Dr. Dennis Bright: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 June 2022:
“You set out to count the number of people living in a village. There are 500 people living there. For some reason, you count only 300 people. The population of the village cannot be 300 inhabitants even if you used the best technology to do your counting.”
The SLPP provisional census results published yesterday, Tuesday 31st May 2022 are telling us so many interesting stories.
Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) says that the district with the largest population in Sierra Leone today is Kenema with 772,472 inhabitants; there is an increase of 27% since 2015. Maybe soon they will tell us whether this increase is due to people rushing to Kenema because there is a lot of electricity, water, health facilities, jobs etc.! Or whether the good people of Kenema were so happy that the SLPP won the elections that they just celebrated by making 162,581 more babies!
Another interesting story from the census results is that in spite of the heavy rural-urban migration and the very visible swelling up of the city of Freetown (note that in recent years, even beggars from places like Kenema and Bo have flooded the streets of Freetown), the SLPP census claims that the population of Freetown has decreased by almost half since 2015, Freetown now has fewer people than Kenema!
And the same applies to Bo! According to the SLPP census there are 150,274 more people in Bo than in Freetown!
Even Bonthe where the population was just over 200,000 people in 2015, that district has now boomed to nearly 300,000. It’s crazy, isn’t it?
Here is one more indication that this is just an SLPP adjustment, not a census. The numbers in areas considered to be SLPP strongholds have significantly increased whereas in opposition dominated areas they been significantly reduced.
The populations in the North West, North East and Western Regions have altogether dropped by 236,799 whereas the South and Eastern regions have been credited with an additional 685,214 people. Crazy, isn’t it?
It is abundantly clear that this census was brewed specifically to favour the chances of the ruling SLPP regime in the forthcoming election. Using these skewed results, it is more than likely that the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) will soon be going to work to try to carve out new boundaries and provide more seats in Parliament for those areas in the South and East where SSL says the population has increased and probably reduce the number of Parliamentary seats for the Northern and Western regions where they say the population has decreased.
A few facts that we must remember about this crazy census are as follows:
- Government was in such a hurry to do this census that they broke the law by starting the process even before the Proclamation to do the census was brought to Parliament. Besides when it finally came to Parliament the law makers said that the Bill was not properly laid.
- There was disapproval and opposition to the conduct of a census at this time by a significant percentage of the population which explains the widespread unprecedented rejection of this census by the people of this country.
- Due to the haste and Government’s obstinate desire to do a census at all costs, the entire process was marred by so many errors, blunders and irregularities that it is shocking to see Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) coming up with results knowing fully well that they are definitely not credible or usable.
After at least two postponements, trainings that ended the day before enumerators were deployed into the field, some faulty equipment, demotivated and protesting workers that complained about not being paid or being cheated, enumerators not visiting many villages and communities, it is really a big stain on the expected professionalism of our official statisticians that they do not have the courage and decency to cancel the results.
- Talking about professionalism, SSL should be worried that a major player in this so-called census at the level of Director, whose role in the handling of data was critical to the outcome of the census, is currently being interrogated under the Dominion Purge as someone whose degree may not be genuine and whose qualifications may have been limited to just a few short seminars and trainings.
We now understand why the World Bank decided to withdraw from this mock census, they knew that it would be wishy-washy and did not wish to be associated with the “porridge” that has now been presented as a provisional result.
Just a few days ago, on the eve of the announcement of the results, I attended a meeting at the SSL office in which a very senior person in that institution was blaming us in the opposition for being the influence behind the refusal of people in some communities to be counted.
Many people will attest though that although they wanted to take part, no enumerator turned up at their doorstep or even in their neighbourhood, for reasons that we now know are linked to the non-payment of their stipends and the general disgruntlement of the field staff. Whatever the reason may be, the truth is that a lot of people living in Sierra Leone were not counted.
And there lies the problem! If so many people were left out for whatever reason, this cannot be called a census of the population. It is basically a census of the willing and the lucky adjusted cleverly to fit into the grand plan for 2023.
It is hoped that this result will remain as it is, a provisional one to be trashed after due consideration has been given to the multiple dangers we may face if they are certified.
If this was a normal country, the ACC would be investigating SSL for wasting State resources on this failed census even though technical partners like the World Bank had advised that the results may not be credible if they proceeded with it when they did.
But this is paopaland where anything is possible.
About the author
Dr. Dennis Bright is the Chairman and Leader of Sierra Leone’s opposition NGC party.