Nigerians open shop despite census

Nigerians re-opened shops and businesses on Sunday in defiance of stay-at-home orders as Africa's most populous country pressed ahead with its first census in 15 years.

    Census counters help a boy give his finger print in Delta State

    President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday announced a two-day extension to the national headcount, which got off to a shaky start on Tuesday, troubled by sporadic violence, a lack of paperwork and disgruntled counters.

    But in Nigeria's northern commercial capital, Kano, traders opened their stalls for the first time in three days on Sunday despite a government order to stay put, saying they needed to trade or go hungry.

    At Kano's bustling downtown Sabongari market, shops were open, with vendors displaying their wares.

    "I have endured so much in the past five days. I stayed at home waiting to be counted and I cannot stay two more days," said 43-year-old textile trader Halliru Musa.

    "I managed to save what would last me five days, and with two wives and seven children I cannot stay at home for two more days without food and money," he said.

    "Those that have not opened for business are those that have not been counted yet and (are) staying at home and wait for the enumerators," added provisions trader Ibrahim Nasiru.

    Getting back to normal

    Nigeria's southern commercial capital of Lagos also perked for the first time on Sunday, slowly emerging from a five-day shut-down order for its estimated 15 million residents.

    Enumerators wait to get security
    support in Onitsha on Thursday

    Obsanjo has made mapping Nigeria's citizenry - estimated at  120 million to 150 million people - a priority, seeing it as a vital tool in any development strategy for the nation where most people live in poverty despite the state's vast oil revenues.

    Despite being mainly peaceful, the mammoth exercise has been plagued by logistocal problems and fears it could reignite ethnic, regional and religious tensions.

    Nine people were killed last week in the country's restive southeast when police and suspected Biafran separatists clashed, while a census worker was hacked to death with machetes and at least five others injured when they were sprayed with acid.

    Urging turnout

    Many groups want to maximise their turnout to push their case for a greater share in government funding and political influence as well as a hand in Nigeria's oil reserves, the largest in Africa.

    Basil Ejidike (R) appeals to census
    counters to return to work

    Other groups like the Biafran separatists refuse to be counted, denying that they are Nigerian citizens.

    Counting progressed slowly on Sunday in many places, despite positive assurances from census chief Samu'ila Danko Makama, who said he thought 70% of the country had been  covered.

    At least three state governors - Bola Tinubu of Lagos, Kano state's Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and Abdulkadir Kure of Niger state - have frowned on the exercise.

    Tinubu questioned Makama's estimates saying "we started the census by devoting the first three days to trying to solve logistical problems".

    "This leaves us with not more than a 40 or 45% success rate in the actual exercise," he told Sunday's This Day newspaper.

    Rimi told the Lagos daily that it was a "total failure of the government and census commission" not to have forseen that the headcount might take longer than planned.

    SOURCE: AFP


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