April 30th, 2018

Nigeria’s population is approaching 198 million people, according to the chairman of Nigeria’s National Population Commission.

Eze Duruiheoma made his announcement at the 51st session of the Commission on Population and Development (convened at UN Headquarters in New York City, April 9-13th) while delivering Nigeria’s statement on Sustainable Cities, Human Mobility and International Migration. With an official population growth rate of 3.2% (which translates to a doubling time of under 22 years), “sustainable cities” are a pipedream and international migration (with predictable pushback from receiving countries) an inevitability.

Over the last fifty years Nigeria’s urban population has grown at an average annual rate of 6.5% without a commensurate increase in social amenities and infrastructure. The county’s urban population grew substantially from 17.3% in 1967 to 49.4% in 2017 and some experts project that by 2050 the population could hit 440 million, with about 70% of Nigerians living in cities.

According to the 2013 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), Nigeria’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) stood at 5.5 children per woman, which will undermine the development of the nation if not urgently addressed. The same survey also found that about 85% of women and 95% of men reported knowing a contraceptive method, but only 15% of women were using it. 

While lack of political will and poor policy implementation are generally acknowledged as reasons population growth has gone largely unchecked, the report also noted that “large family sizes are the single most important driver of Nigeria’s population growth rate.”

Social norms such as preferences for male children and large families as status symbols continue to influence personal decisions, rendering global family planning methods ineffective in some parts of Nigeria, while low levels of literacy and education mean these beliefs and norms remain prevalent.The pitfalls of spiraling population and the lack of commensurate infrastructure and development are fairly obvious:

  • Nigeria’s university system is sorely lacking in capacity; between 2010 and 2015, only 26% of the 10 million applicants to Nigerian tertiary institutions gained admission.
  • Around 10. 5 million children are out-of-school—the largest number globally.
  • The latest data from Nigeria’s statistics bureau shows the unemployment rate doubling since 2015.
  • Nigerians are braving terrible odds and risking a life in slavery or being trapped in a sex trafficking ring to travel to Europe via the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean.
  • In 2016, with 37,500 of the 180,000 total arrivals, Nigeria accounted for the most illegal migrant arrivals in Italy by sea. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of Nigerian women arrivals in Italy increased almost ten-fold, and these numbers do not include the thousands who drown in transit.

THE CONSEQUENCESIf Nigeria continues with the current trends in contraceptive use and fertility, the population will continue to grow exponentially during the next 10 to 20 years.

This will result in a population in which each working person has to support many unemployed and dependent people. Given Nigeria’s age structure, a very high proportion of young people will be unemployed – a situation that often leads to social unrest. The already limited infrastructure of Nigeria’s cities will be stretched, while rapid urbanization will shrink service provision, leading to further social and economic challenges.

In order to turn the situation around, Nigeria must make family planning a priority and ensure that people know about the array of available contraceptives so that individuals can make informed choices and not be put off by myths and misconceptions. Nigeria would do well to follow the example of Algeria, which has successfully plugged family planning gaps using an integrated approach of contraceptives availability, educational campaigns and partnering with religious groups.

For many developing countries, the primary method for dealing with rampant population growth is to send a portion of their excess population to other countries. But on a planet in which no country has a sustainable pattern of population growth and consumption, this approach will ultimately fail. Each country must take responsibility for stabilizing and reducing its own population to a sustainable level through ethical and effective family planning programs.

PIC encourages the government of Canada to play a leading role in achieving a sustainable global population by stabilizing its own population and making international family planning a significant and integral part of its developmental assistance.