Nigeria’s population reached 182 million this year with more than half its people under 30 years of age, putting a severe strain on a nation suffering from a slowing economy and declining revenue to provide enough schools and health facilities.
The latest estimate is based on the population of 140 million recorded in the last census a decade ago, using an annual growth rate of 3.5 percent weighed against other variables such as rising life expectancy and a declining infant mortality rate, Ghaji Bello, director general of the National Population Commission, said in an interview Monday in the capital, Abuja.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is witnessing a growing youth bulge, with those under 14 years accounting for more than 40 percent of its citizens, he said. This is happening at a time when the International Monetary Fund has forecast the West African nation’s gross domestic product will shrink 1.7 percent this year, the first full-year contraction in more than two decades.
“The implication is that they’re assets, they’re are the future of your country, but they are also liabilities,” Bello said. “We need to know how to plan for their transition from youths to the next category. It has implications for education, health and security, particularly in our environment where you have a lot of unemployment.”
Nigeria’s population, currently the world’s seventh largest, is the fastest-growing among the 10 most populous countries globally and is projected to exceed the U.S. to become the third-largest with more than 300 million people by 2050, according to the United Nations.
Plans to hold a census this year were delayed by the election of a new government in 2015 and a plunge in state revenue due to low prices for crude, the country’s main export, and slashed output caused by militant attacks in the southern oil region, according to Bello.
“We’re hopeful the government will soon make a statement for the next exercise,” he said.
To ensure an accurate figure when it does take place, the commission plans to obtain the biometric data of citizens counted to curtail the temptation to inflate numbers by states and municipalities in a bid to attract more social benefits and services based on larger numbers.
During the last census, the northern state of Kano registered a higher population figure than Lagos in the south, which includes the commercial capital that’s a major destination of urban migration in the country.
“It’s our mandate to produce figures that are accurate and credible,” Bello said. “If we do that successfully, we’ll be able to lay to rest some of these issues.”
The agency is making efforts to improve birth and death registration records to enable more accurate adjustments of population figures between census years, according to Bello. Only 40 percent of births and 10 percent of deaths are currently registered in Nigeria, he said.