By Femi Adesina
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja launched the Revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development, stressing the need for urgent measures to address Nigeria’s high fertility rate, through expanding access to modern contraceptive methods across the country.
The President also inaugurated the National Council on Population Management (NCPM), chaired by him, and the Vice President as the deputy chairman with Heads of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as members.
Speaking on the country’s revised population policy, the President said its overall goal is to improve the quality of life and standards of living of all Nigerians, which is one of the major aspirations of this Government
”The policy emphasizes the urgency to address Nigeria’s sustained high fertility rate, through expanding access to modern family planning, counselling and commodities as well as promote births spacing.
”This will enable Nigeria to achieve rapid fertility control, improve the health of women, adolescents, new born and children, and other population groups,’’ he said.
President Buhari noted that Nigeria’s population, which is the largest in Africa, seventh globally and among the few whose fertility is still growing, is hinged on a youthful population, with more than 72 percent of them being below 30 years while half of the female population are in their reproductive years (15-49 years).
”These levels have implications for sustained population growth and narrowed prospects to achieving population management, facilitating sufficient demographic transition, harnessing our demographic endowment and eventually realizing sustainable development,’’ he said.
On other highlights of the revised population policy, the President explained that it underscores the importance of investing in quality education of young people (particularly girls), human capital development, advancing holistic effort to achieve significant demographic transition.
”The Revised Population Policy is rich with all necessary information that will guide the implementation of Nigeria’s Mid-term and Perspective Development Plan.
”It will further address concerns of the large population of young people who are our pride, our future and assets to drive our development efforts. ”
Noting that the implementation of the policy would require credible, reliable, timely, robust, geo-referenced and well disaggregated data, President Buhari expressed confidence that the data generated from the forthcoming census, will provide all the information needed for the successful implementation of the new policy.
Chairman, National Population Commission (NPC), Hon. Nasir Isa Kwarra urged Nigerians to embrace the noble ideals of Planned Parenthood and healthy reproductive behaviours enunciated in the policy.
Enumerating some salient issues in relation to the population policy, Kwarra noted that the review policy is the product of extensive consultations and nationwide engagements with key stakeholders and interest groups.
He said the groups cut across government sectoral ministries at national and states’ levels, civil society organisations, development partners, researchers, the media and the organised private sector.
On the NCPM, the NPC Chairman said the body is key in the implementation of the revised Policy, saying ”in addition to providing strategic direction in the implementation process, the Council will hopefully advocate for and support the conduct of the population and housing census, thus providing accurate and up-to-date data to guide the implementation of the Policy.”
In his goodwill message, the UN Resident Coordinator, Nigeria, Matthias Schmale expressed confidence that the Policy launched by President Buhari was bound to be successful for several reasons.
”Firstly, the Policy brings to the forefront the linkages between population and development and will inform work and services to improve the well-being and lives of Nigerians.
”Secondly, the Policy is coming on the heels of the recently launched 2021-2025 National Development Plan which focuses on making Nigeria the greatest economy in Africa and even more of a force to reckon with in the world.
”Thirdly, the successful implementation of the National Policy will very likely have positive implications for maternal health development, youth and adolescent rights and the empowerment of women and the girl child,” the top UN official in Nigeria said.
Commending the Nigerian government for launching the policy, Schmale said the world and UN look forward to a Nigeria with low maternal mortality; low teenage pregnancy and childbirth; reduced fertility rate, increased utilisation of modern contraceptive methods and high education attainment, among others.
He pledged that United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is responsible for providing support for the generation of quality data, will continue to work with the NPC to help ensure that Nigeria’s forthcoming census meets local and international standards and acceptability.