The National Population Commission (NPC), Abia State, has berated the current population figure of Abia, calling for concerted efforts to rewrite the wrong, as the commission plans for the next census in 2023.
The NPC stated that the undercount of Abia State is actually responsible for the low monthly allocation from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), as well as the lopsided political appointments and other fringe benefits which Abia has been sidelined.
In a Press Conference held at the Abia Hotels Umuahia, the Abia State Capital, the Federal Commissioner, Johnny Nwanne Nwabuisi, said the commission in its bid to avoid the repeat of last census record where Abia was basically captured wrongly, disclosed that the NPC is ready to put modalities in place to ensure that Abia has an uncontestable and acceptable figure in the coming census.
The Commissioner said as a way of forestalling some of the bottlenecks that confronted the previous census, the commission would be embarking on a media campaign to sensitize and give adequate awareness to the populace, so they can embrace the exercise.
He further revealed that the Population Commission is conducting a Trial Census in preparation for the 2023 Population and Housing Census, adding that the trial census is simply a dress rehearsal to evaluate all aspects of the census operation before the main census on a limited scale.
Nwabuisi pointed out that trial census would cover three local government areas in each of the three senatorial zones of the state, bringing it to a total of nine LGAs out of the 17 local government areas of the state, to enable the Commission test run all the equipment and other arrangement in preparation for the actual exercise.
According to him the Nine local government areas selected in Abia include Abia North: Bende (Isiegbu Community), Ohafia (Nkporo Etitiama) and Isuikwuato (Umunneukwu Agbo), while in Abia Central: Umuahia North (Mbaocha Ohokobe-Ndume), Isialangwa North (Alaukwu Omoba) and Osisioma (Ahiaba Abayi Ogbuligba) and Abia South: Aba North (Okpokoroala Umunneato), Obingwa (Ovom Amairiabuo) and Owerre Aba in Ugwunagbo LGA.
The exercise which he revealed commenced in the state from the 13th of July, 2022, would run till the 30th of July 2022, stressing that during the exercise, the Enumerators would move round the selected communities of the local government areas, numbering houses and enumerating members of the households, soliciting the cooperation of Abians in the selected areas.
He maintained that Abians should support the Enumerators by allowing them move freely within the assigned communities, grant them access to building/housing units for the numbering and enumerate them, provide adequate security for the Enumerators and their equipment while the exercise last and respond truthfully and freely to enquiries from the Enumerators.
Nwabuisi, however, restated the NPC resolve to use Personal Data Assistant (PDA), a digital application for counting to get accurate figure, thereby, minimizing human errors to the bearest minimum. He assured that Abia for the first time, would record a near complete accurate figure. In doing this, the Commissioner noted that the NPC has done Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD), to divide the country into smaller units for proper capturing.
Responding, the State Coordinator of the Trial census in Abia State, Adebayo Olayide, urged communities to cooperate with the NPC staff to perform their assignment effectively and efficiently.
According to him, the Enumerators have started house numbering and household listing,after which validation, enumeration and enumeration mop-up would commence.
Olayide noted that the Trial census would further address the likely challenges that would occur in the actual Census, calling on the Local Government Chairmen and traditional rulers of Bende and Aba North to cooperate with the Enumerators.
Also, the State Director of National Orientation Agency, Ngozi Okechukwu in her remarks, noted that NOA is a critical stakeholder in any issue of national development, hence, the need for the Population Commission to collaborate with them to assist in sensitizing the public, using their Community Mobilization Officers across the 17 local government areas of the state, on the importance of the Trial census.
The Chairman of Abia State Population Committee, Eric Acho Nwakanma represented by the Secretary of the Committee, Charles Amah, said that Gov Okezie Ikpeazu led administration set up a Population Committee for the purpose of liaising with the Federal Government in ensuring that the next population census would be seamless in the state.
He maintained that the collation of reliable data on population is a key requirement for effective planning and national development, pointing out that periodic census was critical to national development as government at all levels needed to know the exact number of people they were serving and how best to apportion resources.
While encouraging traditional rulers to assist pass on the message to the households at the grassroots, he charged the local government leaders to live up to their expectations and help the Commission achieve its assignment.
Contributing, the State Chairman of the Abia Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Ndubuisi Nwabekee, represented by the third Deputy Chairman, Eze Godfrey Onwuka, encouraged the Commission to reach out to the traditional rulers at the various local government areas to enable them carry the message of participation to all the nooks and crannies of their Communities.
Also, the State Coordinator of National Identity Management Commission, Loveday Chika Ogbonna, urged Abians to embrace the census exercise so as to get the accurate figure, pointing that Abia is far above the 2.6M population figure, but due to negligence the state is being short changed.
He added that the census participation cannot be overemphasized as the monthly federal allocations and other benefits are determinant on the population figure, stressing that the Northern elites understand the concept of census and would mobilize massively for it, while in the South East, it is trivialized.