NPC rules out religious-related questions during census

The National Population Commission (NPC) has said this year’s population census will not ask questions on religious affiliation.

The commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Isiaka Yahaya, said this in a statement yesterday in Abuja.

Yahaya said this while debunking a viral WhatsApp audio claiming that the religious affiliation of a citizen would be canvassed during the head count.

He said: “The attention of the National Population Commission has been drawn to an audio tape going viral on the WhatsApp social media platform across the country, which states that the religious affiliations of respondents will be canvassed in the 2023 Population and Housing Census.

“The audio tape calls on Muslims in Nigeria to see the purported canvassing of information on their religious affiliations as a tool to suppress their population figures. It, therefore, instructed adherents of the Islamic faith to resist any attempt to divide the religion of Islam by refusing to answer any question on their religious affiliations.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the commission wishes to state unequivocally that the 2023 Population and Housing Census will not canvass questions on religion and religious affiliations of respondents.

“The decision to exclude religion along with ethnicity from the census questionnaire was taken in due consideration of the sensitive nature of these issues within the Nigerian polity and the need to save the census data from needless controversies and attention.”

The NPC spokesman said a fact check on the origin of the purported message showed that it was first circulated in Ghana during its 2021 population census through a WhatsApp message.

“This negative message found its way into the Nigerian social media space in July 2022 when the commission conducted the Trial Census. The re-circulation of the message in audio form as the commission sets to conduct the 2023 Population and Housing Census in May 2023 is an indication that some elements are bent on drawing the 2023 Census into unnecessary controversies through propagation of falsehood and incitement of a section of the population to destabilise existing peaceful coexistence in the country.

“The commission carried out extensive consultation with data users and stakeholders in coming up with the questions to be canvassed in the next census. The overarching goal of the questionnaire is to generate data that will facilitate sustainable development. The questionnaire is robust and includes demographic characteristics of respondents and other socio-economic characteristics but without any question whatsoever on religion and ethnicity.

“Members of the general public are, therefore, enjoined to disregard the rumour of question on religious affiliation contained in the audio tape in circulation and extend maximum cooperation to the enumerators for the sake of delivering a credible, reliable and acceptable 2023 Population and Housing Census data for national development planning.”