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Nigeria Undertakes National Census Effort

Susan Irem, 23, says she's eager to be counted, but many separatists are boycotting the count.
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR
Susan Irem, 23, says she's eager to be counted, but many separatists are boycotting the count.

Nigeria is attempting its first population count in 15 years, amid a boycott by separatists, violence and diverse logistical problems faced by 1 million census takers.

Previous attempts to count Africa's most populous nation -- home to as many as 160 million people -- failed as various factions schemed to control political power and oil money.

Still, it's said that 1 in 5 Africans come from Nigeria, which is certainly among the top-ten most populous nations in the world, covering territory equivalent to that of California.

A census jingle asks Nigerians: "How can we make our country a great place when we don't know how many we really are? For a better Nigeria, for a better Nigeria, the answer is a national census..."

President Olusegun Obasanjo is taking pains to assure his constituents there is no hidden agenda behind the 2006 census, which comes as his supporters campaign for a constitutional amendment to allow him to stand for a third term next year.

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Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
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