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He also warned that the country could parade the third-largest population worldwide by 2050 if the current population growth rate persisted.
Obasanjo gave the warning during a mentoring session with students from some selected schools across the nation in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, at the weekend.
The former president observed that Nigeria had added the population of France to itself within a few years, moving from 120 million to over 200 million.
Worldometer, an online platform that keeps important data on global issues, puts Nigeria’s population at 211 million as at June 27.
The National Population Commission uses Worldometer’s data as Nigeria’s estimated population.
Nigeria conducted its last population census in 2006. The census showed there were 140 million people in the country at the time.
Obasanjo opined that government did not match the rapid increase in the country’s population growth with needed infrastructures and other facilities that would enable citizens to develop their potential and make meaningful contributions to the nation’s economy.
“We have moved from 120 million to over 200 million. We have added the population of France to our population, and if we continue the way we are going, by the year 2050, we will be the third-largest country in the world,” Obasanjo said.
He added: “If we continue, by the year 3000, we would be the largest country in the world. What are we going to do to handle that? How are we going to handle that population? If we do not start getting it right now, we will not get it right by 2050.”
The 84-year-old former president said if the government put needed policies in place to harness its citizens’ potential, the nation would reap the benefits of demographic dividends rather than the population becoming a liability.
“What we need to do is education about population management. Some people don’t like saying family planning but, whatever you do, you must manage your population to the benefit of all that is living within your nation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria may be losing about a trillion dollars yearly to its failure to manage its population, a population expert has said.
Chairman of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP) Dr Ejike Oji said Nigerians in the Diaspora remitted about $29 billion to the country.
The ICIR checks showed that Diasporan remittance for 2019 dropped to 17.2 billion dollars from 23 billion dollars remitted in 2018. The drop was reportedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, migrant remittances translated to 83 per cent of the Nigerian government’s budget in 2018, 11 times the foreign direct investment flows in the same period.
Nigeria’s remittance inflows were also 7.4 times larger than the net official development assistance (foreign aid) received in 2017, which the firm put at 3.4 billion dollars.
Speaking while addressing journalists on sexual reproductive health rights in Abuja at the weekend, Oji said Nigerians in Diaspora contributed nearly a trillion dollars from different countries where they lived and worked.
At the meeting convened by AAPF and Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN), Oji said if Nigeria had been conducive, many of its citizens would not have been seeking greener pastures abroad.
According to him, an average educated Nigerian would choose to leave the country and travel abroad.
He said 85 per cent of people in the country were dependents.
Oji, a former Ipas Nigeria Director, said the primary driver of the nation’s population was high fertility.
“At an annual projection of 3.2 per cent, we are now 210 million. That is not the problem. The only thing that is the problem is that our fertility rate is high, that means we are producing more people that we can take care of,” he said.
He said India and China had faced a population crisis but addressed it with family planning and related measures.
Oji said the youth population in Nigeria called for concern, stressing that the only way to harness their potential was to engage them to make meaningful contributions to the nation’s economy.
Nigeria had one of the highest out-of-school children globally, with a pool of hungry young people who needed basic things of life, he added.
Nigeria has been faced with insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other crimes which are partly blamed on the high youth unemployment rate.