Nigeria will undertake its first census in 17 years next year in an attempt to correctly survey its population, which is expected to be more than 200 million people and the biggest in Africa, according to the director of the national population office on Thursday.
Censuses are contentious in Nigeria because opposing ethnic and religious groups have used them in the past to proclaim numerical supremacy and seek a bigger share of oil income and political representation.
Nigeria had intended to hold the census last year, but it was cancelled due to rising insecurity, particularly in the north, where an Islamist insurgency and ransom kidnappings have been raging.
Insecurity persists as militants ramp up attacks and kidnappings, the most recent of which occurred last Sunday when 154 people were murdered and scores were abducted during an attack in northern Plateau state.
Nigeria’s population is divided into 300 ethnic groups, with Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. Ethnic and religious strife has erupted in the past.
According to the World Bank, Nigeria’s population will surpass that of the United States by 2050, reaching over 400 million people.