The National Population Commission has revealed plans to insure ad hoc workers, who will serve as enumerators for next month’s census amid the resurgence of insecurity in different parts of the country.
The census is planned for May 3 to May 5. Despite assurances from the commission, the resurgence of kidnapping, banditry and killings in many parts of the country is posing a challenge to the headcount, leading to calls in some quarters for the postponement of the exercise.
For instance, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on Thursday called on the Federal Government to postpone the census until all internally displaced persons return to their communities.
Ortom made the call when he received a delegation from the Middle Belt Forum led by its President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, in his office in Makurdi.
The governor explained that his call for a postponement was hinged on the huge number of indigenes of the state who were still in IDP camps and who might not be counted because they needed to be in their communities before they could participate in the exercise.
He had said, “I want to say that the Federal Government should suspend the issue of the census because it looks like the proposed census is coming with an agenda.
“The census should be suspended until the Federal Government is able to restore security and all our IDPs go back to their ancestral lands to give all of them opportunities to be counted in their homes of birth.
“I understand from the National Population Commission that those to be counted must be counted in their localities.”
While decrying the sustained attacks on Benue communities by herdsmen, he said more than 6,000 persons had died and property worth billions of naira destroyed.
“In Benue State alone, we have lost over 6,000 people. In the last few days alone, over 131 persons were killed and we are still counting, because others are in the hospital,” he stated.
Similarly, Pogu urged the Federal Government to suspend the census because he believed that the exercise “was coming with a hidden agenda.”
But responding to the call for the postponement of the census, the NPC had said it was ready for the exercise, adding that people in the IDP camps would be counted.
The NPC spokesman, Isiaka Yahaya, said the commission was prepared for the exercise scheduled to start on May 3.
Yahaya stated “It (the concern about the IDPs) is a misunderstanding of the census process. The fact that the IDPs are not in their states does not mean that they will not be counted. Wherever they are, as long as the camp is demarcated, they will be counted.
“But then, there is a provision for their usual place of residence. They are not going to lose anything as IDPs, particularly if they are in Nigeria. In any case, most of the Benue IDPs are in Benue State.
“The NPC is prepared for the census. We are working round the clock to ensure that all possible hitches are removed and that all the personnel and equipment to be used during the census are in proper shape.”
In a separate interview with Sunday PUNCH, Yahaya confirmed that there would be insurance cover for all the 800,000 ad hoc workers of the NPC, who will serve as enumerators.
He stated, “Initially, in our work plan, we choose to employ about 1.5 million ad hoc staff members with the assumption that two enumerators would cover one enumeration area, but by the time we did the trial census, we discovered that an enumerator can cover an enumeration area.
“For this 2023 census, we are deploying over 800,000 ad hoc staff members. The NPC is assuring Nigerians that the 2023 census will hold on May 3 to May 5, 2023. No postponement.
“In fact, when we did the trial census last year, we insured all those who worked during the period. Those who had injuries were given between N50,000 and N100,000. So, what we will pay our ad hoc staff members depends on the degree of any eventuality. The same method will as well be deployed for the census.
“The insurance will cover injuries, kidnapping, accidents, deaths etc. For the permanent staff members, they have insurance schemes under the Federal Government and they will be compensated.”
The NPC spokesman also confirmed that all the country’s land borders would be closed as no foreigner would be allowed into Nigeria during the census.
“So far, no staff member of ours has been kidnapped and we have not recorded any casualty. The only time our staff members were kidnapped was in Borno State during the EAD; they were released immediately with the help of the community.”
On threats of cyber attacks on its communication gadgets, Yahaya stated, “The NPC server is absolutely secured against any cyber attack. There are five layers of security to ensure the safety of the data. It is not even possible to attack the server now. No census data has been transmitted, which will happen only during the census.
“The man in the video claiming that the server of the NPC had been hacked acted beyond his mandate and is not competent to speak on behalf of the commission. He is not even a top official; neither does he come into the commission’s headquarters. He is just a member of staff in Minna, Niger State. He will be punished for giving false reports.”