Nigeria: Population Rise - More Nigerians to Fall Into Extreme Poverty - Experts

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Conflict, poverty is a curse.

More Nigerians will fall into extreme poverty as the nation's population rose to a new high of 201 million, outpacing economic growth by 0.63 per cent.

This was the position of economic analysts and reproductive health experts who spoke to Vanguard in reaction to the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA's 2019 world population report which placed Nigeria's population on a new high of 201 million.

This came as the federal government, yesterday, said there were no plans to control the nation's population.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Nigeria's economy as measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.93 per cent in 2018. This represents 0.63 percentage points lower than the population growth of 2.6 per cent.

On the demographic scene, the country emerged as the world's poverty capital, with six Nigerians falling into extreme poverty every minute.

At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India's 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall, said the Brookings Institution of United States.

This trend will persist, according to economic and reproductive health experts, should population growth continue to outpace economic growth.

We need drastic action - Rewane

This imbalance, according to Bismarck Rewane, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Financial Derivatives Company, means that the nationfs per capital income will continue to fall, leading to increased poverty among the populace.

We must not pretend there are no risks. There are risks. There is need for drastic action to address this trend. We must realise that you cannot make omelets without breaking an egg, he said.

Poverty will increase -- Akinwunmi

Ayo Akinwunmi, Head of Research, FSDH Merchant Bank, also stressed that the gap between population growth and economic growth will lead to increased poverty in the country, adding that it was, however, not a hopeless situation as the economy can grow by five per cent given the right policy.

He said: "The gap increases poverty in the country. However, Nigerian economy has the capacity to grow by over five per cent with appropriate infrastructure in place. In addition, policies that will increase education funding should reduce early marriage, keep youth, particularly young girls in school, and help keep population growth under check.

We are in demographic crisis --Ejike Oji

In the views of the Chairman, Association for Advancement of Family Planning, Dr Ejike Oji, Nigeria is already in a demographic crisis. Oji, a gynaecologist and family planning expert, in a telephone interview, emphasised the importance of investing in family planning and noted that global socio-cultural norms had changed such that preference for large families was no longer fashionable.

We are in a demographic crisis; let us not pretend about this. I have been talking about this issue for a long time. We need to focus on family planning and reduce the country's total fertility rate otherwise we are headed for doom. Like Pakistan and Indonesia did, we must invest in heavily fertility control. We must also invest in education of the young people while reducing birth rate and increasing the maternal mortality ratio, he warned.

Oji, who is also leading civil society support to ensure there is accountability in the family planning funding and use of resources in the country, lamented that there were too many gaps in the system.

"Between 2006 and 2018, a period of about 12 years, we added 58 million people into our population, that is scary, so all of us must be on point and on target to make sure that we are doing what we are supposed to do otherwise we are going to be in serious trouble," he said.

He noted that in the Comity of Nations, in terms of advancements in making sure that women have the services they deserve to empower them, Nigeria was not doing so well compared to other African countries.

"Until women and men get properly counselled and receive the family planning service they deserve, we haven't done anything, no matter the amount of investment. If Nigeria wakes up today and makes a determination and a resolve, we will make it, we will even exceed it.

"The Federal government of Nigeria has a policy at least that's a good start, now we are looking forward that they will implement it to the letter so that we would be able to handle the situation we find ourselves.

"My message to Nigerians is that for every man and woman, you should be able to know the most important thing to do for your child is to nurture that child into a very good, responsible adult and that cannot happen if you have 10 children and your resources can only take care of two.

"For every year we do not plan and make sure we reduce our population and birth rate, we are actually increasing the number of poor people in our country. The best thing to do is to make sure you have a family that is healthy, properly nurtured, and you can take care of."

It is a sign of population explosion --Hauwa Shekarau

Also reacting, Country Director of Ipas Nigeria, Hauwa Shekarau, a lawyer, said it would be a shame to attribute the development to propaganda.

She said: "I was not too surprised when I read the UN report. Earlier in the year, when I checked the population figure for Nigeria, it was already in the region of 198 million, so I am not surprised at all. This issue should not be diluted. That Nigeria's population is 201 million is cause for concern and calls for urgent action.

"But if we are seeing this as propaganda, then we should bury our heads in shame because if we do not realise that we have a problem on our hands, then we are really in deep, deep trouble. Let us address the issue with despatch.

"Already there are several incidences of kidnapping and violent clashes and the perpetrators are becoming more daring, to the extent that the security agents are weak and helpless and there is no solution to the insurgency crisis. All these point to population explosion and government should take charge of the situation and take concrete steps to address the issue urgently."

Further, Shekarau warned that much might not be achieved if nothing is done about unemployed youths.

"We have seen other countries that are in Asia, for instance how they have faced their own population explosion with seriousness and pragmatic solutions, and we can see how they are better off today.

