Poor record keeping, inaccurate and incomplete data, and a lack of transparency on how information of births and recorded deaths are managed by the National Population Commission (NPC) and state governments could seriously taint the Independent National Electoral Commission’s attempt and ability to effectively clean up the voter register by removing the names of dead people before the 2023 general election.
The lack of accurate and reliable data could also hamper the commision’s bid to delineate and delimit federal and state constituencies across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Though voter registration is ongoing with online portal made available, INEC as of March 2019 had 84million people on its voters’ register. The commission is seeking to remove the names of dead people from the register.
INEC, which has openly said it cannot move forward with the delineation exercise without a national census, has in recent times been expressing optimism because of assurances from NPC that a census will be conducted next year.
INEC had a set of criteria for the delineation and delimitation exercise, aiming to bring about a more equitable representation in relation to population for each state and community in the federal and state legislatures.
That means some states could lose seats, while others gain. Some local governments could also lose state assembly seats while others could gain, but the Commission is being more circumspect.
Speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP Sunday yesterday in Abuja, the national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said constituency delineation is a constitutional matter and the criteria and parameters for the delineation of constituencies are clearly set out in the Constitution.
He noted that Section 71 of the Constitution mandates INEC to divide each state of the federation into three senatorial districts for purposes of election to the Senate; and divide the Federation into 360 federal constituencies for purposes of election to the House of Representatives.
Okoye said Section 73 (1) of the Constitution mandates the commission to review the division of states in the federation into senatorial districts and federal constituencies at intervals of not less than ten years, and may alter the districts or constituencies in accordance with the provisions of section 73.
“The Commission can also carry out a review and alter districts or constituencies as a result of a national census or pursuant to an Act of the National Assembly,” he said.
INEC, in what appeared as a show of transparency that it was not making up its own records, had a few weeks ago sought the assistance of the population commission to furnish it specifically with recorded births and deaths across the country.
On under-represented states, Okoye said at the moment, the Commission is not in a position to determine whether some states are underrepresented in the National and State Assemblies.
He said there has been so much demographic shift in terms of population movements as a result of conflicts in different parts of the country leading to relocation.
According to him, “New settlements and communities have also emerged that were not factored into our previous census calculations.
“As of today, population issues are discussed in the realm of speculation and projections. Only an accurate national census will lead to a determination of the actual size of our present constituencies.
“The National Population Commission has assured the nation that it will conduct a census of Nigerians next year. Thereafter, the Independent National Electoral Commission will appraise the existing constituencies and make the necessary alterations and alignments.”
Borno and other States with IDPs
There are so many states with the challenge of internal displacement.
In the case of Borno State amongst others where many communities have been sacked and living as IDPs at the state capital, the Commission shall as far as possible ensure that persons displaced as a result of the emergency are not disenfranchised.
He said besides Borno State there are so many states with the challenge of internal displacement.
He said, “Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act provides that in the event of an emergency affecting an election, the INEC shall as far as possible ensure that persons displaced as a result of the emergency are not disenfranchised.
“A national population census and good enumeration will enable the Commission to make a good determination relating to displaced individuals.”
He added that the implication is that the boundaries and size of our constituencies can only be ascertained when the country carries out its population census.
But based on sampling done by LEADERSHIP S to ascertain birth and death records, over a period of three months in all the 36 states, there is little or no available records for deaths in most of the states, while some states lack transparency and capacity in gathering birth records.
Some states go as far as treating births and deaths as classified information, one level below top secret.
Most states are however totally reliant on NPC for record keeping, which could adversely affect them in the near future, considering the role population growth or decline plays in the apportioning of seats in elective political representations and the sharing of revenue generated by federal agencies.
Without their own records, gathered and managed independent of any federal agency, states and local communities may find it difficult to mount any meaningful challenge to the outcome of INEC’s delineation and delimitation exercise.
Within some states and, in some cases, between states, there are already boundary disputes, which could be aggravated if it means one community could lose a state or federal constituency seat to another after the INEC exercise.
