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*FG: Inserting data on religion, ethnicity will derail enumeration exercise

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, has said the federal government was seeking to explore extensive use of technology to ensure that the 2023 population and housing census remained credible, reliable and whose outcome would be generally acceptable.

Speaking during a high-level engagement with donors and relevant stakeholders on funding the census, he sought their support towards the acquisition of relevant capturing devices that would make the outcome unquestionable.
Agba said, “We require 885,000 personnel to handle the census but we currently lack 405,000 tablets that they should use. We already have more than half of the requirements.

“Because we want each enumerator to have a tablet and not that they would be shared; because if they begin to share, it creates room for rigging and we don’t want to rig the census.”
He said, “These tablets are going to be automatically uploading the numbers as they are worked. As they go to each household and take the information, it automatically uploads the information that has been provided.”
He explained that the census had been rescheduled from March 2023 to May, because of the general election.
The minister described the head count as a digital, green and transformative census that meets international best practices.
He said the federal government had demonstrated a high level of financial and political commitment to the census project in spite of the election cost and activities.

He put the total requirement for the headcount including post-census activities at N869 billion (about $1.88 billion).
He said so far, the federal government had committed N291.5 billion (about $632 million) to the census, representing 46 per cent of the total funding requirement for the exercise.
Agba, however, explained that the sum of N327.2 billion (about $709.9 million) was required to complete the census.
Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday argued that it would not add information relating to religion or ethnicity of Nigerians in the proposed 2023 population census, contending that it was capable of derailing the exercise.

Speaking on Arise Television, THISDAY’s broadcast arm, the Director of Public Affairs at the National Population Commission (NPC), Dr. Isiaka Yahaya, also contended that the amount budgeted for the programme was not bogus, stating that over a million Nigerians will be engaged in the process.
According to the NPC, censuses conducted in the past were marred by the very sensitive issues of religion and ethnicity in Nigeria, noting that it was not prepared to travel the same route this time. However, it noted that in other surveys carried out in-country, those parameters may be included.

“The commission had some very deep thoughts about these. Of course, every religion and ethnicity are very important, not only in censuses but in surveys because it gives you the background to understand the context in which some of that data has been generated.

“But we have a peculiar situation where these two items have been sources of conflict and they have the capacity of derailing the entire census exercise. You can imagine you come up with data tomorrow to say Christians are more than Muslims, or that even Hausa are more than Yoruba.
“We will just be embroiled in unnecessary controversy and leaving out the essential data that we need, like data on unemployment, on provision of infrastructure, on education and so on. We do not want this kind of controversies to detract from the utility of the census.
“So that’s why for now, we are leaving the ethnicity or religion out.  When you think of it, the data we’re going to generate is not dependent on either ethnicity or religion. This data from census is used to allocate funds or resources for education and health. It doesn’t matter whether you are Hausa or Yoruba or Igbo or whether you are Christian or Muslim.

“So, we should not allow this data which is unfortunately very controversial within our situation, to deny us of the immense benefits that will derive from this census and that’s why it will not be there but we still do it for other surveys that we conduct,” Yahaya stated.
Explaining why the cost of the proposed census was very humongous, Yahaya stated that it would serve several purposes beyond the counting of Nigerians.
“About one million Nigerians will be employed and if you are paying them just N150,000 that’s a lot of money and that has almost taken you to hundreds of billions, not to even talk about the money you are going to pay during the enumeration process.

“So, the cost is not high, but one point you also need to realise is that the census itself is an economic empowerment programme, because you are talking about funds that will be given to millions of Nigerians. We will use this one to reflate the economy.
 “So, it’s not something out of the blue and it’s also an investment that is worth it. If you look at the total budget of Nigeria, for example, in 2022 and then you compare this with the census budget, this is barely two per cent of the total budget.

“This could not have been too much for you to have sustainable development, to have data that you use to plan on how to spend not just the budget for this year, but even for the next 10 years that the census data will be used for planning purposes,” he noted.
The NPC also stressed that the census process would be paperless, describing it as ‘green’ in order not to contribute to the felling of trees and destruction of the environment.

“As regards green census, every stakeholder is concerned about the deteriorating climate situation. And the national population commission will need to also fall into this line and that’s what we mean by green census.

“So in other words, if the census were to be conducted, like in previous years, we used tons of papers, so many trees will have to be felled. But this time around, we are not going to use funds that will run into millions given the size of Nigeria population to do this.

“So in this exercise, we are going to use personal digital assistant. So this is what we mean by green census. Counting a country of a population of 200 million and you use paper to count them will definitely impact negatively on the climate,” he added.

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Says it’s a reminder of Abacha’s dictatorship

A veteran journalist and rights activist, Mr. Richard Akinnola, has raised the alarm that the incoming government of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be intolerant of the free press.
Akinnola vowed that Nigerians would resist any planned “insurrection” against the independent media the way they fought Abacha’s dictatorship against the media.

Akinnola in an open letter dated April 1, 2023, written to the Director of Media of the Presidential Campaign Council of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Bayo Onanuga, expressed dismay that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) slammed Channels Television with a N5 million fine, following a petition allegedly written by Onanuga over an interview by the vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.

NBC had last week slammed a fine of N5 million on Channels Television for allegedly breaking the broadcasting code in a programme with Baba-Ahmed.
The sanction came a few hours after Tinubu petitioned the station over its interview with the LP vice presidential candidate.
While fielding questions on a Channels Television programme, Baba-Ahmed asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, not to swear in Bola Tinubu as president.

