The federal government of Nigeria has approved N2.8 billion Naira for the execution of the digital census previously scheduled for March 29. The government also postponed the exercise to May 2023 due to the rescheduled gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections.
This announcement was made by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, after the Federal Executive Council meeting (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, on Wednesday.
The council explained that the ₦2.8 billion for the National Population Commission (NPC) is to procure software for the census. If we recall, earlier this month, the Federal Government and National Population Commission requested financial aid of over $1.88 billion (₦869 billion) to conduct the 2023 census exercise.
This seemed to have caused a bit of an uproar in the social space with people questioning the amount requested to fund the 2023 census.
However, in a High-level partner meeting held on the 6th of March, Clement Agba, Minister of state for budget and national planning, said the Federal Government has provided 46 percent of the budget and is calling on donors from the private sector for the remainder of the fund.
₦869 billion to carry on the first digital census in Nigeria
Regardless of the postponed elections, the commission might not be prepared enough for the big task ahead of them. It is looking to carry out this year’s census count digitally and citizens are still unsure what the process would be like.
For many, there are doubts about the operations especially as Nigeria is still not technologically capable enough to manage its mass population; a case study is with the 2023 presidential elections and the technicalities with the BVAS and IREV portal.
However, for the 2023 census, the National Population Commission has made note that the operations will leverage a full mobile methodology which will require mobile handheld devices, geographic information systems, and satellite imageries to create the digital census map needed.
But is ₦869 billion too much? For satellite imageries, it cost nearly 10-25 U.S. dollars per square kilometer of the image depending on the spatial resolution of the satellite image and according to a report by WorldData Info, Nigeria has a land of over 923,770 km².
Although, Nigeria is not the first nation to prepare for a digital census, either. India, the second-most populous nation in the globe, started preparing for its first-ever digital census in 2021, and a budget of Rs 3,768 crore, was set aside for the project.
This does not include additional costs of materials needed like the required mobile software or language translation, among other things. But for a country with over a billion population, they seem to have a lesser budget than Nigeria.