Nigeria has low contraceptive prevalence rate of 15% and a high rate of unmet need for family planning in spite of the high fertility rate among women of reproductive age, and its high maternal and child mortality rate.
One of the main goals of the National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development (NPP), from January 2004 is to reduce the annual national population growth rate to 2% or lower, and to reduce the total fertility rate by at least 0.6 children every five years. Thirteen years after, this has not been achieved.
Nigeria's Population Profile this year is estimated to be 192 Million, it has an annual growth rate of 3.2%, and an average number of 5.4 children per woman.
"If the population continues to grow at 3.2%, the rate of the last census, it would double in just over 20 years and increase three-fold by 2050 to 543 million," says Country Director for Palladium's USAID-funded Health Policy Plus project, Onoriode Ezire, "At present, the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) is about 15.5%.The rapid population growth rate is primarily a result of high fertility occasioned by low use of contraceptives."
The health benefit of family planning and reduced population include reduced maternal mortality, fewer abortions, greater freedom for child spacing and also reduced pressure on schooling, health care sectors and on infrastructure for the government.
One key way to control the population is through family planning and there is need for government and all stakeholders to priotise family planning and factor it into all development plans. Family planning helps in addressing poverty and spurs national development.
It is also a critical requirement for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), experts say.
Ibrahim Tafawa Balewa, founder of a community development project , Earth Green concepts said family planning is an integral part of economic growth and development .
"Supporting, advocating, tracking and monitoring family planning has been an integral strategy of most nations that have evolved and developed. If you look at the Asian countries, Malaysia and Indonesia they actually focused heavily on family planning and that is why they are where they are today," he said.
Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole said there was need to reduce Nigeria's total fertility rate which currently stands at 5.5% compared to that of Rwanda and Gabon which stands at 3.90% and 3.91% respectively.
Speaking during the National Summit tagged 'Investing in Youth to Reap Demographic Dividend in Nigeria', he said if Nigeria works hard at managing her population, the country could attain a gross domestic product GDP/capital ratio of $5800 in 2050.
If Nigeria does not work on its population growth, it could have a population size of 752 million people in 2100, Vice President and distinguished scholar, Population Council, New York, John Bongaarts said during the 10th anniversary celebration of Population Council Nigeria in Abuja. He said officials should recognize the multi-sectoral benefits of family planning and slower population growth, and make investments in family planning programmes a development priority supported by the government.
On the way forward, the Country Director for Palladium's USAID-funded Health Policy Plus project, Onoriode Ezire said it was essential that Nigeria's family planning programme receive adequate political and financial support.
"This has not been the case in the past, especially from the government's budget. It is critical that all ministries consider population in key policy and planning decisions. Ministries should not merely account for population growth, but must also recognise that population growth is variable and can be influenced through their advocacy efforts. Governmental and non governmental organisations and affiliations including the private sector must be able to work together to bring about necessary actions," he said
The theme of this year's World Population Day is 'Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations' the commemoration of the day also coincides with the Family Planning Summit which holds today in London. The FP2020 initiative aims to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020.
Ahead of the London summit , a few days ago, about 55 Nigerian civil society organizations presented a letter to the Minister of Health Prof.Isaac Adewole urging him to support increased domestic spending for family planning.
The CSOs which comprise Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR), Ipas and Women Advocates for Vaccine Access (WAVA) said, "We humbly observe that between 2012 and 2016, the Nigerian government met just 11 % of its FP2020 pledge to provide US$3 million per year for the purchase of family planning commodities and an additional US$8.35 million for life-saving maternal, newborn, and child health commodities. This current expenditure is insufficient to support Nigeria's achievement of the National Family Planning (FP) mCPR goal of 36% by 2018."