NPC moves to set population records straight

Nigeria as a country is notorious for poor record keeping techniques and habits. This occurs both in individual and corporate levels as this has impacted negatively on developmental aspirations of the country. Though the problem has stunted growth as it has become very hard for the government to allocate resources appropriately to meet the numerous challenges confronting the country just as it has caused many stakeholders to express worries and concern.

The problem is not that the government as an entity in Nigeria is not provided proper record keeping, what has however been a source of worry has been poor storage of such information that has been gathered or collated by officials of state. Records or if you like, data are materials that are utilized by the government for planning purposes.

For governance to make the desired impacts on the governed, a well articulated and well thought out record of data must be relied upon for allocating resources for the common good of the citizens. Nigeria has however been so unlucky whenever officials of state try to retrieve necessary data or records for use in planning owing to lack of proper preservation or storage of such materials.

The National Population Commission is a very important government agency whose role and assignment has been well cut out for it by the extant laws setting it up. So important is the mandate of the commission that all planning efforts of governments at all tiers depend so much on it. As the name suggests, NPC is the organization saddled with the responsibility of generating data and records relating to human demography.

As stated in the various laws setting it up, the commission is expected to conduct periodic headcount of citizens and houses. The next exercise, which is the 12th edition is scheduled to take place in the first quarter of next year and the leadership of the commission has made concerted efforts to introduce some innovations that would not only guarantee accuracy but would also ensure credibility of the record generated in the end. Next year’s exercise will be the first national census held since the 2006 census. Over 190 Billion Naira have so far been allocated for the exercise by the Federal Government who has since shown its commitment to conduct credible exercise that would enjoy the acceptance of all Nigerians. Cognizance of the need to ensure that records and data generated are carefully and well preserved the management of the commission has reached out to different organisations with requisite experience and expertise to partner with it to achieve this goal of proper record keeping.

In the end, the commission found a partner in United States of America (U.S.A)based non-profit making organization called FamilySearch. Funded by The Church of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch has made steady inroads into the African continent where it has been assisting public and private organisations in putting in processes and machinery for data management. Recently, the Chief Executive Officer of Family Search, Mr. Stephen Rockwood, led an entourage of the company to meet with the officials of the commission in Lagos State led by the commissioner, Mrs. Abimbola Salu-Hundehin in her office. Saturday Telegraph who was on ground when the visit took place went round the sprawling complex of the commission to look at the various record storage facilities available in the Lagos office of the commission. That was after the two parties had a closed meeting spanning 45 minutes after which Rockwood spoke with journalists on his mission.

Rockwood who came from the State of Utah in the US said, “We are here to primarily learn. Learn what we can learn and to see how we can help villages within Nigeria as well as the archive in Nigeria to preserve their family history.” He stated that he had been to the country six years ago but that his second coming was delayed by the global coronavirus pandemic adding that he hopes to maximize the current visit to concretise and cement the working relationship between the two organisations. On his expectations, he said, “The population of Nigeria is so incredible and we just feel that we need to do all we can to help preserve each individual person from Nigeria in the past, present and future. So, we will start from whatever level that we can. Whether at the national, state and regional level or village level.

We are trying to help at any level that we can.” He commended the warm reception that has been accorded him by the government of Nigeria which he described as incredible, adding that “The Nigerian creativity has been so astounding and welcoming,” that has ensured that a representative has been appointed for the country to oversee its activities in the country. According to him, “We are here on a pioneering expedition,” adding that his organization has recorded a lot of successes in the area of collating oral tradition amongst Nigerians living in many villages across the country.

“We are now working towards moving away from oral history to written history that is why we are working with these wonderful archivists here,” adding that the whole essence of the visit is to build relationships to explore areas of assistance at the national level.

Rockwood stated that he envisaged that the visit would help cement a workable relationship between the two collaborative organisations by identifying projects that could be jointly embarked upon for the benefits of Nigerians in the management of data and documentation domiciled in the commission. Commenting on the visit, Salu-Hundehin who described it as wonderful and purposeful said it (the visit) tallies with the philosophy of the commission’s office in Lagos that record keeping is a useful and compelling aspect of NPC’s mandate which officials won’t toy with. She particularly lauded the management of FamilySearch for deeming it fit to approach the commission to explore ways of working with it and said such collaborative activities and gestures saying such initiatives from similar corporate organisations would always be appreciated by the commission in the discharge of its duties.

“I am happy that they have agreed that wherever data being stored is kept for us will be subject to the kind of laws prevailing in Nigeria. It is a good initiative and we are happy to work with them while also protecting the interest of Nigeria, particularly the interest of Lagos State,” she said.

According to her, the commission has welcomed the proposal being put forward by Rockwood and his team in the areas of record keeping and storage as well as human capacity development of personnel within the commission who are going to be exposed to the latest techniques in such areas which they are expected to be exposed to. She stated that the two organisations have agreed to joint access to the records as it won’t be an exclusive preserve of the management of FamilySearch alone as the NPC personnel will also be able to have unhindered access to the documents as well. Sulu-Hundehin stated that the project will cost the nation little or nothing since the needed technology and personnel are to be provided for by the management of FamilySearch who have seen the deficit of facilities in the commission.

“They are not just going to provide the commission with training in digital record storage, they are also going to provide us with the requisite or minimal facilities as well. They have agreed to do that after they went round the complex,” the commissioner said. According to her, the visitors have agreed to train personnel of the commission on digital record management and storage, adding that the scope and appropriate equipment that would be donated to the commission would be determined by the two partners after having conducted the necessary needs assessment late.




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