it.
During this year’s World Population Day celebration the National Population Commission (NPC) ostensibly corroborated the UN, saying that by the year 2050, Nigeria’s population which currently stands at 198 million will hit 410 million.
NPC Chairman, Eze Duruiheoma (SAN), who made the disclosure at a 2018 pre-World Population Day press briefing in Abuja, harped on family planning to curtail the growth rate.
Family planning, basic right Duruiheoma noted that the basic right to reproductive choices encompasses rights to information about access to contraception, education and the means to determine the spacing of children, as well as the right to decide freely the number and spacing of children without any coercion or compulsion and discrimination.
Duruiheoma said, the extent to which this right is promoted and exercised explains the impact of fertility on the social well-being of the population, particularly of women, adolescent girls/young people and infants.
He noted that the social demographic outcomes of the limited or non exercise of important basic Human Rights by the Right Holders resulted in high sustained total fertility rate of 5.5 per cent (average six children per Nigerian women).
Besides, the NPC boss said that the trend was fueled by stagnation of modern contraceptive prevalent rate of 10 percent over the last two decades with unmet needs of family planning at 16 percent, adding that the outcomes vary between the rural and urban areas across the states and regions of the country.
He argued that since the rights to reproductive choices is under international customary law as well as in various Constitutions of different nations, including Nigeria, individuals, couples and parents are entitled to correct information, in language and terms they can understand to help them make informed choices, appropriate education and means.
Against the backdrop of the problem the growing population is constituting the NPC boss tasked Nigeria being part of the consensus reached by 179 countries in Cairo during the 1994 International Child Project Development (ICPD) to recognise and promote the exercise of this basic human right by focusing on the provision of information, access to full range of family planning options (free) everywhere.
It is remarkable to note that a few years back the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan described the high population growth in Nigeria as a risk factor? Arguably, this might have drawn from limited resources of the country.
Equally arguable, the era of boom economy had long been experienced in the country.
Presently, economic boom looks impossible judging from realities on ground although successive governments had promised to deliver on drastic socio-economic transformation, to mitigate the problem of high population.
Still, it is worrisome that in addition to lack of capacity the federal government continues to evolve unsustainable empowerment policies, such as N-Power, youth employment, 3million teachers’ employment scheme among others, it rolled out when it came on board.
Ironically, youth unemployment remains high.
And going by the latest data from Nigeria Bureau of Statistics unemployment rate has nearly doubled since the end of 2015.
Grappling with unemployment Frustrated by the unemployment situation many Nigerian youth have become desperate and resolved to whatever risk to get employment.
One of such ways is by seeking the proverbial greener pastures despite the attendant risks.
Almost on a daily basis, thousands of young Nigerians are taken into slavery or being trapped in a sex trafficking ring in Europe via the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean, and scores die on their journey before reaching their destinations for the greener pastures.
Take for instance, in 2016, with 37,500 of the 180,000 total arrivals, Nigeria accounted for the most illegal migrant arrived in Italy by sea—but many also drown in transit.
Between 2014 and 2016, the number of Nigerian women arrived in Italy increased almost ten-fold.
But many also die trying to cross by sea.
The desperation for job seeking abroad simply underscores the collapse of social infrastructure in the country.
Many university graduates roam the streets of major cities in Nigeria in search of jobs.
At every employment and recruitment exercise by the Nigerian military, police and para-military agencies, the graduates who turn out to be recruited out number the available space.
But beside the underlying forces of lack of infrastructure, many fear this rise in population will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife.
Unfortunately, the problems particularly, strife is becoming acute in Nigeria.
Bleak prospect for food security? It is very worrisome that as the country’s population is rapidly increasing, deadly clashes between herdsmen and farmers are worsening, and by implication food security is being endangered.
With frequent destruction of farmlands and food crops across the country, there are indications that food production in the country is a major casualty.
Drawing from the increasing conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, experts have warned on the consequences saying that the rising population of the country is threatened by lack of proportionate increase in food production.
The strife is experienced particularly in Benue state which is regarded as the Food Basket of the nation, and several other agrarian communities in the country are not also spared in the herders’ attacks.
These are clear threat to food security, but it is compounded by the drying Lake Chad region and the Boko Haram insurgency in the North east part of the country.
Generally, the food production horizon is fast becoming ominous.
Many are therefore dismayed at lack capacity by the federal government to deal with the threats being posed by the frequent clash between farmers and herdsmen, which has made many farmers left their farm land.
As Nigerian population continues to spiral amid decay in infrastructure or lack of it the need for the government and relevant authorities to take population issue more seriously cannot be over emphasized.
Nevertheless, the prize will be too huge should the government wait till 2050 to grasp the pitfalls of the spiraling population and lack of commensurate infrastructure and development.