By: Foday Abdulai Kamara (Venom)
The main Opposition Party, All People’s Congress has raised several burning concerns as regards the proclamation by President Bio for the conduct of a Mid-term National Census in December this year.
According to a Press Statement from the party’s secretariat, it described the ‘’proclamation’’ as laudable given the benefits for such national process.
The statement noted that the party is not adverse to the conduct of a census throughout the country and it is ready to ‘’support any legitimate process’’ but they called on the attention of the President, the government and the international Communities to key concerns bothering on the ‘’legality, timing, preparedness and credibility’’ of the proposed Mid-term census process.
The party said it holds the view that even though the President has the authority to proclaim the conduct of census as enshrined in chapter IV, section 38, subsection 7 of the 1991 constitution and the Census Act of 2002, the use of the word “Mid-term” to describe the proposed census (Mid-term Census) is illegal and cannot be used to describe the conduct of the Population Census in Sierra Leone. “because a Census is always a Census” according to the release.
Another concern raised is what it described as ‘’the timing of the census,’’ noting that Census all over the world is conducted in Decades (10yrs period), except where ‘’circumstances necessitated a delay (as was the case of Sierra Leone during the war). ‘’ The Statement noted that the last National Census was in 2015, and questioned what it fumed as; “why the rush in barely five years?” they questioned. In fact, pertinent to the COVID-19 outbreak, the State of Emergency, and the weak financial position of the state, It noted.
The APC said it believes that the resources that will be allocated to the Mid-term census should better be reprogrammed to meet ‘’bread and butter’ issues facing the country.
Also, it said that there is “Absence of Statutory Subcommittee.” Adding that Statistics Sierra Leone is responsible for the planning and implementing of the census activities as the Statistician-General is the Chief Census Officer but that it had lost its national characters at all level, “90 percent of the current management and Senior Staff are from the South-Eastern part of the country, most of whom have little or no statistical background or experience” APC claimed.
Statistic Sierra Leone, it alleged, has lost its credibility in the eyes of many Sierra Leonean, “will they be able to conduct a credible census?” the statement questioned. It also alleged that sacking of over 200 professional staff has left the institution administratively vulnerable and professionally weak; and ‘cannot conduct such highly technical statistic activity to meet set standards with the current crop of new and inexperienced staff.”
The APC further claimed that any census exercise requires more than two years of preparatory work from the date of proclamation by HE President to the actual count due to series of stages involved in the conduct of a credible census. It added that undertaking preparatory activities includes cartographic work; such as mapping of the country in smaller areas called Enumeration area (EA).
The further explained that many of this EA had overgrown their initial households and populations especially in the Urban areas. “No credible census will take place without a total and complete cartographic.’’
The statement positioned itself by demanding the President to ensure the ‘’Involvement of International Experts’’ as required by International best practices and also in the history of Sierra Leone. “International Experts recruited by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) be part of the census process from the beginning to the end of the exercise.
Hence, the APC requested President Bio to ensure that the census processes take at least two years of preparatory work.
It continued that the limited time slated for the census, and the absence of international experts and subcommittees meant the government has ‘’ulterior motives.
The APC’s position also noted that ‘’the so-called mid-term Census is being used as a conduct by the government to derail the conduct of the Local Council Elections in 2022.”
It called on the government to take critical look at all of the issues and the time available between now and December to reach a reasonable conclusion. “we therefore advised the government not to go ahead with any type of census, given the time available to complete all preparatory activities before the actual count, failing to heed to this advice will be a mere waste of state resource” the statement concluded.