By J. G. Ottong
In contemporary society, population has become an important issue of concern. This is so because population, in terms of its size and composition, has far-reaching implications for change, development and the quality of life in society.
Population is a major asset, as resource for development, and is also the prime beneficiary of development in society. It constitutes the bulk of the producers of goods and services as well as the major consumers of the goods and services. Thus, the population of a country is a major determinant of the size of the national and international marvel for investment.
In Nigeria, population has been a rather sensitive and controversial issue because of its implica- tions for shaping regional (now geopolitical), state and ethnic relations and balance of power. It is the attitude towards the population question, in terms of its absolute size, as it affects the states and the sub-regions that constitutes the background to the census controversies which the country has been associated with (PAN, 1990; Ottong, 1983).
The controversies have been responsible for the rather chequered history of census taking in Nigeria. It is however salutary to note that the phenomenon now appears to be a thing of the past, especially with the successful conduct of the 1991 census.
The 1991 census, conducted by the National Population Commission, was preceded by the kind of elaborate preparation that would be expected of a scientifically conducted census, by international standards. The outcome of the census has been widely acclaimed, although it might not necessarily have been perfect.
Preparations for the 2001 census exercise in the country started with series of workshops and seminars/conferences on census advocacy, sensitisation and development of modules. It seems that for the year 2001, Nigeria did firmly join the comity of nations in the regular conduct of decennial censuses. In the sections that follow, the population of Nigeria is further discussed in terms of its dynamics, composition, spatial distribution and the processes of urbanisation, drawing largely from the 1991 census.