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At the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit, hosted in the Capital City, Abuja, the Minister for Finance, Zainab Ahmed had noted that owing to challenges posed by the country’s ever-increasing population, the Federal Government had begun to interrogate relevant stakeholders in order to work on a policy which would limit the number of children that a Nigerian mother could have.The revised version of the World Population Prospects puts Nigeria as the most populous African country and the 7th in the world. In fact, the United Nations Department of Economy and Social Affairs (2017) states, “Among the ten largest countries worldwide, Nigeria is growing the most rapidly.” It projected that, at a current population of 198 million people with an urban population of 6.5% average annual growth rate, Nigeria is primed to surpass the United States to become the third largest country in the world before 2050.
Findings have revealed that, in many Nigerian states, despite the level of awareness and advocacy carried out towards creating awareness for family planning, there is still quite a low receptiveness among women to FP methods, let alone, the modern FP methods. Poverty, ignorance, lack of trust in the system, traditional and religious beliefs which favour high fertility and large family systems along with poor access to services and commodities, conflicts, poor coordination of the FP-related programmes and so on are some of the issues that have been related to the low prevalence rate especially among people at the grassroots. This means that now more than ever, the Nigerian government has to begin to interrogate ways of intensifying Family Planning among its population. Perhaps a child-limit policy might do what other measures previously undertaken, could not?
In the late 70s, in an attempt to combat overpopulation, the Central Government of China introduced a strict “one child” policy and even engaged measures such as forceful abortions on people who violated this law. Recent tides in the country have seen the Chinese government relax on its strictness by abolishing the policy and allowing married couples to have two children.
The year 2017 in India brought about the occurrence of child restriction discussions. Varying from state to state, the government introduced a population policy which barred couples, mostly politicians from having more than two children. Those who violated were banned from getting government jobs and benefits or even contesting in local body elections. This was perhaps an attempt to encourage ordinary citizens to subscribe to this idea by forcing political heads and aspirants to lead by example. Even though the Indian government modified its own policy to guide against the negative consequences that resulted from China’s one-child policy, it is still quite a controversial topic in the country.
In a deeply cultural and religious society as ours, the Federal Government will have to pull out the big guns if it intends to introduce a child-limit policy. Engaging traditional rulers in the discourse as disclosed by the Minister of Finance is a smart move and will help to better reach people in local communities who have allegiance to their traditional authorities. Religious authorities are also pivotal to ensuring the success of such a policy; this is because of the influence they wield especially in matters as delicate as these.
Involving the civil society in this campaign, in my opinion, will help to push it to the precipice of success faster than any other measure could. These organisations have the human capacity to organise massive campaigns at the local, state and regional levels while ensuring adequate citizens participation. Because of the level of trust that nongovernmental organisations, especially those at the grassroots command with regards to people in hard-to-reach communities, they may stand a better chance of convincing people of the need to engage FP methods such as a child-limit policy introduced by the government.
Now, adoption of plans and policies are not novel in Nigeria, since the late 80s, FG has, in a bid to solve reproductive health challenges, adopted and implemented many, part of which were the National Population Policy for Development, National Reproductive Health Policy and Strategic Plans, National Reproductive Health Commodity Security Strategic Plans, and National Guidelines on Contraceptive Logistics Management System, the Millennium Development Goals and the ongoing Sustainable Development Goals. However, whatever decisions or policies FG intends to come up with henceforth, the limited financial and physical access to high-quality health services and commodities is an issue that needs to be addressed. At federal, state and local levels, discussions around the increase in FP funding have to be prioritized.
This essentially is the role of NNNGO-PAS regarding FP. The program works to promote family planning across Lagos state and ultimately, across the country, by advocating for a renewed emphasis on FP service and delivery. The NNNGO-PAS team, engages policymakers, Civil Society Organisations working in the FP space and other relevant stakeholders in the state to advocate for increased funding for FP in order to ensure its goal of enhancing the visibility, availability, and quality of family planning services for increased contraceptive use; and, ultimately, improve the quality of life and pace of development across the country.
In China and India, the nationwide family planning measures undertaken were heavily criticized at home and abroad especially in view of the negative ripple effect it caused (in China) but there is no gainsaying the fact that in order to rescue Nigeria from the clutches of extreme population, enabled by overpopulation and to ensure the successful implementation of the country’s Economic Recovery Growth Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals, drastic family planning measures have to be taken.