"If we remain in denial and continue playing the ostrich, all of us will suffer the consequences, and except government faces these issues squarely, we will be digging our own graves.

"This is what Ipas and other development agencies have been talking about all these years, that is the need to upgrade family planning. We need to encourage family planning. We need to encourage women to get pregnant only when they want to. Let them have the number of children they can cater for, and let us encourage them to embrace family planning alternatives."

Nigeria may not achieve tangible growth --NURHI

In his views, Lagos State Team Lead, Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, NURHI, Dr. Edun Omasanjuwa, said efforts put in place to grow Nigeria'sfs economy without adequate measures on population will be futile.

Omasanjuwa regretted that Nigeria has not learned any lesson from countries that had controlled their population to develop their economy.

"No matter how we try to develop our economy, if population is growing at this rate we will never get to a point where we will have enough to take care of our population. When China introduced one child policy, it wasn't that they didn't like children but because they realised that it would get to a stage there will be insufficiency and they won't be able to feed their people.

"What other countries also did was to reduce fertility rate to a figure that is manageable in each household and community level to the extent that they have enough resources to care for the population.

"Unfortunately, Africa for some reasons has not bought into this idea, and I think in my own opinion it was due to African belief that everything promoted by Western world one way or the other have negatively impacted us.

"China is now the second largest economy in the world and in the next five to 10 years, they will be the largest economy in the world. In the same time frame Nigeria will be the third most populous country in world, surpassing America. Ironically, Nigeria's economy is just coming out of recession.

"What we are preaching is family planning not family limiting. We are not saying people should put a cap on the number of children they wish to have, rather, we are saying people should only have children they can take care of.

"We are not preaching population reduction, if you think you can take care of 10 children, go ahead and have 10 but let it be the number of children you can adequately take care of, and have them at the appropriate time you need them."

Tragedy of the health system --Olumide Akintayo

Also speaking, one-time National President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Pharm Olumide Akintayo, remarked that there is urgent need to sanitise the Nigerian polity and establish that family planning is one of the core limits in an organised health system.

"Family planning must be taken to the doorstep of Nigerians, Akintayo noted. We should stop the propaganda. What government should do is encourage people to go for family planning counselling either in the pharmacies, laboratories or healthcare centres, or wherever available. These things should be on the doorstep of Nigerians."

Akintayo argued that factors that make Nigerians vulnerable to having more children than they can cater for should be discouraged.

"For instance, a man returns home from work, there is no electricity, nothing to do to pass the time and the only available recreation is sex, so family planning should be made available and accessible. We have always said that the health system is chaotic. Government must be seen to do its best to organise these structures, but it also has to be mindful of those that it puts in charge of the system.

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"It is a tragedy of the health system that it is deliberately skewed not to promote preventive care, rather the emphasis has always been on curative health.

The bottom line is that Nigerians are appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari, whether the UN estimates are right or wrong, we must look at out fertility rates otherwise, our population figures will continue to increase unchecked."

Nigeria's 201 million people not a problem --Marie Stopes

Meanwhile, Marie Stopes International Nigeria, an NGO working on contraception and family planning, has said Nigeria's estimated 201 million population size is not a cause of worry. Rather, it said a failure to harness the demographic dividends of the people constitutes the major concern of stakeholders with regards to Nigeria's population projection.

The Country Director of Marie Stopes Nigeria, Effiom Nyong Effiom, stated this yesterday. Speaking to Vanguard in Abuja, Effiom said the UNFPA projection was not unexpected considering the country's fertility annually fertility rate.

"If you look at our projections which relate to year-to-year expected population growth, it moved from 2.5 to 3.2 per cent annually. If you also consider the 2006 census projections, the UNFPA figure is a fair number.

"However, the federal government working with stakeholders has been very clear about harnessing the country's demographic dividends. The population size is not always the problem. It is only when it is not a useful population or an unproductive population that there's a general worry."

No plan to control population- FG

In spite of the new population figures put at 201 million by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities UNPFA), the federal government has no immediate plan to control population growth.

The Permanent Secretary (Special Duties) Federal Ministry of Finance, Dr. Mohammed Dikwa, gave the indication at a press conference after the public presentation of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Spring 2019 issue of the Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, in Abuja, yesterday.

He said: "The issue of population is an issue we have to take into consideration to a level, consultations are being made and there must be legislation.

"As at now, government is not even sure to make any policy to control population growth, because we believe that is the reason government has to come out with sound policies whereby as we move every year, as an indicator to see what we have achieved and what we have not achieved, what measures to take in order to achieve what we want to achieve.

"This vision runs for four years by the group and there already are indications that we will achieve and we won't have much problem with the population growth for now. But if the need be, Government has every right to look into it and make consultations for us including state governments on what to do."

He was reacting to a question on whether or not the federal government was planning to cut population growth, now put at about 3.2 per cent growth per annum, against the Gross Domestic Growth, GDP, growth rate of about 1.9 per cent.

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