Dr Ejike Oji, Chairman Association for Advancement of Family Planning
Between independence in 1960 and 2018, Nigeria’s population grew by more than 300 percent from around 45 million to over 190 million. Between 2006 and 2018, according to the CIA World Fact Book, Nigeria added about 58 million people when its population rose from 132 million to an estimated 192 million. A Nigerian woman gives birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime. With a current population growth rate of 2.47 (2017), Nigeria could become the third most populous country with almost 400 people by 2050. In this interview with Sola Ogundipe and Arinola Kolade, Dr Ejike Oji, a gynaecologist and family planning expert, talks about changing socio-cultural norms and preference for large families. Oji who is Chairman Association for Advancement of Family Planning, talks about importance of investing in family planning. Excerpts:
If you look at what is happening the country today, we are almost in a demographic crisis. At least 60 percent of our population is under the age of 30. Nigeria has commitment to the body called FP 2020 which is a global initiative to make sure additional 120 million women and girls have family planning access by 2020 and Nigeria is a signatory to that organisation’s commitment.
The major commitment by Nigeria is to make sure that our Contraceptive Prevalence Rate and modern contraceptive methods gets up to 27 percent by 2020. We are at about 14.3 percent currently.
I am the CSO for cohorts for our country so I am also supposed to also be looking at what is going on and then diagnose CSO support and make sure there is accountability in the family planning funding and use of resources.
There are still a lot of gaps because we do not really know much of what is going on in the private sector. We can probably track to some level what is going on in the public sector hospitals where government funds is spent, but there is a lot of family planning services going on in the private sector. In fact in some states, the major family planning provider is from the private sector instead of the public sector.
Between 2006 and 2018, a period of about 12 years, we added 58 million people into our population, that’s scary, so all of us must be on point and on target to make sure that we are doing what we are supposed to do otherwise we are going to be in serious trouble.\
In the Comity of Nations, in terms of advancements in making sure that women have the services they deserve to empower them, I will say that we are not doing so well compared to other African countries.
Taking the lead
To be frank, I always believe that in Nigeria we should take a lead and not be followers because of the sheer size of our country and economy. Take Rwanda, it is almost approaching 50 percent Contraceptive prevalence, Malawi at 61 percent, Uganda about the same as Malawi but we are still struggling with below 20 percent and we have a huge population, so I will say that Nigeria could be a lot better and the challenge we have is that, at the subnational level not much is going on, the states are not investing in family planning, human development or buying of commodities.
In fact, all the commodities being used are bought by the Federal government and supplied to the states. But you know in family planning services, an individual service and most importantly, last mile concept is so key.
Until a woman or man gets properly counselled and receives the family planning service they deserve, we haven’t done anything, no matter the amount of investment. And it is the states that should provide the supplies and consumables and make sure they get to the facilities. That is not happening at the sub national level and that is why our advocacy is going to push through especially. In our next conference we are going to be diagnosing resources for the subnational level to make sure that family planning services are supported in a very pragmatic and positive way.
If Nigeria wakes up today and makes a determination and a resolve, we will make it, we will even exceed it. The Federal government of Nigeria has a policy at least that’s a good start, now we are looking forward that they will implement it to the letter so that we would be able to handle the situation we find ourselves.
My message to Nigerians is that for every man and woman, you should be able to know the most important thing to do for your child is to nurture that child into a very good responsible adult and that cannot happen if you have 10 children and your resources can only take care of two.
So what you have just done is created another generation of poor people in your family. Look at Nigeria, in 12 years we added additional 58 million mouths to feed and our resources have not increased.
For every year we do not plan and make sure we reduce our population and birth rate, we are actually increasing the number of poor people in our country.
We have overtaken India, according to the World Bank, as the country that has the greatest number of poor people in the world. The reason for this is simple: the resources are scarce and we are producing more people than we can take care of. That means we are creating a new generation of poor people in the future.
Regardless what anybody is telling you, think about yourself and your family first. The best thing to do is to make sure you have a family that is healthy, properly nurtured, and you can take care of.
We spend our lifetime making money and then spend the money taking care of our health in old age. If you do not have a good insurance system or a good safety net the only thing you have is your family. But if you produce 10 children and they are busy struggling with the little that you have, that means you’re going to have a miserable old age.