Members of the House of Representatives were divided sharply on Tuesday over a motion that Federal Government should curb population explosion in the country by urgently coming up with a workable population reduction policy.
China until last month evolved a one-child policy to control its population. The policy was amended last month to two-child.
The country’s large population has created difficulty for budgeting and a strain on the country’s dilapidating infrastructures.
The motion, though, simple and innocuous in its prayers turned controversial via debates by members on religoius and ethnic lines as efforts by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara failed to douse the fire, forcing him to rule that the motion be stood down for further consultations and advice from the House committee on Rules and Business before further actions can be taken.
This was necessitated by palpable tension among members of Muslim extraction who stuck to their positions, quoting copiously from the Holy Qur’an, The Constitution and the House Rules.
No sooner had the sponsor of the motion, Babatunde Gabriel Kolawole (APC Ondo) finished presenting the motion than fireworks began.
Some Muslim lawmakers mainly from the North said the motion should be discarded because it was anti- Islam, but others insisted the motion made sense and was of national interest.
Kolawole, while moving the motion said: “A report by US-based Population Reference Bureau, PRB, in its 2011 World Population Data Sheet, released last year states that Nigeria’s population would be 433 million by 2050, subsequently making Nigeria the 3rd largest country in the world by 2050”.
“The implication of this is that Nigeria would be the third largest country in the world, behind India and China, even bigger than the United States of America (USA) and with only a 10 per cent of the land mass.”
He noted that though Nigeria has hit the 166 million mark, about five million people are still added to Nigeria’s population on a yearly basis.
Kolawole also expressed concerned that the National Population Commission is not alive to its responsibility of researching and monitoring the National Information Databank as well as advising the President on Population matters.
According to him; “the unbridled population growth rate puts pressure on the country finances and infrastructure especially roads, housing, education, health, economy and is a catalyst for unemployment, crime, poverty among others.”
Stressing the seriousness of the issue, he warned of the challenges of over population as face by countries such as China ( 1.4 billion and India (1.28 billion), expressing concern “that Nigeria – as a potential third largest country in the world – is heading in such direction if it does not immediately commence the implementation of an action plan.”
He therefore prayed that the House urge the Federal Government to curb Population explosion by urgently coming up with a workable population reduction policy and that the FG to direct the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to educate Nigerians on the benefits of family planning.
The first missile against the motion was from a two- term member, Hon. Sanni Abdul who insisted that the motion should be trashed because it does not make sense.
According to him, Nigeria has the land mass to accommodate any population increase hence, it was unnecessary for anyone to consider a legislative intervention for population reduction, let alone for members to sit and waste time debating it. ” it is a waste of legislative time,” he said.
Balarabe Salame ( APC Sokoto) said the mover of the motion was targeting Islam and Muslims, adding that Islam as a religion abhors population reduction and birth control.
Zakari Mohammed, Chairman House Committee in the 7th House said he was not against planning, but against the motion. And that the Constitution promotes a healthy family life, hence he would not support it. He added that “Nigeria has more than enough to take care of what ( people) we have.”
The Speaker, Yakubu Dogara at a point had to intervene. he said the motion was not against any religion and there is was the need to plan and decide if 5 million annual births could be absorbed by the country.
His words: “There is no attack, its about policy. Its not against Islam or Christianity, it’s for planning. We must sit down and tell ourselves, can we accommodate 5 million more per year? We are Representatives of the people, I don’t see how its against a particular religion, its for policies on population management.”
He thereafter referred the motion the committees on Justice and Population as well Rules and Business for advice on how to proceed following arguments and points of order from members like Orker Jev, Jagaba Adams Jagaba, Ken Chikere and others who were in favour of the motion.