The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its “2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria” report, estimated that 40 percent of the total population, or almost 83 million people, live below the country’s poverty line of N137,430 naira ($381.75) per year.
Similarly, the World Poverty Clock shows Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty. Sadly, India’s population is seven times that of Nigeria. Nigeria’s population is equally ahead of countries like Thailand, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
It is also predicted that Nigeria would become the third most populous nation in the world, next to India and China, yet with limited resources to guarantee a quality standard of living.
The country’s population is estimated at 206,139,589 persons at mid-2020 according to United Nations (UN) data. By that Nigeria is ranked the seventh most populous country in the world and the standard of living is likely to worsen. The astronomic growth of the population should be a source of worry to Nigeria and Nigerians. This is because the unchecked high growth rate is being recorded when the country is being adjudged the poverty headquarters of the world. It is said that a country’s population has a direct impact on its economic development. What it means is that Nigeria’s resources cannot guarantee the quality standard of living for her high population.
The country’s population is projected to increase to 263 million in 2030 and 402 million in 2050 when it will become the third most populous country in the world.
This is because the country’s population continues to grow at a high rate of 2.6 percent, higher than the global population growth which is 1.05 percent per year.
The indices of overpopulation are already obvious. Cultural factors such as child marriage, high level of fertility leading to increased birth rate, high level of illiteracy, and undying cultural belief in the high number of children and preference for male children are fueling the overpopulation.
The disastrous effects of these are the inherent high unemployment rate, inadequate health facilities, housing deficits, high crime rate, social conflicts, high cost of living, to mention a few.
Many countries such as China and India have employed drastic measures to control their population, including sterilisation and limiting by law the number of children and other incentives. While these may not work in Nigeria’s situation, something must be done in the area of family planning.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines family planning as the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. The WHO in a document entitled, ‘Health Benefits of Family Planning,’ shows that family planning saves lives of women and children and improves the quality of life for all. It is one of the best investments that can be made to help ensure the health and well-being of women, children, and communities.
Yet, it is estimated that some 120 million women who do not wish to become pregnant are not currently using contraception. By providing all women and men of reproductive age with a choice of contraceptive methods and counselling about how to use those methods safely and effectively, family planning programmes can have a significant impact on the lives of their clients.
Family planning is, without doubt, a widely tested means of addressing the problem. However, it is clear that this measure has been less than successful owing to factors some of which are cultural and religious in nature. Faced with this reality, the government must now consider one of two options: either to leave things as they are and watch the projected growth in the country’s population come to pass or adopt more drastic measures to bring about a reduction in the growth.
Nigeria should consider the option adopted by China which limited the number of children a family may have to one, which is worth exploring. Analysts say they see nothing wrong in government directly limiting, by legislation, the number of children couples may have to two or three.
Dr. Sakina Amin-Bello of Pathfinder International Nigeria, agrees, “Nigeria needs to lower its fertility rate in order to slow down population explosion and grow economically through strong family planning programmes supported by all stakeholders. For Amin-Bello, Senior Programme Advisor, Reproductive Health and Family Planning, lowering fertility will enable today’s large young population to enter adulthood with fewer dependents. With favourable education, health, labour policies, a larger proportion can be employed and support economic growth.
Expanding and improving family planning services would significantly contribute to improving women’s lives and overall standard of living for Nigerian families. It is time for policy-makers and programme managers to take steps to ensure that high-quality contraceptive services are available and accessible to all who need them.