The Middle Belt Forum appeals to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to delay the census until the security situation improves.
The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has addressed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, expressing their concerns about the ongoing insecurity in the country and urging him to postpone the census. The forum highlights the displacement of numerous Nigerians, particularly in the Middle Belt region.
In a statement released by Dr Pogu Bitrus, the national president of the Middle Belt Forum, attention was drawn to the recent visit of Chairman Alhaji Nasir Kwarra from the National Population Commission (NPC) to the Presidential Villa.
During the visit, it was revealed that President Tinubu would soon set new dates for the 2023 national population and housing census, which was previously suspended by former President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Middle Belt Forum strongly opposes the NPC’s position, considering the prevailing level of insecurity in the country, specifically in the Middle Belt region.
They emphasize that the success and accuracy of the headcount can only be achieved if the safety of citizens and overall security are guaranteed.
To conduct a population and housing census when certain territories have fallen under the control of foreign terrorists and millions of Nigerians have been displaced by ruthless criminals is unthinkable.
The Middle Belt Forum cites instances of terror attacks in Middle Belt communities where innocent citizens have lost their lives over the past decade, with no adequate support provided.
In Southern Borno, for example, Boko Haram has repeatedly assaulted communities, forcing residents to abandon their ancestral lands in search of safety. Tragically, many of these traumatized individuals have become refugees in their own country or neighboring nations, unable to return home for the past ten years.
States like Plateau, Niger, Benue, and Kaduna have also witnessed devastating losses, with thousands of people driven out of their ancestral territories.
Shockingly, foreign occupiers have even renamed these communities under the watch of security forces, demonstrating blatant illegality.
Despite widespread condemnation of the forceful eviction of citizens from their homes, the dream of displaced indigenous people returning to their communities remains elusive.
Recent events in Plateau State, where violence has resulted in the destruction of homes and the murder of hundreds of law-abiding Nigerians, highlight the ongoing threats faced by these communities.
Similar tragedies unfolded in Ukum, Benue State, where bike-riding terrorists claimed the lives of at least 30 people during a wave of terror attacks.
These relentless assaults in Plateau, Benue, and other states indicate a deliberate effort to drive out the indigenous population and seize their lands, while providing ruthless murderers with the opportunity to occupy their towns and villages.
Given these dire circumstances, the primary focus of the Federal Government should not be on conducting a population and housing census. Instead, the immediate priority must be to ensure the safe return of the millions of displaced persons across Nigeria, especially in the Middle Belt region.
Conducting the census without addressing the issues faced by internally displaced persons (IDPs) would be a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the true demography of a nation where citizens have been forcefully driven from their homes by foreign Fulani invaders.
While acknowledging the significance of a population and housing census, the Middle Belt Forum calls upon the Federal Government to prioritize resolving the security challenges.
This approach will prevent the occurrence of a census that could be marred by disputes and inaccuracies.
The Middle Belt Forum strongly believes that displaced communities living in temporary shelters must be able to return to their ancestral lands. They should not be left with a sense of abandonment, vulnerable to bloodthirsty invaders and criminals.
In the midst of ongoing conflicts tearing the country apart, it is unreasonable for the NPC to advocate for President Tinubu to set new dates for the suspended population and housing census.
The Middle Belt Forum urges President Tinubu to consider the prevailing security challenges and the plight of internally displaced persons before proceeding with the census.
The forum emphasizes that conducting a census during troubled times will only bestow legitimacy upon the vicious perpetrators of genocidal attacks on defenseless communities. To ensure a transparent and accurate headcount, it is essential to prioritize the restoration of order and the provision of adequate security for lives and property across the nation.