‘Indigene letter for sale’: How we will detect foreigners for 2023 census – NPC

THE National Population Commission (NPC) has prepared a series of “consistency questions” that would expose illegal migrants who claim Nigerian citizenship during the 2023 National Population and Housing Census.

Public Affairs director of the NPC, Isiaka Yahaya, disclosed this during a telephone interview with The ICIR on Wednesday, July 19.

An investigation by The Cable revealed that foreigners could get Nigerian certificates of origin and other national documentations for a token. 


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A certificate of origin is an essential document used to validate a person’s indigenous identity to a community in the country.

The report, which focused on four states — Lagos and Ogun in the South-West, and Abuja and Nasarawa in the North-Central — uncovered the corrupt activities of public officials in different local government areas who issue certificates of origin to foreigners after collecting money.

The findings in the investigation has raised concerns over the accuracy of data that will be produced from the 2023 national population census. The ICIR had earlier reported how poor border management and Illegal migration could affect the outcome of the exercise.

According to the Timothy Avele, head of Agent-X Security Agency, a Nigerian security startup, illegal migration into Nigeria through unmanned border areas will make it difficult for the NPC to identify non-Nigerians.

“The National Population Commission can end up with the wrong population figures. They currently do not have an effective method of identifying real Nigerians and non-Nigerians,” he said.

However, the NPC has assured that it would use further details such as place of origin and place of birth to identify non-Nigerians and Nigerians when conducting the census.

The Commission said arrangements have been made to obtain information such as country of origin and the length of time individuals have spent in Nigeria.

NPC director, Yahaya, in the interview with The ICIR, said the Commission would not verify the authenticity of every information provided with any national means of identification.

Yahaya told The ICIR that the NPC relies “solely on information provided by the respondents except in cases when we have a cause for doubt”.

“We don’t ask for evidence, we just take the evidence provided by the residents, and we don’t have a cause to doubt them. 

“Many people don’t have an NIN or a certificate of origin. We can’t exclude them as a result of that. We cannot ask for evidence of nationality and the like in a situation where at least 20 per cent of the population doesn’t have it. 

“We have our way of conducting consistency checks. There are follow-up questions and information that would hint at a red flag if the resident is deceitful,” he said.

No clear data on population

Generation of accurate data by the National Population Commission (NPC) has been the major concern for Nigerians since the plan to hold a national population census was announced in April 2022.

Given that the exercise is regarded to be long overdue, experts, analysts and even some political authorities have spotlighted the importance of an accurate census.

According to the former President Mohammadu Buhari, having correct figures on the population of citizens will help the country plan better.

He said, “Population is a critical factor in a nation’s efforts toward achieving sustainable development. People are both the agents and beneficiaries of the development process.

“The country’s inability to conduct a population census in the last 16 years has created an information vacuum, as the data from the previous census conducted in 2006 has been rendered out of date for planning purposes.”

There is currently no data detailing Nigeria’s exact population.

This is because the last census was conducted in 2006, about 17 years ago.

According to the United Nations, a census should be conducted once in 10 years. This means Nigeria was due for a population census in 2016.

According to the 2006 census figures, Nigeria’s population was 140 million. The data released by the NPC at that time put the northern population at 75 million and the southern states at 65 million.

The NBS put the country’s estimated population at 193 million in 2016.




    It rose to about 216 million in 2022, according to the United Nations (UN).

    The UN also predicts that the figure will rise to 223.8 million by mid-2023 and to 401 million by the end of 2050.

    Although the NPC is preparing to hold a census it is yet to schedule a date for the exercise.

    The population and housing census was postponed indefinitely in April. It had been earlier scheduled for May 3 to May 7.

    Beloved John is an investigative reporter with International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

    You can reach her via: [email protected]

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