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Nigeria Is the most populous country in Africa and the tenth in the world. These include the major demographic features as obtained from two major sources, viz.: the 1991 census and the PRB's Worfd Population Data Sheet.
According to the final figures of the 1991 census, the population of Nigeria, at the time, was 88.92 million. Projection of the population, using a 3.0 per cent growth rate, shows that the population of Nigeria could be about 106 million in 1999. The Population Reference Bureaus estimated total population of the country in 1999 has about 113.8 million.
Obviously, tile population of Nigeria is large, which makes it a "giant" relative to the other African countries. The large population implies a large market for goods and. services as well as a large pool of human resources for development. However, the impact of population on development depends not only on the absolute size but also on its quality.
Population growth rate is influenced by the interplay of the three main demographic processes of fertility, mortality and migration. The data in Table 1.3.1 show a crude birth rate of about 44 per 1,000. This yields annual growth rate (natural increase) of about 3.0 per cent The annual growth rate of the
Nigerian population is believed to have risen steadily from an estimated 2.8 per cent in the 1960s to around 3.3 per cent in the 1985 to 1990 period. Although a steady decline in the growth rate is believed to have been in progress in the 1990s, the rate is still relatively high for (economic) comfort.
For instance, a growth rate of 3.3 per cent per annum suggests a population doubling time of 22 years. The reality of this scenario might not necessarily be with the absolute size of the population but, more importantly, with the implications of the growth rate for the future size of the population, and the ability of the economy to grow commensurately with and, therefore, cope with the increase in population size.
The relatively low mortality of about 13 to 14 per 1000 (crude death rate) and a declining infant mortality rate, as well as the increasing life expectancy in tile population, all suggest higher survival chances and therefore, a swell in the size of future population.
The major factor responsible for the rapid increase in the population of the country is the relatively high fertility level as portrayed by a total fertility rate of about 6.0 live-births per woman in the1990s.
The Nigerian fertility survey during 1981/82 put the average number of child birfris per woman (i.e. total fertility rate) at 6.4. Although the data here suggest a slight decline, the level is still relatively high. It seems an appreciable fall in fertility level in the country would depend on achieving a significant change in the cultural, socio psychologica! and economic attitude of Nigerians towards children.
A frontal approach was taken in pursuance of this goal when, in 1988, Nigeria adopted a National Population Policy which seeks to reduce population growth rate through voluntary fertility regulation, and to promote the health and welfare of mothers and children to improve the quality of life of all Nigerians. The main thrust of the policy is the recommendation to young couples not to have more than four children per family (or per woman) and to attain a reduction of the population of women bearing more than four children by 80 per cent by the year 2000.