2022 Census in Limbo? -As Uncertainty Beclouds Outcome

MONROVIA – There seems to be probable reasons to give credence to the insinuation making the rounds that the 2022 National Housing and Population Census may have ended into a limbo as there has not been any tangible information from Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) or any organ of government about the outcome of the exercise which dragged on for a very long time until it kicked off on November 22, 2023 after some setbacks.

The exercise which should have been done in 2018 in compliance with the constitution which stipulates that a census should be conducted every 10 years since it was last done in 2008, suffered series of setbacks ranging from allegations of corruption involving authorities at the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), irregularities, including poor timing, ineffectiveness, and inefficiency in the training of enumerators, among others.

The process was initially billed to have ended on December 2, 2022 but according to the Vice President, Jewel Howard Taylor who had stepped up her intervention in the midst of all the challenges said the realistic date was December 10, 2022 at which time the process will officially come to an end and the date for announcement of the outcome made public.

The Vice President had told newsmen in December, 2022 that upon the completion of the enumeration, the results would have been sent to President George Manneh Weah who will use his annual state of the nation address (SONA) to inform the Liberian people on the final outcome of the census. However, the President delivered the SONA without any mention of the result of the census and there has not been any other information from LISGIS or the government which has heightened anxiety and created suspicion that something sinister is at work to tamper with the outcome.

With the public being put in suspense, there were some video recordings that went viral a while ago where some persons reported to be staff of LISGIS were seen discussing how to manipulate the figures since it was not possible to come up with a realistic figure given the fact that the entire process was marred by irregularities and could not produce the anticipated outcome.

There are some far reaching consequences if the outcome of the census is not published as it may affect the ensuing electoral process since additional electoral districts are anticipated to be created from the likelihood of some communities reaching the threshold of 20,000 minimum for the creation of electoral districts according to the constitution of Liberia.

“There may be a serious crisis if we cannot get the outcome of the census. The census goes beyond the mere understanding that we need to know the total population of the country. It has an implication on the ensuing election because we anticipate additional districts to be created and added to the already 73 electoral districts. We can do that if we do not have the result and we cannot also do away with creating additional electoral districts because the constitution says every community with a minimum of 20,000 people and above qualifies for the creation of an electoral district”, said Tummy Wilmot Jr, a social critic who told The Analyst last night.

Some development experts who spoke to this paper are of the opinion that the silence from the government, especially LISGIS has an adverse implication on the process to the extent that even if the results are eventually announced, they will risk being discredited because a lot of doubts have been cast around the outcome already. “The way out right now is for the government to release the result immediately and attach serious reasons why the delay in bringing out the results is almost two months after the enumeration ended”, said a development expert who did not want to be named in the paper.

“What we are hearing around the rumor mills is that LISGIS was not able to get the required number expected after their count. We are told that the number is far below expected because not many people were counted so what they have been doing now is to generate figures that could be seen as true but it is not the case. It is unfortunate and we just hope that this is not true because it may result into some crises”, said Boye Wilson Tamba, a public commentator.

Pundits who spoke to The Analyst said in order for a population census to be credible, it must have universality, individual enumeration, the simultaneity of enumeration (meaning counting must occur at or about the same time), periodicity, publication, and dissemination. Since counting is being done at the same time households are being enumerated, the time lag between the actual counting of people in all parts of the country could be compromised due to domestic travel. This is what census experts refer to as the floating population, including transients (homeless residents) and people who travel away from home for work or business.

Be as it may, they maintained that with all the irregularities throughout the process and the uncertainties surrounding the outcome, it may be extremely difficult for the result to be taken seriously even by the international partners who spent so much resources to get off the project to the conclusion that seems to be doubtful.

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