Census: Presbyterian Church Urges FG to Include Data On Ethnic Groups, Religion

The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has called on the Federal Government to include without further delay, information regarding ethnicity and religion in the planned national census exercise slated for December 2005.

In a communiqué issued at the end of its first quarterly meeting for this year held in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, the General Assembly Executive Committee (GAEC) of the Church said it could not accept as good enough the National Population Commission's excuse that the various ethnic and religious bodies might seek to inflate their figures if such information was provided on the census forms. The church stated that although ethnicity and religion were sensitive issues in a plural society such as ours, the Government owed its people a duty to conduct a successful census that would provide all the demographic data necessary for good planning.

The church also expressed concern over the fact-sheets released by the Federal Government to the effect that the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) achieved, and even surpassed, its targets for 2004. It stated that although the figures quoted appeared impressive, there had been no significant improvement in the quality of life of Nigerians, the vast majority of who still live below the poverty line.

In the communiqué signed by the Moderator of the General Assembly, The Rt. Rev. U. B. Usung and the Principal Clerk, Rev. Dr. B. F. Fubara-Manuel, the Church said that though NEEDS was a commendable programme, Government needed to fine-tune it and adequately monitor its implementation to ensure that it impacted positively on the lives of the masses of this country.

On national politics, the church commended the Federal Government for responding to the clamour for a National Sovereign Conference by constituting the National Population Reforms Conference.

Lamenting the fact that its membership is appointed rather than elected in conformity with democratic practices, the Church urged the Government to give the Conference a free hand to do its work. It urged delegates to be guided by the principles of equity and justice in their search for a Nigeria where no one is oppressed. The church viewed with concern the inability of the Government to guarantee the steady supply of electric power in the country in spite of Government's huge investments in that area. It therefore called for the privatization or deregulation of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to ensure the steady supply of power, which is the pivot for industrial development, poverty alleviation, and the transformation of our rural areas.