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How Many Nigerians? An Analysis of Nigeria's Census Problems, 1901–63

  • S. A. Aluko


In 1962 the Nigerian Federal Minister of Economic Development said,

It is our duty as a nation to see to it that we produce population census results which have been thoroughly conducted, verified and appraised, and therefore acceptable, without any shadow of doubt, to all governments of the world and to all international bodies such as the United Nations and its agencies, the World Bank, etc… The impressions of the manner in which a country conducts its affairs are one of the factors which earn for it the respect or disrespect of the rest of the world.1



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Page 371 note 1 Ibrahim, Alhaji Waziri, in Federation of Nigeria. Parliamentary Debates: House of Representatives (Lagos), 18 08 1962.

Page 371 note 2 Ibid. 5 December 1962. The Chief Federal Census Officer's Report of 18 July 1962 was read and quoted in the House of Representatives but was not published by the Federal Government.

Page 372 note 1 Ibrahim, Alhaji Waziri, in Federation of Nigeria. Parliamentary Debates: House of Representatives (Lagos), 3 04 1963.

Page 372 note 2 Ibid. 16 March 1964.

Page 372 note 3 The Federal Republic consists of Northern, Eastern, Western, and Midwestern Nigeria. Each has a regional bi-cameral legislature, with a House of Chiefs and a House of Assembly. There is a federal bi-cameral Parliament consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Midwestern Region was until 1963 a part of Western Nigeria.

Page 372 note 4 Jacobs, S. M., Census of Nigeria, 1931, vol. 1 (London, 1933), pp. 60 and 63.

Page 372 note 5 In 1871, only Lagos Island was inhabited; now the size of Lagos has increased to include the area known as the Federal Territory.

Page 373 note 1 See Thompson, H. N. G., Census of Nigeria, 1931, vol. IV (London, 1933), p. 1; also Northern Nigeria. Colonial Annual Report (London), 1904, 19061907, and 19071908.

Page 373 note 2 See Census Report of 1911 (London, 1913), and Cox, H. B., Census of Southern Provinces of Nigeria, 1931, vol. III, (London, 1933); also Annual Report of Nigeria (London), 1912 and 1913. The Central and Western Provinces later became the Western Region after Onitsha had been detached and merged with the Eastern Region, and Idah and its environs merged with the Northern Region. The Central and Western Provinces now constitute the Western and Midwestern Regions. The figure of 1.58 m. for Western and Midwestern Nigeria in 1901 in Table 1 is 1.62 m., less the population of Onitsha and Idah.

Page 373 note 3 Census Report of 1911 and Annual Report of Northern Provinces, 1913 (London, 1915).

Page 374 note 1 Calculated from Annual Report of Northern Nigeria, 1901–11, and Annual Report and Blue Book of Southern Nigeria, 1904, and 1901–1909. Figures for Western Nigeria in 1901 include the area which is now Midwestern Nigeria.

Page 374 note 2 Calculated from the Census of 1911 (London, 1913), and Handbook of Southern Nigeria (Lagos, 1912), pp. 338 and 348. In 1911 the population figures for Southern Nigeria were given for the Western, Central, and Eastern Provinces. Parts of the present Eastern and Northern Regions were included in the Central Provinces (now the Midwest), so the figures have been adjusted accordingly.

Page 374 note 3 Census of Nigeria, 1921 (London, 1923), and Nigeria Handbook, 1925 (London, 1926).

Page 374 note 4 Census of Nigeria, 1931 (London, 1933), vols. I, II, III, and IV.

Page 374 note 5 Census of Nigeria, 1952–53 (Lagos, 1956 edn.).

Page 374 note 6 Preliminary figures only.

Page 375 note 1 See Census of Nigeria, 1931, vol. II, pp. 13, and vol. III, pp. 1 and 14.

Page 375 note 2 Nigeria's Handbook, 1925 (Lagos, 1926).

Page 375 note 3 Census of Nigeria, 1931, vol. I, pp. 6 and 60, and vol. III, pp. 12.

Page 375 note 4 Ibid. vol. I, pp. 4–6.

Page 376 note 1 Census of Nigeria, 1952–53 (Lagos, 1956), vols. I-V.

Page 376 note 2 Cf. Barbour, K. M. and Prothero, R. M. (eds.), Essays on African Population (London, 1961), ch. 2.

Page 376 note 3 The Emirs and the leading Muslim leaders in Northern Nigeria still object to the enumeration of their wives, particularly those in purdahs and in harems.

Page 377 note 1 The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Lagos, 1963).

Page 378 note 1 List of Historical Events for Determination of Individual Ages, compiled by Dr. J. F. Ade Ajayi and Adenola Igun (Regional Census Office, Ibadan, 1962), p. 1.

Page 381 note 1 Quoted, Debates: House of Representatives, 5 December 1963.

Page 382 note 1 Daily Times, 27 July 1962.

Page 382 note 2 Eastern House of Assembly Debates (Enugu), 16 11 1962.

Page 382 note 3 Daily Times, 17 November 1962.

Page 382 note 4 Ibid. 27 November 1962.

Page 383 note 1 Daily Times, 6 and 8 December 1962.

Page 383 note 2 Ibid. 11 December 1962.

Page 384 note 1 Daily Times, 20 February 1963.

Page 384 note 2 Ibid. 21 February 1963.

Page 384 note 3 The Nigerian Morning Post (Lagos), 25 02 1964; see also Debates: House of Representatives, 3 April 1964.

Page 385 note 1 Federation of Nigeria: Digest of Statistics (Lagos), XII, 3, 07 1963, Table 1.

Page 385 note 2 The United Nations formula for calculating the rate of growth of population is Pt = Po (I + r)u, where Pt = present population, Po = population last recorded, r = rate of population growth, and u = number of years between last census and the present one.

Page 386 note 1 United Nations Demographic Year Book (New York, 1960), Table 4.

Page 386 note 2 Figures quoted for almost all African countries bear little or no relation to reality, as most of them are estimates. For instance, in French-speaking Africa no complete censuses were held in colonial times, and even now population figures are based on sample surveys. In other areas where censuses have been held, reliability is no higher than in Nigeria.

Page 387 note 1 World Population Data Sheet (Washington, 1964).

Page 389 note 1 Digest of Statistics, XII, 10 1963; also National Development Plan: Progress Report (Lagos, 1964).

Page 390 note 1 E.g Mars, John, ‘Population Stop Policy for Developing Countries’, in Nigerian Journal of Economics and Social Studies (Ibadan), V, 2, 1963, pp. 145–85.

Page 392 note 1 Quoted, Debates: House of Representatives, 5 December 1962.

* Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of Economics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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