By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Nigeria’s rising population and lack of proper birth control has been a source of worry to most stakeholders in the health sector who, are daily calling on the federal government to address these challenges before it consumes the nation.
The stakeholders are also worried that the rising populations of unproductive population could affect the country negatively.
Already, Nigeria is projected to be the world’s third most populous country by the year 2050, according to a report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
The report, said with such development, Nigeria would overtake the United States in terms of population just as world population would reach 9.8 billion people.
The report said “by 2050, the third most populous country will be Nigeria, which currently ranks seventh, and which is poised to replace the United States.
“Among the 10 largest countries of the world, one is in Africa (Nigeria).
“Amongst these, Nigeria’s population, currently the seventh largest in the world, is growing the most rapidly.
“In 2050, the populations in six of the 10 largest countries are expected to exceed 300 million: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and United States of America (in alphabetical order).
“Africa, which has the youngest age distribution of any region, is projected to experience a rapid ageing of its population, the report noted.
The report said in spite of an overall drop in the number of children people have around the globe, the population was spurred by the relatively high levels of fertility in developing countries.
“With roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline.
“At this rate, the world population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and surpass 11.2 billion in 2100,” the report further revealed.
The growth is expected to come, in part, from the 47 least developed countries, where the fertility rate is around 4.3 births per woman, and whose population is expected to reach 1.9 billion people in 2050 from the current estimate of one billion.
Worried by these and many other challenges faced by women as a result of delay in release of the country’s FP budget, Coordinator, African Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi raised alarm over the funding gap in the Family Planning line budget for the 2020 financial appropriation, which he said is to the tone of 600 thousand naira.
Peoples Daily recalls that in December 2019, the Federal government had budgeted 1.2 billion naira for the purchase of Family Planning commodities and Reproductive Health (RH) at an exchange rate of 305 naira to a Dollar.
In the revised 2020 budget due to the COVID-19 impact on the national economy, the line budget for Family Planning was untouched; but at a higher exchange rate of 360 naira to dollar.
This according to him, will impact negatively on the amount of Family Planning commodities to be purchased and the quality of RH service delivery to Nigerian women and girls of reproductive ages this year.
“And if up to now it is not released, the funding gap will be more and will affect the procurement of vaccines.
“More women will be affected, and will not access the vaccine. More women will not be protected from unwanted pregnancies, complications etc.
“To avoid these, we need money from private sector and donors to ensure every woman access the vaccine”.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), Indicated that Nigeria’s contraceptive coverage, indicated by the modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR), currently stands at 16.6 per cent.
Unfortunately, this average is below the Nigerian government’s national objective to achieve an mCPR of 27 per cent by the year 2023.
In 2017, the Nigerian Government, through her Federal Ministry of Health committed to set aside US$4 million (N1.2 billion) annually from 2017-2020 to fund the Family Planning (FP) programmes in Nigeria. The government planned to use the set aside sum to facilitate commodity procurement and distribution to respective states.
But only N300 million of the agreed sum was awarded and released in 2019.
With the lackadaisical attitude of government towards release of FP budgets, experts are worried that if birth controls are not properly attended to, the rising an unplanned population who might end up in the streets will increase the security challenges in the country.
The Executive Director, Savannah Centre for Diplomacy Democracy and Development (SCDDD), Ambassador Abdullahi Omaki said education is key to everything in life. “To think that a child in the 21st century has no education, that child is condemned for the rest of his life. Unfortunately in the entire northern region, the number is increasing, some say it is about 10 million, but I think the number is conservative, because I believe it is more than that. Imagine what the children will be doing in the next 10 year. The implication is that they can’t take care of themselves and cannot fit in to the new world without education.
“No country should be proud of raising children it cannot chatter for. This is because their future is very bleak for them and they can only be used for violence.
“The family should understand that they owe a child obligation which is education that will prepare him for future challenges. Without this, he can’t do anything. Government should ensure that its population is educated. Everything we do has component of education.
Omaki added that poverty plays a major role because education is not cheap. The role of government is to ensure that its populace is educated and have basic amenities to fare better. “Religious and traditional institutions should also collaborate with government to address these challenges before it consumes us all.
“If we don’t take care of them, we are doing harm to ourselves, and what these children will do, might be too late to be addressed.”
To this, Professor of Humanitarian Management, Bala Jack Yakubu, said the issue of out of school children is worrisome, and not a good omen for Nigeria.
“This issue is very serious, and we need to nib it in the bud before it consumes us all. There are more children of nursery and primary school age roaming the streets than those of secondary school age. Any time you go out, they are outside at the time they are supposed to be in school- this is between the hours of 9 and 2pm. In kaduna for instance, you will see this children haggardly dressed and begging or just roaming the street. It is not good. The fault may not be that of parents but the system.
“Currently, there are no appropriate policies to help these children. The federal government as a father should take care of them by formulating policies that can help them. We have the ministry of youth which is supposed to champion this idea, but they forget that youth starts from these children.
“They need to formulate policies that punish parents who refuse to toe the line of the law. Some of us befitted from strong policies of government aimed at compelling children to go to school. During Obafemi Awolowo, no child in the western region roams the street during school hours. If we have this in our system, it will help many children. It is funny how we call them leaders of tomorrow with no policies to shape them and give them that knowledge which tomorrow requires. We keep assuring them that they are the leaders of tomorrow but we have no plans for them.
“There is an urgent need for us to begin to have policies that punish the father who refuses to send children to school. We must also make education free to compel them, that way they won’t embrace cultism, drugs and other anti-social activities.
The numbers of out of school children keep increasing in the north because we don’t respect them. We believe that they belong to the Mallams and only wait to send them to farms when they reach farming age; this nonchalant attitude of parents is denying the children of a better tomorrow.
Looking at how poverty and lack of investment in education has contributed to rising insecurity, Muhammadu Sanusi, former CBN Governor, said that Boko Haram crisis will be a child’s play in the next 20 years if education and strong economy are not provided, and demographic explosion not addressed in northern Nigeria.
Speaking at a 3-day International Conference on “Insurgency and The Phenomenon of Boko Haram”, Sanusi said economic marginalisation and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Nigeria, were the major causes of the Boko Haram insurgency.
According to him, in the next 20 years, Nigerian youth population would skyrocket to 100 million, adding that if the government fails to rise and regulate the demographic growth, more crises worse than Boko Haram could erupt.
The emir, who represented the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III noted that, fertility rate, investment in education, drug abuse and its causes must be looked into in order to have a peaceful society.
He however, noted that, the effort of rebuilding the northeast region, ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency, needs to be centred on the ecosystem of the area in order to find a lasting solution.
“In the next 20 years, Nigerian youth population would grow to almost 100 million of youth, men and women between the age of 20 and 40. What are they going to do? Is the civil service or banking industry going to employ them?
“Now, if we don’t build on economy and demographic explosion not addressed, the Boko Haram insurgency would be a child’s play in the next 20 years.”
“So, we need to have that conversation, the fertility rate, lack of investment in education, drug problem and looking at its causes. This would make a great impact in the effort to find a lasting solution in the northeast and the country as a whole, “he said.
Judging by these submissions, the government needs to up its game and stop playing politics with issues of Family Planing, especially at a time when unwanted pregnancies and the country’s population keeps rising. Also, if the projection of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs that Nigeria will be the third populous country by 2050 is anything to go by, then the bomb is already ticking.