Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday called for effective and efficient management of Nigeria’s booming population to avoid ‘a ticking time bomb.’
Speaking at a high-level dialogue on Nigeria’s new National Population Policy, Mr Osinbajo, who was represented by Maryam Uwais, special adviser to the president on social investment, said population growth without adequate management is “cancerous and a ticking time bomb.”
He added that Nigeria needs to invest heavily in human capital in order to experience economic growth.
“It has been argued that population is not the problem but proper management,” he said.
“It is time for us as a country to engage with sensitive matters because the very stability of our future depends on these conversations,” Mr Osinbajo urged.
Outlining the advantages of a high population, he mentioned increased taxes, productivity, and a large workforce, among others. He however said when a high population is not properly managed, it leads to increased crime rates, unemployment, environmental pollution, and more.
It could also result in excessive pressure on natural resources, insufficient food, inadequate housing, traffic congestion, poor human capital indices in so many spheres, insecurity and instability, the law professor said.
He said all hands need to be on deck to support the fast-growing population to overcome the gaps that already exist, adding that there is an urgent need to build on the sub-national economies to support the rapidly-growing population.
Policymakers and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) at the event agreed that family planning is necessary for population management but also warned that a lack of funding would adversely affect ongoing family planning targets and services.
Speaking at the event, the coordinator of the Alumni Association of the National Institute (AANI-PAS), Shina Ogunbiyi, said family planning has been identified as a major solution to Nigeria’s growing population but inadequate funding is a barrier to its success.
Mr Ogunbiyi said the Nigerian government has repeatedly failed to prioritise family planning in its budget. He noted that the revised National Population Policy contains every detail needed to solve the country’s population crisis but funding must be prioritised.
“It is ironic that the revised population policy was launched the same year there is no budget line for family planning,” he said. “Our government needs to do more.”
Mr Ogunbiyi also said the state government must contribute its quota to ensure family planning services get to the majority of households especially those in hard-to-reach areas.
He said only about 10 states and the FCT are making contributions to the basket fund for family planning.
“If these (other) states can make contributions to family planning basket funds, a lot can be achieved,” he said.
The high-level dialogue was organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) with support from the development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), under the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health at Scale, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project.
The dialogue was themed “Implementing the National Population Policy; the responsibility of the MDAs and private sector at national and sub-national levels.”
The policy, which seeks to address the burgeoning population growth in Nigeria, was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2022. It was based on the findings of the NIPSS Senior Executive Course (SEC) 42 2020.
Mr Buhari had recommended that the National Institute focuses on finding solutions to population growth and human capital development in Nigeria.
The policy has an overall goal of improving the life and standard of living for all Nigerians through population control. It also stresses the need for urgent measures to address Nigeria’s high fertility rate, through expanding access to modern contraceptive methods across the country.
Founded in 1979, NIPSS is Nigeria’s foremost policy formation centre for bureaucrats, private sector leaders, military and paramilitary officers and senior civil servants.
Averting Population Explosion
Nigeria is currently on the verge of having a population explosion as the United Nations predicts that the country will have one of the largest populations in the world by 2050.
Family planning has been identified as a way to slow down the burgeoning population and reduce the high maternal and child mortality rate.
The country is, however, struggling to make modern contraceptives readily available to its citizens. To worsen the situation, the Nigerian government failed to make provisions for family planning in the 2022 budget.
However, the new policy emphasises the urgency to address Nigeria’s sustained high fertility rate, through expanding access to modern family planning, counselling and commodities as well as promoting birth spacing.
Speaking at the event, the Director-General of NIPSS, Ayo Omotayo, said there is a need to interrogate the tenuous causal relationship between population size, human capital development and the quest for sustainable livelihood in Nigeria.
According to him, “at a growth of 1.05 per cent, it is projected that the world population will reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050.”
Mr Omotayo, however, said population growth, the ability to effectively manage the population, as well as the capacity to cope with the consequences of a large population, vary significantly from one country to another.
Nevertheless, the new policy on population is a clear demonstration of Nigeria’s commitment to addressing population growth and human capital development, he said.
In his remarks, the chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Isa Kwarra, represented by Ismail Suleiman, the federal high commissioner in Kano, said the effective implementation of the new policy requires the involvement and support of everyone.
“I seize this opportunity to make a clarion call for both technical and financial support for the timely and efficient facilitation of the full implementation of the policy,” he said.
Furthermore, Ejike Oji, chairman of the management committee of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, said Nigeria is in a demographic crisis. He decried the migration rate of medical practitioners out of Nigeria and also the security challenges all over the country.
He said the country needs to focus on fertility control and “ensure that one per cent of the national health budget goes to family planning.”
Mr Oji admonished stakeholders to work together to achieve Nigeria’s commitment to the FP2030 blueprint.
Chiamaka Okafor is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.
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