THE federal Government has decided to respond to our runaway population growth by mooting a familiar proposal: promulgating a policy which will limit each mother to two children.
The Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, at the recent 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, disclosed that the plan, which is part of strategies to ensure the success of the Muhammadu Buhari government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), will align our population growth rate to economic growth and eventually exit Nigeria from its current poverty trap.
Nigeria’s current population growth is about 3 per cent, while the slowly recovering economy is growing at 1.9 per cent GDP. Coupled with heavy borrowings, indebtedness and other variables, this was partly responsible for the country’s new status as “the poverty capital of the world”.
There is no doubt that any plan to enthrone economic prosperity in Nigeria must include a comprehensive strategy to slow the current growth rate of our population which is currently put at 198 million. It is estimated that at the current rate, the Nigerian population will be verging around 400 million by 2050, making the country the third most populous country in the world.
The government’s intention is noble and imperative. China and India have successfully deployed similar policies to prevent population disasters and promote massive economic growth. The question is: will Nigeria be able to summon the willpower to implement such a socially-complex policy? This question is germane because in 1987, General Ibrahim Babangida’s government launched a policy of one couple, four children maximum. But barely two years later, Babangida and his spouse with already four children, violated the policy by having a fifth child and justified it on the basis of their religious faith.
Nigeria is a country where citizens saddle themselves with heavy religious and cultural burdens which they use to sabotage genuine efforts to leverage on best practices to develop the country. We doubt that the Acting Minister’s plans to dialogue with religious and community leaders will avail much. We hope it does. Nigerians must be made to see the wisdom in limiting our population growth and aligning it to our economic growth. Otherwise, we will not be able to avoid the disaster that China, with supreme willpower, was able to sidestep to become the world’s second most prosperous economy.
To make the policy a success, Nigeria must unfold a regime of incentives and sanctions to curtail procreation. The effort to reduce our population growth is not that of the government alone. The people must see the need to key into it. For a society to survive and thrive, its attitude to religion and culture must be pragmatic and progressive. For us, it is now a matter of survival.
Above is an editorial from The Punch