Funding Challenges Persist for 2023 Population and Housing Census in Nigeria

In the pursuit of financial support for the upcoming 2023 population and housing census, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have faced difficulties in securing the necessary funding. Despite efforts to establish a basket fund for donations, no substantial results have been achieved thus far, according to sources.

In March of this year, Clem Agba, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, disclosed the government’s plan to create a fund to collect donations specifically designated for the census. Agba revealed that the total required budget for the census, including post-census activities, amounted to N869 billion ($1.88 billion). The government had already committed N291.5 billion ($632 million), but an additional N327.2 billion ($709.9 million) was needed to complete the census successfully.

Addressing members of the private sector during a high-level partner engagement, Agba urged them to contribute either through cash donations or by providing necessary materials for the census. Despite these efforts, Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Nasir Isa-Kwarra, revealed during a recent breakfast meeting with media executives in Abuja that no donations had been made despite two donor meetings.

Outlining the financial situation, Isa-Kwarra explained that out of the estimated N800 billion budget for the census, the Federal Government had provided approximately N224 billion, representing only 28 percent of the required funds. He clarified that the N800 billion was a budgetary projection, covering various aspects such as conducting the census, salaries, and other expenses.

While the government had disbursed about N200 billion, Isa-Kwarra emphasized that the pledged donations from the government and other donors were yet to materialize. The NPC chairman acknowledged that ongoing consultations were being conducted, but the process involved discussions with respective governments and budget considerations. Consequently, no funds had been received from donors as of yet.

Isa-Kwarra also noted that the UNFPA had supported the commission by providing funding for training, the development of computation strategies, ICT equipment, and technical guidance. Additionally, the UNFPA was collaborating with foreign donor agencies that had expressed commitment to support Nigeria.

Acknowledging the financial constraints faced by the commission, Isa-Kwarra stressed their preparedness to conduct the census despite the challenges. However, in the event that pledged donations failed to materialize, the government might explore alternative means of raising funds, such as selling the country’s geospatial data. Isa-Kwarra estimated the value of Nigeria’s geospatial data to be around $2 billion to $3 billion and mentioned the possibility of offering it to Google Maps in exchange for a fee.

Highlighting the reasons for the high census budget, Isa-Kwarra emphasized the utilization of costly technology, which significantly added to the overall expenses. He reassured that future censuses would not incur such high costs as the country gained experience and established more efficient processes.

As Nigeria strives to prepare for the 2023 population and housing census, the funding shortfall remains a significant challenge. The government and the UNFPA continue to pursue financial support from donors, while exploring innovative avenues to secure the necessary resources for a successful census operation.

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