In Kwara State, one of the states where information is readily available, at a glance, it could be deduced that the state is growing at an average of 100,000 people a year. That is based on birth records and without taking deaths into account.
A total of 8,363 births and 71 deaths were recorded in the month of May, 2021 in the state.
Information obtained from the office of the National Population Communication (NPC) shows that 8,532 births and 193 deaths were recorded in the month of June.
For the month of July, the commission recorded 12,202 births and 85 deaths.
Our correspondent who was at the Plateau State Office of the National Population Commission in Jos did not meet the state commissioner, Mrs. Cecelia Dapoet, but a director of the commission who did not want his name in print because he was not authorized to speak, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the number of deaths at the disposal of the commission did not reflect the reality on ground.
According to him, a lot of people did not want to come and register their deaths with a view to obtaining death certificates.
He said in the month of May, the commission had a total number of 42 registered deaths, a low figure because of the strike embarked upon by the judiciary staff.
According to statistics made available to our correspondent, the state recorded 33 male and nine female deaths, bringing the total number of 42.
For the month of June, the state recorder 174 deaths, with male 139 and female 35.
Similarly , in the month of July, the state also recorded 172 male deaths and 38 female deaths, bringing the total deaths in the month of July to 200, while the death toll for the three months amounted to 416 .
In the same vein, in the month of May, the state recorded 5,838 male births and 5, 584 female, for a total of number 11,422.
June has 5,897 for male, while 5,702 female were born . The total number of births in June is 11,599.
July has 5744 male births while 5697 females were given birth to during the period under review, bringing total number of births in three months to be 34,462.
According to a source, people are not aware that NPC registers births and deaths too. Yet, the certificate is free. It was gathered that registration centres and spread of staff is not sufficient enough to cover the entire state.
It was further learnt that death registration is very low. Only few people come for death registration because they feel it is of no use to them. Where you see people coming to obtain deaths certificate is when they need it to clear the deceased’s benefit or entitlement .
No fewer than 132 deaths were recorded in Ekiti state between May and July 2021
A monthly death and birth records, as compiled by the Ekiti State office of the National Population Commission (NPC), said 98 adult deaths were recorded in the state during the months under review.
According to the record, there were 30, 21 and 41 adult deaths in May, June and July respectively in the state.
Also, 34 still births were recorded across the state in May but no record was made available for the months of June and July. However, a total of 3,426 live births was recorded in the state in July, 2021.
The live births’ records for the months of May and June could not be obtained.
The NPC says Bauchi recorded 71,085 new births between the months of May and July 2021 with no known figure for the total deaths recorded.
Dangaladima Z. Aliyu, Head of Department Birth/Death rate, National Population Commission (NPC), Bauchi, revealed this in an exclusive interaction with our correspondent recently on the last quarter account of birth and death rates in the state.
He explained that the birth rate is recorded on certain categories as he gave the breakdown from the month of May.
“In Bauchi, we report based on segregation of age: for under 1, we registered 3,857 males and 3,780 females which gives a total of 7,637”, he said.
For under five years, Aliyu explained that 6,890 males were recorded with 6,652 females, totalling 13,542, while 5 to 15 years had 2294 for male and 2313 for females, to sum 4607.
In Summary categories, he submitted that they recorded, 20,902 for May, 36,765 for June and 13,418 July, giving a total number of 71,085 births.
According to him, the Commission in the state had difficulties in gathering death rates due to certain factors.
“For the death rate, we have issues because you hardly see people collecting death certificate until something happens, i.e only those that are either working or they want to process something from the bank or somebody has retired or died during service and they want to process the person’s benefit; this is why the level of registration of deaths is low in the state”, he said.
Tradition and beliefs are other factors limiting the collection of death records in the states even as the commission, he explained, is currently sensitising the people on its need, as it remains the first data used by the country during the census.
