In an attempt to accurately survey its population, Nigeria will undertake its first census in 17 years next year. Africa’s most populous nation is expected to be over 200 million people and the largest in Africa, according to the head of the national population office.
In Nigeria, censuses are contentious because different ethnic and religious groups have attempted to exploit them in the past to show numerical dominance and claim a larger share of oil earnings and political representation.
Nigeria had planned to conduct the census last year, but it was postponed due to rising insecurity, particularly in the north, where an Islamist insurgency and ransom kidnappings have been rampant.
Insecurity remains a problem as militants ramp up attacks and kidnappings, the most recent of which occurred last Sunday in northern Plateau state, when 154 people were killed and dozens more kidnapped during an attack.
Nigeria’s population is divided between Muslims and Christians in the north and 300 ethnic groups in the south. In the past, ethnic and religious conflict has erupted.
Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the United States by 2050, reaching about 400 million people, according to the World Bank.
Nigeria has a long history of census takings spanning over a century. The first census was conducted in 1866 and this was followed by Censuses of 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901. However, all these earlier censuses were restricted to Lagos Colony and its environs.
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