2022 Census And The Internally Displaced Persons: Why And How They Will Be Counted

The large number of displaced Nigerians, in addition to proximity to the 2023 General Elections, formed the crux of the call for the postponement of the 2022 Population Census by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) in a communique issued at the end of a recent meeting in Kaduna. Within the context of relatively high prevalence of IDPs in Nigeria, the concerns expressed by this highly respected group on possible exclusion of the IDPs in the 2022 Census cannot be brushed aside. Data from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) indicate that over 3.2 million people are displaced, including over 2.9 million internally displaced persons in North Eastern Nigeria, over 684,000 in Cameroon, Chad and Niger as at 31st December 2020.
However, rather than being the basis for calling for postponement of the census, the IDPs issue deserves proper elucidation and clarification with a view to ascertaining how and why the IDPs will be counted in the next census. This piece therefore seeks to examine the veracity or otherwise of the concerns raised by the NEF against the background of scientific understanding of the census, the methodology to be adopted and equally important need for a data driven comprehensive rehabilitation of the displaced population.
According to the United Nations, a population census is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specified time, to all persons in a country or in a well-delimited part of a country. This all -inclusive definition of census does not allow for the exclusion of any group of persons from census enumeration. Indeed, no scientifically conducted census will exclude persons from enumeration based on a temporary loss of residence. Counting the displaced persons in Nigeria in the 2022 Census irrespective of their numbers and conditions is therefore an absolute step for the National Population Commission.
Happily, 2022 Census methodology has a robust and tested procedure for the enumeration of the IDPs in Nigeria, which is also in line with international best standard. The methodology devised is not just for counting of persons in regular households but also those who stay in irregular households such as people in transit, homeless persons and temporary living camps. During the Enumeration Area Demarcation, the entire land area of Nigeria was demarcated into enumeration areas that can be covered by a pair of enumerators during the census process. Every land area of the country including the IDPs camps were demarcated. The mandate of the enumerators during the census period is to count every person in the assigned Enumeration Areas and the aggregation of all the persons counted during the census will constitute the population of Nigeria.
Like in regular households, all the demographic characteristics of the IDPs such as age, sex, literacy level, marital status and relationship to Heads of Household will be collected, processed and analysed in order to provide deeper insight into the living conditions of the IDPs. Interestingly, from the census preparatory activities carried out so far, it is clear that IDPs rather than being disorganized assemblage of persons actually live in social units and are organized into households which make the collection and processing of their demographic characteristics an easy task. Investigations revealed that the IDPs largely maintain household composition and patterns before displacement from their normal places of residence.
On how the data obtained from the IDP enumeration will be credited, the census questionnaire will elicit information on the usual places of residence, that is where they stayed before the displacement. This data will be added to the population of their usual residence in case of possible change in status to aid the planning process of their respective usual places of residence.
The incidence of IDPs is a global phenomenon that has come to stay. According to the 2021 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID), there were 55 million internally displaced people across the world at the end of 2020, 48 million as a result of conflict and violence, and 7 million as a result of disasters. A record 48 million people were living in internal displacement as a result of conflict and violence in 59 countries and territories as of 31 December 2020. The prevalence of IDPs has never been a reason for indefinite postponement of the census as many countries confronted with this challenge have devised a framework to ensure their active participation in the development exercises such as elections and censuses. It will be recalled that ahead of the 2019 General Elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) elaborated a policy on IDP voting thereby ensuring that internally displaced persons registered and voted during the election. This is a best practice that the NPC can emulate in enumerating IDPs in the 2022 Census.
More importantly, prevalence of the IDPs rather than being a ground for postponement should actually be the reason for census taking. The living conditions in the IDPs camps are deplorable and in urgent and constant need of humanitarian assistance. Alleviating the living conditions of the IDPs through provision of food items, empowerment and social facilities have been on the rehabilitation agenda of national and sub national governments as well as international development partners and relief agencies. The implementation of comprehensive rehabilitation programmes must be data driven on the size, composition and demographic characteristics of the Internally Displaced Persons and only the 2022 Population and Housing Census can offer this possibility.

Stanley Nwosu is a Senior Public Affairs at the headquarters of the National Population Commission, Abuja.

Stanley Nwosu
Senior Public Affairs Officers,
National Population Commission, Abuja

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