— Pleads with Grand Kru Citizens to take Advantage of 2021 Census
As the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Service (LISGIS) prepares to conduct the long-awaited housing population census this year, Grand Kru County Senator and President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert Chie, has begun campaigning in his county, sensitizing the people to turn out for the census to determine the level of development that should go to the county.
Liberia’s next round of the National Population and Housing Census which is likely to reveal the country’s constantly growing population is set for March 2021 and it is expected to be the fifth in Liberia’s 173–year history. The first four modern censuses were conducted in 1962, 1974, 1984, and 2008, and have revealed how the population has increased differently beginning at 1.1 million, 1.5, 2.1, and 3.5 million, respectively.
The last housing and population census to be conducted in Liberia was in 2008, and the Liberian Constitution mandates that census should be conducted after every 10 years. This means that the pending census should have been conducted in 2018, but it has suffered delay due to excuse by the government that it did not have money to do the national head counting.
Pro-Temp Chie who is touring his county now is telling the people of Grand Kru that in order for the county to reap the dividends of development, there is a need for the citizens to avail themselves when the census is ongoing.
The Pro-Temp, without any statistical data, told the people of the county that Grand Kru has experienced major population growth; however, he indicated further that the growth can only be captured in the upcoming census when citizens and residents of the county turn out to be enumerated in the upcoming exercise.
In a release from the Liberian Senate, Pro-Temp Chie is recorded to have stated, “There will be census this year, and you have to turn out to be counted. Everyone is talking about roads; yes, we can have more money coming to the county if we do the census because based on the number of people that will be recorded in the county, we can have more funds allocated in the national budget for development in our county,” he said.
During the housing and population census in 2008, many people shunned being counted for various reasons. Some, without much sensitization to give them the first-hand information, resolved that the headcounts were meant to create electoral districts and therefore those wishing to become lawmakers should pay them to be counted.
At the same time, others stayed away because they were not interested while some provided excuses that they did not have transportation to go to their villages and therefore remained where they were living and were counted.
A demography expert says other obvious reasons people had shunned census in previous times were the fear of being recruited in the military and the hut tax that used to come after the census.
The consequence of remaining in a place of living was that their counties of origin encountered low population thus leading to having fewer electoral districts and underrepresentation in the House of Representatives.
Two counties affected by this are Grand Kru and Rivercess that have only two electoral districts among the 15 counties; something the campaign of Pro-Tempo Chie may help to revert if the people turn out to be counted.
The housing and population census in 2008 had many challenges that led to a delay in releasing the result further cast a dark cloud over its credibility. One major challenge was that many people recruited could not record the data well as some could not even read or spell. Another challenge was that agents found it difficult to reach every village and town across the country due to transportation constraints.
Grand Kru has a large segment of people hailing from Nimba County. In his plea to them, Pro-Temp Chie asked them and others from other counties to remain in Grand Kru to be counted; a decision when made will decrease populations of other counties including Nimba to give an edge to Grand Kru to increase its population.
One major reason for a census is to set a population threshold that determines the number of electoral districts to be represented in the House of Representatives. After submission of the controversial 2008 population census result of 4.5 million, the 52nd Legislature delayed so much in coming out with a population threshold.
The threshold before the civil war was 20,000 per electoral district, and this was to be amended because of the number of people recorded during the census. However, the Legislature could not reach a consensus to set the threshold but reached what it called “Joint Resolution,” leaving the setting of the threshold at the discretion of the National Elections Commission to use its voter registration data to set a threshold for electoral districts.
In the 2011 presidential and legislative elections, the NEC used a number of methods to determine the electoral threshold, and one of them was to set 45,000 as the number of voters to make an electoral district. Another was the consideration of geographical barriers to determine which area stays wherein the electoral district, and this got towns and villages to be attached to other districts instead of their original districts.
While the Pro-Temp who should be going to election in 2023 is campaigning for people to turn out during the census, there is still no hope for enumerations yet. According to a staff of LISGIS, what is expected to take place in March this year is “Mapping,” an exercise that allows agents to demarcate Liberia in segments to determine new developments that have taken place between 2008 and now.
According to the staff, LISGIS may conduct enumerations in 2022 February. The pending census will be Liberia’s fifth census since its independence in 1847.