Opposition parties call for deferment of 2015 Census
January 22, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Interim Chairman of the All Political Parties Association (APPA), Mohamed Bangura, yesterday confirmed to Concord Times that opposition parties have written an official letter to President Ernest Bai Koroma demanding that the National Population and Housing Census, scheduled for April this year, be deferred until the deadly Ebola outbreak in the country is declared over.
Bangura, who is also Chairman and Leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), in a brief telephone interview with Concord Times, said the decision was necessitated by the fact that normal socio-economic activities have come to a standstill in the country, although he could not elaborate further because he was in a meeting with other stakeholders.
Publicity Secretary of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Musa Tamba Sam, confirmed the letter had been sent to President Koroma, adding that a credible census is not feasible given the current circumstances and State of Public Emergency.
“We think that the country cannot achieve a credible and sound data with the Ebola at our door step. In fact we made it very clear in our letter to the president that he the president has called on every member of government institutions and agencies in the country to focus their attention to the Ebola fight,” Sam said.
He added that: “The census process involves house-to-house engagement; it will be difficult to go to all the communities especially when some communities have been quarantined as a result of the Ebola. The Public State of Emergency cannot allow people to even move from one place to another considering the difficulties connected with vehicles or individual passes at the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC).”
The joint statement by nine registered political parties comes at a time when an independent local think tank, Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), has questioned the credibility of the census process.
IGR alleges in their report that there were a lot of irregularities in the process, especially in staff recruitment, as “9 out of 14 District Census Officers are active ruling party officials”, while the core management team “lacks a trained and qualified demographer or statistician”.
But Statistics Sierra Leone has in a press statement debunked the claims and assured that the process was transparent.
According to Director of Census, Peter Sulaiman Bangura, the census process is divided into three phases – pre-enumeration, enumeration and post enumeration activities, adding that the process was being carried out within a robust governance framework that involves various committees.
“Since the start of the process in 2012, Statistic Sierra Leone has recruited different categories of personnel to work in the national cartographic mapping exercise, pilot census and district officers, public relation officers and their assistants were professionally recruited.
“The results of the interviews were immediately compiled in the presence of all parties involved and were immediately signed by council chairpersons and openly displayed on council’s notice boards,” he noted.
Director of Data Processing, Ibrahim Gibril Kargbo, said they are civil servants and have nothing to do with politics, but to carry out their professional responsibilities.