Dr Ejike Oji, a consultant on Reproductive Health, on Saturday advocated fertility reduction to avert an imminent demography crisis due to unchecked population increases in the country.
Oji, Chairman, Local Organising Committee, 6th National Family Planning Conference, made the call in a presentation to a Media Roundtable in Abuja, ahead of the Dec 9 – Dec. 11 conference with the theme: “Population Growth and Challenges of Human Capital Development; Challenges and Opportunities”.
He said Nigeria’s population had grown from 42 million at independence in 1960 to over 221 million in 2020, contributing to unemployment, affecting per capital income and resulting in high youth dependency.
“To reverse the ugly trend we must focus on decisions that will make Nigerians say: I am Nigerian, not an Ibo or Hausa man or Yoruba.
“Two deliberate decisions we need to make, are we going to call ourselves Nigerians or otherwise? Or are we going to make a deliberate generational decision to turn our demography crisis into a demography dividend?
“We should change this trend from doom to prosperity; there are clear steps we must take, first and foremost; we must reduce fertility.
“Call it whatever you want, fertility reduction, child spacing, population control, population management. Your fertility rate must come down”, he said.
According to him, no matter the level of work or level of efficiency introduced, without fertility reduction it would be a mirage to achieve prosperity, adding that massive investments in formal and non -formal education were important to address the present trend posed by population growth and high unemployment.
“Also, massive investment in both infrastructure and human capital development in the health care sector; policies that will introduce ease of doing business in the country to create a massive employment opportunity.
“Policies that will ensure equity, fairness, justice and a sense of security in the country,’’ are equally required, Oji said.
The consultant said in order to achieve fertility reduction, a well-funded, rights-based family planning services that are free, qualitative and accessible were needed.
“Funding and financing should be expanded by making sure that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) pays for it. Also, funding and financing should be expanded to enable the private sector offer the services, but only charging for delivering the service and not for the commodity.
“A 0.5 per cent consumption tax should be imposed on all private entities’ profits to support the service,’’ he said.
Oji lamented the situation whereby some women were willing to embrace family planning, but do not know where to get the services.
“The problem is not that they do not want it but we are not giving them what they want,’’ he said.
He recalled how a 1994 world conference in Cairo, Egypt, mandated countries around the whole world to reduce fertility rate to 2.2 by the year 2019.
“Our Fertility rate is still at 5.5 per cent with great regional disparities and our Contraceptive Prevalent Rate (mCPR) remains at 12 per cent after it was at 10 per cent for almost 10 years.
“We also promised the world in the London summit of 2012 that we shall get our mCPR to 27 per cent by the year 2020,” he said.
The consultant attributed such phenomena as the youth bulge, high levels of emigration of skilled and unskilled labour, as the consequences of our failure to honour our commitments on population reduction.