The last time Nigeria conducted a population census, I was nine years old.

It was sometime in March 2006. I vaguely remember officials wearing lime green jackets, with the word "census" printed boldly on the front, marching into my compound. They handed forms to eligible household members to fill. They painted our thumbs with a purplish liquid to prevent double-counting and quietly exited the premises in exchange for the completed forms.

We had been counted.

Sixteen years later, that is still the last time Nigeria counted its citizens. Although the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has carried out a few household surveys in recent years, these do not provide anything close to the information value of a census.

Some takeaways:

  • Like many African countries, Nigeria has not conducted a population census in over 15 years. One of the primary reasons for this is the exorbitant direct and indirect costs of carrying out a nationwide census as well as logistical challenges. 

  • Census data influences budgetary allocations, political representation and even civil service employment. Due to these incentives, Nigeria's population census results have been highly contentious and marred with controversy.

  • Census data is the bedrock of effective policymaking and decisions for both public and private stakeholders. Nigeria's lack of credible population figures has had far-reaching implications for households, investors, and the wider economy.


Nigeria's population has always been a source of controversy. Several parties contested the validity and credibility of the 2006 census. The head of the National Population Commission (NPC) at the