Every now and then, new policies are being formulated and targeted towards development in Nigeria. But in most cases, it is either these policies are misdirected or poorly implemented. In the end, the outcome is a country increasingly entrenched in poverty and inequality, collapsing infrastructures, environmental degradation, and increasing rate of insecurity.
So, what am I driving at?
It is simple. There is a major issue that is mostly ignored by our policy makers in their effort to formulate effective developmental policies. And that is the issue of population explosion the country is witnessing. Although not widely acknowledged, it is increasingly becoming an underlining factor in our under-development as a nation.
A recent data released by the National Population Commission showed that in 2016, Nigeria’s population was over 182million. From over 140million recorded during the last nation-wide census in 2006. The population is projected to hit 210million in 2021. The country will at the current birthrate, exceed the US in becoming the third largest country with more than 300million people by 2050 according to the United Nations.
An average Nigerian woman gives birth to about 5 children in her lifetime. More than 5million babies are born every year in the country at a crude birthrate of close to 40 par 1000. Interestingly, this sharp growth rate is taking place even as the country’s GDP growth rate was expected to shrink 1.7% in 2016 according to the IMF.
The point is, Nigeria’s population is increasing far more than the capacity to effectively cater for it. This has, therefore, placed enormous pressure on available resources.
Take for example, in a recent study by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Nigeria requires 6.3million tons of rice annually, it is only able to produce 2.3million. For wheat, domestic consumption is 4.7million tons but the country produces a paltry 60,000 tons. Despite efforts to fill these gaps with billions of dollar worth of food imports every year, many still go hungry. Though these shortages are as a result of various factors, the most significant is the increasing number of mouths to feed.
Meanwhile, increasing population growth, which can be seen in cities around the country is causing overcrowding and congestion. This has placed huge pressure on infrastructural facilities and social services. Leading to over-stretch and at times total collapse of such facilities and services. For instance, according to the UNDP, only 33.3% of households in the country have access to improved sanitation in 2014.
Also, the increasing cases of conflicts all over the country can be related to the size of our population compared to available resources. From the militancy in the Niger-Delta region to the ethnoreligious conflicts in the middle belt and the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. The underlining cause of these conflicts has been poverty and inequality.
A large population of people is jostling for the few available opportunities and resources resorting to violence in the process.
The environment has had its share too. Major cities in the country are being characterized by unmanaged wastes disposal systems, creating scenes of rubbish heaps on major roads and streets around the country. Also, air quality in cities around the country has reduced drastically, due to pollutants released by cars, homes etc. Based on a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria’s cities are among the worst in terms of air pollution, with high population pointed out as a major contributing factor.
Nigeria’s forests and biodiversity are major victims in this whole issue. An average of 409,700 hectares of forest is being lost to deforestation every year, at an annual rate of 2.38%. Forests are increasingly being cleared to boost agricultural production, for fuel wood and as a result of rapid urbanization and expansion of cities to accommodate the growing population. The consequence of deforestation at this rate is well known.
But then, for a long time now, calls have gone out to Nigerian policy makers to adopt targeted policies that will reduce the rate at which the country’s population is growing. Top among these include enhancing access to Family Planning mechanisms among families and provision of incentives that encourage less birth.
Also, the government must step up efforts in creating initiatives and campaigns, especially in the rural areas. This should be tailored toward educating people about the need for reduced family size and the consequences of having too many children.
There is no doubt that population explosion, has created problems for the country in its quest for development. The only way out is to devise effective policy formation and implementation, to control the rate at which our population is growing. For the sake of our development and posterity.