The LP vice-presidential candidate said there is no president-elect because Tinubu did not allegedly meet the requirements of the constitution.
However, Akinnola, who in his letter reminded Onanuga of their long-time friendship, accused him of violating all the principles they both fought for under the military, particularly against the military onslaught on the free press.

He warned that Nigerians would resist any planned “insurrection” against the independent media the way they fought Abacha’s dictatorship against the media.
The letter read: “I hope you are now happy and satisfied that NBC has sanctioned Channels with a N5 million fine, following your petition over Datti Ahmed’s interview on Channels Television.

“Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Dr. Olu Onagoruwa (both of blessed memories) were the best of friends for several years but that friendship was truncated when the latter decided to join the Abacha junta as the Attorney-General, churning out despicable Decrees. Their relationship ended and Gani publicly upbraided his erstwhile friend.

“You and I have been friends for several years, fought many battles together against the military, particularly against their onslaught on the free press. I, therefore, feel pained that l have to publicly upbraid you for your recent public statements, particularly your petition against Channels Television, to NBC.
“Et tu, Bayo? I’m still trying to wrap my head around your sudden 360 degrees against all you fought for under the military. You are yet to be in government and you have started exhibiting intolerance against the independent media, the same thing you fought for all your years like Dr Onagoruwa did. I’m sure your principal, who has been a lover of a free press, would be embarrassed by your position.

“I watched the interview under reference and I must say, you are very unfair to Seun Okinbaloye, the anchor man who repeatedly cautioned Datti Ahmed for making some seemingly inciting comments, to the anger and discomfiture of Datti-Ahmed. So, in all conscience, what then is the basis of your petition to NBC? Can you compare that to your recent incendiary post against an ethnic group? Why are you making enemies for your principal, instead of friends, in a country so polarised? While your principal is preaching unity and healing, you are busy trying to make more enemies for him. Yesterday, it was ARISE NEWS Channel; today, it is Channels. Is that a foretaste of what to experience in the incoming government? So, we should be fixated on NTA and TVC? Isn’t that what you are trying to say proverbially? To say that I’m totally embarrassed by your silly conduct would be stating it mildly.

“For eight years, despite all vitriolic attacks on the president, Femi Adesina, as Special Adviser, Media to the president, did not petition against any medium but you wey never enter, don dey censor the media. What a shame! I can expect the disaster that awaits us if you become the presidential spokesperson. Do l subscribe to unfettered press freedom? No. I believe every freedom comes with responsibility. However, when you create a perception that the incoming government would be intolerant of the free press, we need to sound the alarm bell.

“My dear Bayo, it is often said that until a man tastes power or has access to money, you can’t judge his character. That may not be true because one of our mutual friends, Tunji Bello, has tasted both but has been the normal self that l have known for over three decades. His decent character has not changed, in and out of government. So, could it be that your real character is just unfolding? Just because you are now at the periphery of power, you are ready to obliterate all the values and principles you held all these years. What a shame!
“Take notice that we would fight this your planned “insurrection” against the independent media the way we, including you, fought Abacha’s dictatorship against the media.”

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The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has slammed a fine of N5 million on Channels Television for breaking the broadcasting law in a programme with Dr Datti Baba-Ahmed, Labour Party Vice Presidential candidate.

This is contained in a letter addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of the television station and dated March 27.

The letter was exclusively obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja.

The letter, with the title: “Broadcast of an Inciting Interview, A Sanction”, was signed by Balarabe Ilelah, the commission’s Director-General.

It read in part:” The NBC monitored the broadcast of a live interview of the running mate of the Labour Party Vice presidential candidate, Dr Datti Baba-Ahmed, by the anchor of Politics Today, Seun Okibaloye, on Wednesday, March 22.

“Dr Baba-Ahmed said it will be unconstitutional to swear in an elected president on May 29, 2023, because of election irregularities,” Ilelah said in the letter.

He noted that the broadcast was volatile and capable of inciting public disorder and therefore violated some sections of the broadcasting code.

This, according to him, includes the section that said no broadcast shall encourage, or incite, be repugnant to public feelings or contain offensive reference to any person or organisation, alive or dead or generally be disrespectful to human dignity.

Ilelah added that according to the broadcasting code, broadcasters shall ensure that no programme contained anything which amounted to subversion of constituted authority.

He recalled that the NBC had engaged Channels Television severally to consider public interest before any programme is broadcast.

This, he said, was to ensure that the country was not plunged into anarchy.

“Consequently, on the following infractions, Channels Television is hereby sanctioned and shall pay a penalty of N5,000,000 (five million naira) only in the first instance,” he said.

He added that any further infraction by the television station would attract higher sanctions.

“You are advised to pay within two weeks from the day of receipt of this letter or the penalty will be graduated,” the NBC Director-General said


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Labour Dead

A governorship aspirant under the platform of the Labour Party in Imo state, Chief Humphrey Anumudu, has been found dead in his house.

WITHIN NIGERIA reports that his death comes after his return from a meeting at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja on Friday.

He died in his Lagos house in what family sources described as a “spiritual attack.”

A close friend of the deceased said he died around 5:30 pm on Friday.

Neither his family, nor party has made official statement on the development.

This is a developing story…

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