Monrovia — The House of Representatives is reviewing a joint resolution forwarded to it by the Liberian Senate calling for Liberia’s overdue National Population and Housing Census to finally be conducted this year.
There have been never-ending disagreements over the dates for the conduct of the census. The Executive had proposed several dates before the Senate adopted a resolution to conduct the census in March 2023, though the House fail to act on it before taking its legislative break.
However, the President, invoking his constitutional power, recalled the legislators from their break to act on several legislative instruments including an approval for the conduct of the national census this year.
The draft resolution, as forwarded to the House, called for the conduct of the census immediately owing to its critical importance in providing the much needed data for the nation’s national socio-economic and development goals (SDFGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 as well as improving the knowledge of the social, demographic and economic characteristics of the country’s population.
Excerpt: “That upon the passage of the resolution #001/2022, the Executive Branch of the Government shall proceed to make the necessary preparations for the conduct of the National Census from October 24 to November 7, 2022.”
“That the Executive Branch of Government of the Republic is hereby authorized to immediately proceed with all activities leading to the conduct of the national census upon passage of this joint resolution #001/2022.”
Following the reading of the resolution, the House voted to authorize its Committee on Good Governance to review and report within a week.
Millions at stake
The latest development on Capitol Hill comes as Liberia’s donor partners have warned that the country stands to lose US$US$8.8 million if the census is not conducted this year.
In a leaked communication to President George Weah by the donors including Sweden, Irish Aid, the World Bank, ECOWAS and the United Nations, they warned that “If the census is postponed to March 2023, the obligatory payments to census staff would be US$695,500. If the census is conducted in November 2022, staff costs would be significantly reduced to US$139,100, and if conducted in December 2022, the cost would be USS278,200.”
Continuing, they said: “Also, the Government of Ghana loaned Liberia 21,000 electronic data collection tablets and accessories, which are to be returned at the end of October 2022,” the letter said. “If the census is not conducted in October, Liberia would have to purchase its own electronic tablets at US$5,355,000. The delay associated with the long procurement lead time would also constrain census implementation.”
The Committee’s letter also warned that financial commitments by donors may not be fulfilled if the census is not conducted in October and the balance of US$759,255 will not be disbursed as the agreement on the Census project ends in December 2022.
‘LISGIS Is Prepared’
Meanwhile the authorities at the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo Information Services (LISGIS) has assured the Government and the public that it is capable and prepared to conduct Liberia’s 5th and first digitizedNational Population and Housing Census (NPHC).
At a one-day stakeholder engagement conference in Monrovia recently, LISGIS and its major partners including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said all is set for the conduct of the census this October as logistics and manpower has being put in place.
At the conference, LISGIS Acting Director General, Wilmot F. Smith, said, the entity has made numerous achievements towards holding of the NPHC this year, noting that all is ready for the actual counting of Liberians.
“LISGIS is prepared and ready to conduct the census. There are substantial financial resources for the conduct of the census,” he said.
He furthered that other materials including raincoats, life jackets, and rain gears amongst others things needed for the conduct of the census are also being procured. On top of all these are the 21,000 electronic gadgets borrowed from Ghana that will ensure the entire process is digitized, for the first time in Liberia’s history.
Smith stressed the importance of the census towards Liberia’s development drive and added that LISGIS is now waiting on the Legislature to set the date for the commencement of the NPHC 2022.
He told stakeholders at the conference that the geographical mapping of the country has been concluded while logistics are available for the census project. In addition, he revealed that currently, a trainer of trainers’ workshop is ongoing at LISGIS with a hope that those trained will take up assignment in various districts across the country. He then used the occasion to call on Liberians of all walks of life to join LISGIS in creating awareness on the importance of the census.
“Liberians must act as ambassadors during this year’s census,” he urged.
Continued violation of Liberia’s Constitution
While Liberia’s key development partner including bilateral and multilateral institutions continue to express disappointment over the Government’s failure to conduct the census, the Legislature, clothed with the constitutional mandate of making the law, has come under staunch criticism as well for blatantly violating the organic law of the land.
Article 39 of the Constitution states: “The Legislature shall cause a census of the Republic to be undertaken every ten years… “
This census which continues to be deliberately delayed by the Legislature should have been held in 2018, counting from the last NPHC held in 2008.
Historically, Liberia has been lackadaisical in holding census. It took 24 years before the last census was conducted in 2008; something that was largely blamed on the 14-year long devastating civil war.
Now, that it is peace time, and given that it is almost 14 years since the last census was held, many including Liberia’s development partners had expected that the country would do all to live within the constitutional timeframe to update its population data to be better informed in its development drive.
As warned by the donors, “The Census is a legacy project for the Government of Liberia and its conduct will be a significant achievement for the citizens of Liberia. If conducted in October 2022, the census will be a milestone for Liberia to celebrate as it would: a) provide the much-needed reliable data for development planning, b) enable measurement of progress on national development, and c) inform the world in November 2022 of Liberia’s contribution to the global population of eight billion.”