Nigeria has one of the fastest growing population not only in Africa, but also in the world, with an average growth rate of over 3%.
As at 1994, the population indicators of all countries showed Nigeria had 119.3 million people and would reach 285.8 million in 2025.
In the last 2006 population count, the census figure was given as 140 million, which demographic analysts believed was more than that as it had been “politically doctored,” whereby a part of the country had an edge in population over the other.
Some years after, the figure has now climbed to 167 million, as disclosed by the Nigeria country office of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, but which the National Population Commission (NPC) seemed not to have confirmed, nor properly explained.
To check the country’s growing population, President Goodluck Jonathan has hinted about making a law likely aimed at controlling the population and which some legislators are already discussing informally.
However, making laws to control population anywhere in the world has never worked perfectly well without inherent problems and abuses.
Even China, with a totalitarian, dictatorship system of governance, having mankind’s largest population of about 1.3 billion people, has a one-child official policy that cannot be effectively implemented.
Although it is a criminal offence in China for couples to give birth to more than one child, many citizens of that country are circumventing the law by concealing the extra babies from government enforcement officials who are always on the prowl for offenders.
Families with only female children are using clandestine methods seeking for males relentlessly without minding what the law says and the punishment for violators. In fact, the one-child policy is not working in China, only giving opportunity to state officials to extort money and be bribed by defaulting families to avoid prosecution.
Sometime ago, during General Ibrahim Babangida’s military presidency, there was attempt to promulgate a decree limiting families to four children. The idea didn’t see the light of day as combined cultural, religions, traditional, polygamous tendencies scuttled the four children concept.
Above all, individual choice in the size and spacing of the family is being seen as a human right, while choice itself is the foundation of development at all strata of society.
There is contention that this is essential to achieving balance between populations and the resources to sustain them. Population experts and researchers have argued that if barriers to free choice to determine size of the family are removed, the results will be smaller families and slower population growth to a rate that is more compatible with sustained and sustainable economic development.
Also, problems of poverty, unemployment, food shortages, lack of clean drinking water, poor electricity, environmental degradation and damage, inadequate housing, decaying medical system, social disharmony, insecurity, illiteracy, political and religious strife are still far from solutions.
In Nigeria as in most developing nations, there is need to address issues of corruption stifling infrastructural development, bad governance, greed and avarice of the political leadership, inefficient public sector, looting, embezzlement of public fund, while accountability, transparency in governance are lacking in both public and private sectors to ensure that dividends and benefits of democracy accrue to a larger percentage of the citizens.
It is estimated that about 70% of Nigeria’s population live below the poverty line. A poor person is one who is under nourished and aging fast, lacking self-confidence, living in filthy environment, who cannot cater for his family, nor able to train his children in the school and unable to pay medical bills.
According to the World Bank, the average income in the world’s richest countries is about thirty seven times that in the poorest nations. This is because poverty in developing nations is not only more prevalent, it is also much deeper.
In a World Heath Organization (WHO) report it was stated that 88% of deaths can be traced to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Diarrhea is killing about 1.5 million children in developing world and over 200,000 Nigerian children die yearly.
Those living in poverty have a higher prevalence of chronic illness with lower life expectancy than those at higher income levels. Children from poor homes are more affected by infections, respiratory disorder, gastrointestinal complaints, general ill-health, anemia and nutritional deficiencies.
Nigeria is among the 24 countries with large number of undernourished children in the world, according to the United Nations Children Fund report.
Poverty is still a very serious problem in Nigeria, a country estimated to have earned about $800 billion US dollars from oil since independence. No doubt, with huge petroleum and gas resources and large reserves, including massive agricultural potentials and solid minerals, the country has the means to build a very prosperous economy for its teeming population which also can be regarded as asset. In spite of this, Nigeria is among the 20 poorest countries in the world, and also among the 13 countries with the highest maternal mortality ratio.
As 2015 beckons, Nigeria is still not listed anywhere near the 10 countries that have made rapid progress to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The Nigerian economy is ranked 99 in the world out of 133 countries assessed.
But as a result of some development efforts, the proportion of people so far in Nigeria living below the level of absolute poverty has minimally declined. There has been considerable progress over recent years including increase in life expectancy to 53 years Population factors interact with health in several ways.
A woman’s health, even from childhood, due to poor nutrition and health care, is further weakened by large numbers of pregnancies. On a community or national level, the demands of a growing population mean that fewer resources are available to improve or maintain a minimal level of health care.
Women’s life expectancy has not increased as much as that of men, partly because of gender discrimination in nutrition and healthcare from early childhood and partly also because pregnancy represents a markedly enhanced health risk in many developing countries including Nigeria.
Malaria is a major cause of mortality and ill-health in this country, while there seemed a re-emergence of epidemic diseases which previously had been controlled, such as cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, to mention a few. Syphilis is on the rise, AIDS, genital herpes, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, continue to spread across the country. Population growth and urban over-crowding are intertwined. It has been established that women who are able to space their births are healthier, and so are their children.
In our society, early marriage and child bearing are socially encouraged and adolescent fertility rates are among the highest anywhere, a situation that creates “baby boom,” leading to increase in population.
With increased interaction between boys and girls, particularly in cities and urban areas, premarital sexual activity is on the increase. Invariably, more and more young ladies are becoming pregnant, involved in early childbearing and having sexually transmitted diseases.
Sexual initiation plays out differently for young women than for young men. Young men are often likely to take the initiative sexually while young women eager to establish a relationship are not able to ward off their advances. Although the girl is likely to be concerned about the risk of pregnancy, the boy enjoys sex and doesn’t bother about it. Compared to boys, girl chidlren’s share of education, food, health care, work options and general welfare is smaller, because they are perceived to be less valuable than boys. Cultural factors and perceptions of economic advantage make families to desire for male children.
Preference for sons is common in many cultures and quite strong in Nigeria. Even if a girl child is also desired, she is seen as less valuable than a boy. After the birth of the first daughter and the sequence continues like that, the man can go on until he gets a son, even if it means marrying more women, not minding he is increasing the population consequently, because subsequent daughters are unwanted.
Marrying several women often led to population explosion with one man having 20, 30, 50 or even over 100 children. While a Muslim can have up to four or more wives, traditional chiefs can get as many wives and concubines as possible, and Christians in single marriage may keep mistresses and other women outside matrimony bearing many children most times unknown to the legitimate wife at home.
Both legitimate and illegitimate children are counted in the population without discrimination whatsoever.