POPULATION CENSUS. Definition of Population headcount may be de: as the headcount of all nationals of a country at a particular time. It refers to the counting government of all the children, boys, girls, men and women, including the disabled, in a given period of time.

The census is a process of systematically collecting and recording demographic, social, and economic data of a population. It is conducted by governments to gather information about their citizens and to obtain an accurate count of the population residing within their jurisdiction. Census data is crucial for various purposes, such as political representation, resource allocation, urban planning, and policy development.

During a census, households or individuals are typically required to provide information about their age, sex, race, ethnicity, marital status, education, occupation, and housing characteristics. This data helps governments understand the composition and needs of their population, make informed decisions, and plan for the future.

Census data is usually collected through surveys, questionnaires, or interviews. Governments often strive to ensure a high response rate to obtain the most accurate and comprehensive data possible. Census information is generally treated as confidential and used solely for statistical purposes. Strict protocols and laws are in place to protect the privacy and confidentiality of individuals\’ responses.

Census data is invaluable for policymakers, researchers, businesses, and organizations as it provides insights into population trends, social disparities, and economic indicators. It plays a significant role in shaping public policies, determining the allocation of resources, and addressing the needs of different communities.

It\’s worth noting that specific census procedures, questions, and schedules may vary between countries, as each government tailors its census to suit its unique requirements and legal framework.

Censuses are usually taken every years. When a series of censuses has been undertaken properly, it becomes easier, using the rate of growth, to estimate the population between the periods of counts.

Population headcount provides information about age, sex, occupation and residence. In  Nigeria, several population censuses were taken by the government. The census of 1952/53 was given as 31.12 million people. This figure according to observers at that time, was underestimated.

Another census was conducted in 1962/63 which put the country’s population at 55.670

Million. This figure, as of that time, was over-inflated. This raised a lot of controversy regarding its reliability and acceptability.

In 1973, another count gave a population of 79 million people. This figure was rejected due to double counting and overestimation. In 1991, another population census, the most recent in the country, was taken. It was given as 88,514,501 people.

Since then there has been no population headcount and the current estimate of Nigeria’s population as of 2004 is put at 120 million people


  • It must be conducted by the government of the state or country where the census is taking place.
  • It must be conducted at the same time (simultaneously) throughout the country

  • It must involve regular counting at specific intervals of time, e.g. Nigeria’s population taken in  1953, 1963, 1973, etc., i.e. at an interval of 10 years.
  • It must reveal the population of a country at a specific period of time, e.g. Nigeria’s population census as of 1973.
  • It must involve the physical counting of people rather than by proxy,
  • It must involve experts who are knowledgeable in population studies and they must be of high integrity.


There are two main types of population census.

  • Defacto population census: This is the type of population census which involves me counting of only those who are present physically during the census. In this group, only those that are present physically or seen are counted.

  • De jure population census: This is the type of population headcount which involves the counting of people who have been permanent residents of a specific area. It does not matter whether the person is present or not. This is the population headcount commonly referred to as counting by proxy.


The importance or reasons for conducting a population census include:

  •  Population size: Population headcount helps the government to know the number of people living in the country and the structure of the population.

  •  Revenue estimates: It also helps in the determination of taxable adults so as to know the amount of revenue expected from that sector.

  •  Forecasts future economic needs: The population census also enables the country to forecast her future economic needs, e.g. housing and food.

  •  Determines the level of unemploy­ment: Population census provides government with statistics to determine the level of unemployment in the country.

  •  Determination of standard of living: Population census also assists in the determination of the standard of living of the people in a country through per capital income.

  • Formulation of economic policies: The number of people in a country is used to formulate economic policies, e.g. revenue formula is at times based on population figures.
  • Number of immigrants: The number of immigrants in a country can be known or estimated based on population.
  • Distribution of resources: Population census assists the government in the distribution of resources e.g. areas of high population like Lagos and Kano will get more resources than areas of low population.

  • Provision of social amenities: Population census gives the government an idea of the different population in various parts of the country and this will help it in the provision of social amenities like housing, water, electricity, roads, schools and hospital.

  • Determination of population density: Population census helps the government to know areas in the country where population per land area is high or low.

  • Reveals level of manpower: Population census helps to reveal the total number of people who are working. When the level of manpower is high, the economic development of the country is assured.

  • Giving of aids: Population census assists international agencies and governments in giving aids and other assistance to countries.

  • Investment decisions: Population census also assists international investors in making investment decisions. Many international investors are interested in setting up business in Nigeria because of her high population.

  • Allocation of parliamentary seats: Population is often used in Nigeria to allocate parliamentary seats. States with high population are given more parliamentary seats than states populations.


Problems which are normally associated with population census in Nigeria and many countries in West Africa include:

  •  High level of illiteracy: As a result of the high level of illiteracy in developing countries, it has become difficult to conduct a successful population headcount as these people do not give relevant and useful statistics. Information gathered from these sets of people is usually false and misleading.

  •  High cost: Huge amount of mo involved in the conduct of population headcount. Since most West African countries are poor, the resources required to conduct a successful census available.
  •  Political problem: Since population census is used in many count: allocating resources to component population figures are usually falsified to enable some state to gain more resources than others.

  •  Geographical barriers: Most communities are inaccessible mountains, valleys, rivers, etc. This population census difficult in these
  •  Lack of trained personnel: Trained personnel like demographers art easily available hence the use of untrained personnel in the conduct of census to inaccurate results.

  •  Religious beliefs: The religion of some people is a major problem encountered during population census, slim women that are in purdah are not be seen by men and this makes counting of such people difficult as they : counted by proxy.

  • Lack of transportation: Most rural areas do not have motorable roads and k prevents or restricts enumerators from getting in touch with some communities.

  • Lack of communication facilities: Poor or total lack of communication facilities make population census very difficult, especially in rural areas.

  • Poor regional planning: Most towns and villages are not planned. In most cases the buildings are scattered, some without numbers. This makes it difficult for population officers to conduct a successful population census
  • Tax evasion: As a result of high level of illiteracy and ignorance, people often give false information during census with the relief that full cooperation during census will lead to high tax payment.

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