MONROVIA: Friday November 11, 2022, was declared by President George Manneh Weah as a “National Census Day,” which was observed throughout Liberia.
Liberians honored the holiday by staying home for census enumeration by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LIGIS).
During the mornings, the spokesperson of LISGIS told ECOWAS Radio via mobile phone that by 10 a.m., the enumerators would be at their various “Enumerator Areas” in readiness for deployment, and that the process would for last for at least ten days.
The spokesperson said last Friday was the beginning of collecting data and that during the other days, enumerators would leave their contact at homes where people absent.
Ironically, reports from the various communities within Monrovia and its immediate surroundings indicate that no enumerators visited homes to collect any census data.
On Thursday, the agency spearheading the conduct of the Census, the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), told the public that enumerators segment of the 2022 “National Population and Housing Census would start on Friday, November 11, 2022 as scheduled.”
In a press Statement issued by LISGIS Public Affairs Office stated that the required materials, including enumerators tablets have been pre-positioned at every county capital and that the deployment of the 16, 595 field enumerators, supervisors, and census district officers is also in full swing.
LISGIS said the enumeration is expected to run until November 22, 2022.
“Every person residing in Liberia during this period will be enumerated. To ensure that everyone is counted, the Census Enumerators are obligated to leave a call-back card at households they may find absent, to facilitate arrangements for counting all persons,” the statement added.
Despite these assurances by LISGIS, Friday was, according several citizens, a failed day for the much-anticipated National Census as up to 16-hour, no enumerators visited any home.
The Rehab Community, where President George Weah lives, experienced similar situation, according to Marie Howard, a resident of the area.
Article 39 of the country’s Constitution states, “The Legislature shall cause a census of the Republic to be undertaken every ten years.” The last National Census was held in 2008 during the administration of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
But, since the incumbency of the Weah-led government in 2018, it has postponed the conduct of the National Census for at least four times.
National Census should have been held in 2018 but was deferred due to the reported lack of funding. It was postponed again in 2019 because of the same funding reason.
The process was extended to 2020, the government again cited COVID-19 and Special Senatorial elections as reasons for not conducting the Census at the time.
Recently, the National Legislature passed a Joint Resolution, authorizing the Executive Branch of Government to conduct the National Census from October 24 to November 7, 2022. But the conduct of the exercise was postponed once more to a later date in November.
Apart from the alleged financial malpractices that have reportedly engulfed LISGIS, many critics believe that administrative missteps have also plunged the entity into crisis.
Some enumerators told this paper on Friday that they were boycotting the exercise because LISGIS has refused to pay fees owned them.
LISGIS Supervisors and Enumerators who spoke to The ‘Investigative’ INDEPENDENT on Friday evening indicated that they had not been paid their honorarium since they sat their aptitude tests and training. They attributed the controversy relating to the conduct of the census to lack of leadership at the LISGIS.
There were expressions of disappointment on various local radio stations around Monrovia by residents. Community residents who disclosed that no census enumerators visited their homes during President George Weah’s declared National Census Holiday.
World Bank data estimates that Liberia’s population is 5.1 million as of 2021. The 2022 National Population and Housing Census was expected to provide more accurate determination of the country’s population since the last census in 2008 which reported the population at 3.6 million.
It remains unclear when and how the apparent controversy bordering on the 2022 National Population and Housing Census will be resolved in preparation for Presidential and General Elections in 2023.
Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia (GOL), and International Partners, have reaffirmed their commitment to the conduct of the 2022 National Population and Housing Census.
According to the Government and partners, population and housing census is among the most complex and massive peacetime exercises a nation can undertake.
A census, as mandated within the constitution, involves the complete enumeration of the population in a country.
It generates a wealth of data, including numbers of people, their spatial distribution, age and sex structure, as well as their living conditions and other key socioeconomic characteristics.
In a joint communication issued late Friday, the they pointed out that data are critical for good governance, policy formulation, development planning, crisis prevention, mitigation and response, social welfare programs and business market analyses, among others.
The international community encouraged all not to politicize or disrupt the “ongoing” 2022 National Population and Housing Census.
“We have observed with dismay calls by some elements within the country to boycott the census. Despite some initial challenges, the census is now on track and has commenced as of 11 November, 2022,” the statement pointed out.
The body stated that any further disruption would lead to delays in, or possible abortion of the census which will benefit no one.
According to the statement, the Partners, led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), are providing technical and financial support to the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, the agency of the government with the authority to conduct Census taking, to ensure the census house listing an enumeration is completed within the timeframe of 11- 22 November, 2022, as announced by the government.
The International Partners affirmed that support is aimed at ensuring that the 2022 National Population and Housing Census is of high quality and upholds international principles and standards.
“The unique advantage of the census is that it represents the entire statistical universe, down to the smallest geographical/ administrative area of a country or region. The Government of Liberia and International Partners wish to appeal to all citizens, residents and visitors to peacefully support the ongoing 2022 National Population and Housing Census by welcoming the Census Enumerators to their homes and facilities and allow them to do their work. Remember that census takes place every 10 years and the process gives an individual the opportunity to be heard, and counted. So let’s make this census count,” the government and partners advised.