By Luminous Jannamike
A coalition of civil society organizations, CSOs, has listed fertility reduction and massive investment in education and infrastructure as steps that must be taken for Nigeria to achieve economic prosperity.
According to the coalition, these are the factors that made the difference between Nigeria and prosperous countries such as the United Kingdom, which depended on Nigeria’s natural resources to propel certain aspects of her industrial revolution in the 1960s.
The CSOs stated this at a media roundtable on the 6th Nigeria Family Planning Conference in Abuja.
Speaking on the topic: “Population Growth and the Challenges of Human Capital Development,” the Chairman, Association for Advancement of Family Planning, Dr. Ejike Orji, noted that though Nigeria had a higher Per Capita Income than the United Kingdom back in the 1960s, the country had today overtaken Nigeria by over 2000 percent on that indices.
He said, “In 1960, Nigeria had a population of 45 million with a per capita income (PCI) of $1746 while the UK had a population of 52 million and a PCI of $1396.
“But today, Nigeria’s population is estimated to be a massive 221 million, while our per capita income increased marginally to $2100 in 60 years. Whereas, the British population stands at 67 million with a PCI of $42,300 today.
“No matter the level of work or level of efficiency introduced, without fertility reduction, it will be a mirage to achieve economic prosperity.”
Orji argued that, contrary to the view that Nigeria’s had a youth bulge required for massive economic production, the country’s huge population was already a curse, unless particular attention was paid towards investing in education, infrastructure and ease of doing business to create jobs.
He decried the annual fertility rate of 5.5 percent in the country, wondering why government policies focused on the effects, rather than the issues of population management which contribute to insecurity, injustice and deprivation in the land.
Also speaking at the event, the Director of Soteria-Afrique Rural Health Initiative, Dr. Talemoh Dah, said Nigeria could not achieve any economic growth until the issue of birth control financing was addressed.
He said, “The 2019 would have been a watershed to achieving the family planning goal in Nigeria given the preceding efforts, but the budget for family planning counterpart funding by the government created a setback on our commitments as a nation.
“No matter what any government does to sustain the economy in terms of policy initiatives, the lack of funding for population control programmes would prevent any meaningful impact from being felt.
“There is a need to ensure that all funds committed by the Federal Government on family planning are released. That is what I call the first principle and until we sort that out, any attempt to talk about sustaining the economy will be in futility.”
In another vein, the Country Director, Pathfinder International, Dr. Amina Dorayi, who hosted the event, lamented the centralization of Nigeria’s policies on population control, especially family planning.
“Championing family planning policies at the sub-national levels would drive down costs of their formulation and eliminate cultural and religious factors hindering access to services, while filling the capacity gaps in their successful implementation across the nation,” Dorayi said.