POPULATION: Nigeria’s singular growth since Independence

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FROM fewer than 50 million people in 1960 to an estimated 198 million people now, population is the unparalleled and unrivalled growth that Nigeria has recorded since Independence.  With this superlative growth, Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. Based on this unmatched growth, Nigeria will have over 400 million people by 2050, lesser than only India and China.

Nigeria’s population keeps rising every day. On New Year’s Day alone, more than 20,000 babies were born in the country, the third highest in the world on that particular day and just behind India and China, according to Unicef, the UN children’s agency. Both India and China have over one billion people each. The United States of America which has a current population of about 329 million and third largest in the world had only 11,280 babies on that day. By 2050, Nigeria will overtake the US in population.

More than seven million babies, about the population of Sierra Leone, are born in Nigeria every year. One in five births in Africa takes place in Nigeria and the country accounts for 5 per cent of all global births. Unicef estimates that from 2015 to 2030, 136 million births will take place in Nigeria — making up 19 per cent of all African babies and 6 per cent of the global total. Unicef also projects that by 2050, Nigeria alone will account for almost one-tenth of all births in the world.

While Nigeria records unprecedented population, it comes with unintended consequences. This year is the turning point in Nigeria’s matchless population as the country overtook India with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.

Earlier in June, a report by Brookings Institute pointed out that Nigeria has overtaken India as a country that has the highest number of extremely poor people.  The report was written by Homi Kharas, Kristofer Hamel and Martin Hofer from the World Data Lab which keeps the World Poverty Clock. The authors suggested that based on data from the World Poverty Clock that measures the progress of eradicating extreme poverty in all its forms by 2030, Nigeria has about 87 million people living in poverty as against 73 million of India. The population of India is more than six times that of Nigeria.

Based on the World Poverty Clock, six Nigerians are pushed into extreme poverty every minute while Indian’s poverty rate continues to decrease. To achieve the global goal of eradicating extreme poverty in all its forms by 2030, Nigeria will have to bring 13 persons out of poverty every minute, rather than pushing six persons into poverty.

Theresa May, Prime Minister of United Kingdom, summarised this new status of Nigeria when she visited three countries in Africa in August, including Nigeria. She said, “Much of Nigeria is thriving, with many individuals enjoying the fruits of a resurgent economy, yet 87 million Nigerians live below $1 and 90 cents a day, making it home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world.”

Just as Nigeria is projected to become the third biggest country by 2050, it will be home to more than 20 per cent of world’s poorest people, according to estimates by Goal Keepers, a report by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  That is to say that much of the estimated 136 million children to be born in Nigeria between 2015 and 2030 will be growing in extreme poverty.

As much as rapidly growing population portends a danger to Nigeria’s future, population control has not really featured in mainstream political discussion or top policy measure.  President Muhammadu Buhari in all his Independence Day address and all other major addresses has never mentioned population control.


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