Criticism over Nigerian plans to curb ‘exponential’ population growth

24 October 2018 - 16:25 By afp
The Nigerian government has identified its population boom as "a great challenge".
The Nigerian government has identified its population boom as "a great challenge".
Image: 123RF

Nigeria's finance minister has said the government is looking at ways to limit its "exponential" population growth, describing it as a "great challenge" to prosperity.

Speaking on the sidelines of an economic summit on Tuesday, finance minister Zainab Ahmed said the government has identified Nigeria's population boom as an area of concern.

Consultations are under way with traditional stakeholders who have in the past opposed controlling fertility on moral and religious grounds.

"We hope that with their support, we will get to a point where we can come out with the policy that limits the number of children that a mother can have because that is important for sustaining our growth," said Ahmed.

Ahmed appeared to backtrack on Wednesday after criticism of the proposed plan, writing on Twitter that the government was not pushing for a cap on childbirth but "child spacing".

"Exponential population growth was identified as a challenge," she said. "We never said Federal Government will place a cap on the number of childbirths."

Nigeria is Africa's largest economy and is growing the most rapidly of the 10 largest countries worldwide, according to a 2017 UN report, World Population Prospects.

It is currently the seventh-largest country in the world in terms of population with 190-million people.

But it is projected to surpass that of the US and become the third-largest country in the world before 2050.

Nigeria's population boom mirrors a broader trend in Africa, which will account for more than half of anticipated growth in the global population over the next 30 years.

As the population explodes, there is increasing attention on fertility in a region where unemployment is rampant and social unrest is high.

In Nigeria, advocates of population control have been met with fierce resistance.

In 2012, when former President Goodluck Jonathan said Nigerians should only have as many children as they could afford he was met with an immediate uproar from both Christians and Muslims.