“Demarcation is currently ongoing; we have demarcated all the 19 LGAs and we are now demarcating Bauchi, the last local government area to aid the data collection”, the State Birth /Death Rate HOD added.
The Akwa Ibom director of NPC, Emmanuel Edem, said the state office of the commission cannot readily give out the exact figure of death and birth rates as requested at the moment, as such figures could only be obtained at the commission’s head office in Abuja.
According to him, such information is classified and, as such, it is only NPC headquarters in Abuja that can give out statistics under the law.
The state offices are not permitted to give out such information except expressly directed to do so and besides, NPC operates a functional data system with its servers situated in the headquarters where such statistics would be provided,” he stated. .
Edem told LEADERSHIP Sunday that in Akwa Ibom, the Commission had completed enumeration area demarcation in the state and is about to commence the digitization of registration centree across the 31 LGA headquarters across the state.
He said the Commission is also collaborating with the state government health centres and local governments, whose personnel assist their registrars in collecting information on death and births in their facilities.
An officer who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity at the State Ministry of Health, Idongesit Nkanga’s secretariat, said that the state government does not issue death or birth certificates.
He explained that any record or information on death or birth figures are handled by the National Population Commission through their desk officers stationed in all the local government area offices.
Our correspondent later met with the desk officer at Uyo local government area office of NPC, Mr Sunday Charley, who said that records of birth and death rates are done on daily basis at the local health centre and thereafter forwarded to the head office.
He added that it is only the state commissioner that can authorize or give out information on death or birth figures.
Efforts by our correspondent in Calabar failed as neither the officials of the National Population Commission nor the state Ministry of Health, who were contacted to get information regarding the record for death and birth rates could provide the figures.
At the office of the NPC in Calabar, Head of Public Affairs, Paul Ogwu, who could provide our correspndent with the exact information regarding deaths and births in the state between July to September, only said, “death rate is put at 30 percent per annum. On national average, growth rate, we are growing at an average growth rate.”
Again, head of Vital Registration, Dr. Coker, asked our correspndent to make the request by writing, requesting for such information. Even when a letter was written, no information concerning death and birth records were availed our reporter by Dr. Coker.
At the state Ministry of Health, Director of Research and Statistics, Cashmire Ukpong, said that the ministry used to harvest information about death and birth records from NMHS platform which is yet to be feed with information for 2021.
“We have not harvested it. Besides, I think you should go to the NPC. Such reports are domiciled at National Population Commission. Reports of that nature are domiciled there,” Ukpong maintained.
When contacted, the Abia State commissioner for Health, Dr. Jeo Osuji, said the ministry was yet to receive them and promised to forward them to LEADERSHIP Sunday as soon as they were available.
However, at the state office of the NPC, a reliable source disclosed that most of the local government offices were yet to submit their returns for those months.
According to the source who pleaded anonimity, the major reason for this lapse is that the records are still handwritten and physically delivered to the office.
“Even at that, we would have also had the challenge of accessing the soft copy if they had been available digitally because of power outage, as you can see for yourself.”
According to the press officer of the Rivers State Ministry of Health, Edna Alert, it was only the Commissioner for Health, Professor Princewill Chike, that can give records of births and deaths in the state.
Although Chike was not in the office when LEADERSHIP Sunday visited, he however did not return calls or reply both short message service (SMS) sent to him.
At the Rivers State office of the National Population Commission (NPC), officials told our correspondent that it was only the state director can give details of birth and death records in the state.
The officials however sdirectories director was on a field work outside Port Harcourt, the state capital, and will return to the office next Monday.
The commissioner for Health, Imo State, Dr. Barthy Okorochukwu said the birth and reath records fall under the ‘state classified document’ and needed the approval of the state government to release same.
He however, stated that a formal letter will be forwarded to the state government and will surely get back to us soon as the approval is obtained.
The same scenario played out at the Population Commission, as the public relations officer, Steve Enwerem, stressed that the approval for the release of birth and death records would have to come from the head office and will revert to us, as soon as such approval is given.