Nigeria: Population vs Sustainable Development

By Glorious Olajire

The problems faced in Nigeria include poverty, lack of quality education, unstable electricity, overuse, misuse and lack of social amenities, poor housing resulting from poor planning and system of approval, overcrowding, high population density and congestion, deviant behaviour, water, and the list abounds. Everyone seems to be hustling to make the best of life, and in the quest for a better life, many move to urban centres. 

As of 2022, Nigeria’s population was 220,271,998. The new demand for cities in the 21st century and the desire to advance has left many developing countries, including Nigeria, to seek ‘development’. This development involves the creation and expansion of cities, which although well intended, drags with it more problems that are magnified by inadequate planning. For instance, Lagos is estimated to have nothing less than hundred slums.

Due to overpopulation, a considerable number of residents livein these slums and a typical slum combines all of the problems mentioned earlier; manifesting in congestion, transference of aggression, diseases, crime and violence. The Malthusian theory of population expresses the fear that a population could grow faster than the supply of food or resources.

Population and Sustainable Development

Inflation and recession are common terms among Nigerians.There is therefore a need to examine the relationship betweenour population and the economy. According to the Brundtland Report of 1987, sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. There are three pillars of sustainable development according to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, 2002. They include social development, economic development, and environmental protection. 

Population, according to the Dictionary of Sociology, refers to the people living in a given area such as a city or country.Family planning has been a popular recommendation to reduceoverpopulation. Paul Ehrlich’s ‘The Population Bomb’, written in 1968 also posited that the Earth is overpopulated, causing a limit to resources. Ehrlich recommended slowing down population growth to reduce the rate of consumption and reduce the strain on the environment. This has however caused an unsustainable labour ratio.

Plans for slowing down the population are often followed by reproductive health policies and programs like family planning to promote smaller family sizes, population control policies such as the one-child policy in China, sterilization incentives in India, and the two-child policy in Vietnam.

The People as both the Problem and the Solution

To view the people as the problem is to propagate issues like abortion and contraception without looking at the reasons why women would want such options. This also examines the elderly workforce and increased consumption in certain societies. China, for example, had an increase in consumption because families had fewer dependents and they could afford to spend more.

Also, human rights abuses due to population control policies and programs result in infanticide, and forced family planning; aggravating social preferences for the males. These forms of coercion like abortion violate the unborn child’s right to life.Some women also find certain methods of contraceptives as a violation of their ethical and religious beliefs. Informed consent is advised in such cases.

Viewing the people as the solution is to regard them as their ownproblem solvers. President Kagame of Rwanda defines prosperity as “the ability of an individual, group, or nation to provide shelter, nutrition, and other material goods that enable people to live a good life, according to their own definition”.

The political, legal, tax and economic systems have to be arranged in a way that fosters entrepreneurship, freedom of choice, creativity and the ability to develop innovations. An emphasis on the value of the human person needs to recognize his health and education, among other needs. People are generally not able to exercise their ingenuity if they are plagued by problems resulting from living in poverty.

Intersecting Population and Sustainable Development 

There is a relationship between population and development, but a lower population does not equal sustainable development. The choice of one’s number of children, for instance, should be a personal one. Techniques that do not represent informed consent should not be encouraged or populated. Investments should be made to create an atmosphere for development, innovation and solidarity, with a political commitment to sustainable development.

The second principle of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) states that “human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development”. People are the most valuable resources of any nation. They are creators and problem-solvers who respond to challenges with creativity. There should be person-centered solutions to sustainable development problems.

Education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, health, infrastructure (roads, hospitals, businesses, technology), skills training, professional opportunities, good governance,governmental transparency, budget openness, and lack ofcorruption are roads that lead to sustainable development.

Appropriate political, legal, and economic systems that allow people to be problem-solvers and entrepreneurs with the freedom to take risks and use their creativity to develop innovations are a true representation of a country that understands the value of humans and is moving for sustainable development.


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