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Nigerians who are atheists and other nonreligious are incensed as the Population Commission intends to remove questions about religious beliefs from the 2023 census form | Sahara Reporters


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    The NPC had fixed the national population and housing census for March 29 to April 1, 2023.

    The Humanist Association of Nigeria has expressed its dissatisfaction as the Nigerian Population Commission, NPC proposed to exclude questions relating to the religious beliefs of Nigerians during the next census.

    SaharaReporters earlier reported that the NPC had fixed the national population and housing census for March 29 to April 1, 2023.

    However, in a statement made available to SaharaReporters on Monday by Leo Igwe - a board member of the Humanist Association of Nigeria and Humanists International, the NPC was accused of marginalising atheists and other non-religious people’s interests during the census exercise.

    The statement reads: “Responding to a viral message that suggested that the next population and housing census would feature questions on religion, the National Population Commission (NPC) noted that there would be no questions on religion.

    “The NPC said: "It was agreed that religion and ethnicity should not be included in the Census questionnaire to insulate the process and outcomes from unnecessary controversies".

    But Igwe described the explanation as a “pretext to continue to misrepresent religious and irreligious demographics in the country”.

    He said, “The commission did not state who agreed to exclude the religion question and why. Look, one of the main goals of a census is to understand demographic patterns and shifts.

    “Census is a mechanism to collect data on aspects of a population. People rely on the census to understand details of the population including age, sex, religion, ethnicity or race. And if questions on religion are excluded, what then is the essence of this program? What information would the head count provide? What is volatile or controversial about providing information about religious belief and nonbelief in Nigeria?

    “Humanists are nonreligious and irreligious individuals and include atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and other nontheistic and religion-free persons.

    “According to the information out there, nonreligious constitute less than 2 percent of the population. But many humanists are of the notion that Nigeria's religious demographics are bogus and bloated. That the irreligious population is not adequately captured due to entrenched religious politics in the country.

    “To register these concerns, the Humanist Association of Nigeria requested to meet with the National Population Commission. But the request, sent to the commission last year, has, so far, been ignored.

    “The proposal has not been granted apparently because the commission does not reckon with the non-religious constituency in the country. The NPC should understand that Nigeria has a diverse population that includes believers and non-believers. It should be open to understanding and appreciating the needs and interests of all Nigerians including the non-religious population.

    “The NPC has a duty to capture the changes in (ir)religious patterns and professions in the country. The irreligious population should be counted, and information about them should be contained in the 2023 census,” the Humanists Association said.

    A copy of the letter sent by the association to NPC last November which was obtained by SaharaReporters revealed that it sought to tolerate non-religious persons and people of no faith across the country during the census exercise. 

    The statement reads further: “We the Humanist Association Nigeria (HAN), are requesting to meet with you to discuss issues of interest to our association. HAN is an association of well-meaning citizens that uphold basic human rights and values. We promote logical reasoning and critical thinking and advocate for Science and Technology rather than superstitions in solving societal problems. We aim and seek inclusivity and tolerance for all non-religious persons and people of no faith nationwide. We provide a sense of community to all and ensure their respectful and dignified treatment by campaigning to end all forms of discrimination, persecution, and abuses on the basis of religious belief or unbelief.

    “HAN leaders would like to visit/meet with you to discuss issues of interest to the Humanist and non-religious community regarding the 2023 census in Nigeria. As the NPC and all Nigerians prepare for this national exercise, it is important to register and integrate the interests and issues of concern to our community.

    “As the community of non-religious Nigerians continues to increase across Nigeria, robust engagement with agencies and institutions of Government is key for driving inclusiveness and tolerance for all persons and citizens. HAN and its members will continue to promote human values and practices that defend the rights of citizens and support fairness, equality, and justice for all. While looking forward to your positive response, do accept the assurance of our highest regards.”

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