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GeneralLiberia news

Census fiasco looms

--with just 6 months to election

Liberia goes to election in October with a provisional national census result that has already been discredited even before its final outcome due to gross ineptitude and discrepancy that characterized the exercise.

Provisional results released by the Liberia Institute and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) put the country’s population at 5.2 million, from 3.5 in 2008, registering an increase of 1.7 million or 50.4 percent.

But abrupt increase in population of well-known spatially populated counties concentrated in the southeast of Liberia, where President Weah hails from is being disputed and rejected by political parties and in other quarters, raising key credibility questions.

Ten opposition political parties here jointly petitioned the Liberian Legislature on March 9 not to use the figures released by LISGIS to set threshold for constituencies and reapportion electoral boundaries.

A key opposition party, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) filed a prohibition to the Supreme Court recently, praying the High Court to halt the current biometric voter registration being conducted by the National Elections Commission until new constituencies or electoral districts are set as constitutionally required.

Article 80 (e) of the Liberian constitution requires that immediately after a national census is conducted and prior to the next elections, the NEC shall reapportion constituencies based on the new population figures, but this has not happened.

In their petition to the Legislature, the opposition political parties rejected the preliminary census result, and asked that august body and the NEC not to use said figures to set threshold for constituencies and reapportion new electoral boundaries.

However, LISGIS has announced that full census results are expected in May, and it remains to be seen whether figures coming up would be used to address constitutional issues being raised, including political parties’ concerns.

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The imbroglio could affect outcome of the pending elections with results disputed.  

A former employee of the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) Mr. Alex Williams days after the launched of the provisional result of the 2022 national housing and population census described same as completely erroneous, institutionally unethical, inadequate, and lacking basic scientific statistics test.

Mr. Williams said the primary source for LISGIS population growth is coming from the United Nations, which he termed as completely erroneous.

Appearing on the Spoon FM mid-night conversation on the weekend of February 25, 2023, Mr. Williams explained that 2022 Census provisional results are those numbers that the National Statistics office presented to international organizations because they are required to report on an annual or semi-annual basis those numbers to the United Nations.

He said by reporting such data Liberia has become a laughingstock to both local and international bodies because the census that was conducted ethically and professionally is erroneous.

” I read the release from LISGIS and even listen to LISGIS’s acting boss talking about the provisional result indicating 97% coverage of the population. I was like sitting and wondering what are they saying. That is scientifically erroneous and institutionally unethical” he explained.

Mr. Williams disclosed that if LISGIS insists that there is 97% coverage of the population as indicated in their release, they are doing a comparative analysis of the country’s population.

“The reason why LISGIS is using that as a reliance to say that the population is 5.2 million is because professionally if you want to be lazy, you want to get the number that is closely related to other international organization projection.

But what they need to understand is that the fundamentals source that they are using is the United Nations and the UN relies on the National Statistics Office, for data” Mr. Williams noted.

He further explained that those numbers that are reported to the United Nations through LISGIS is what they are going to use to do a projection and on the basis of those projections, they are going to neutralize them to project the country’s population.

“The fundamental source of those data is coming from LISGIS themselves. I already have a problem with the UN and if you go to those websites, you will see that the primary source for those data populations is coming from the UN. And the UN is taking these data from LISGIS” he alleged.

Mr. Williams said that if you are relying on those data to do a comparative analysis of Liberia’s population because this is what other international organizations are saying then that is erroneous because they did no groundwork survey.

He said that no international organization is clothed with the authority to do grounds work survey, rather they will rely on the National Statistics Office to validate whatever survey and data that is coming for official use.

” Because Liberia has this issue of not having quality and sufficient data, for example, if we were to project the population of our country, we need birth records, death, immigration and migration variables. In Liberia, the entire civil and vital registration system is fragile” Mr. Williams lamented.

He noted that the Immigration will tell you if you asked them that there are over 144 border points and so people are moving in and around Liberia without sufficient migration data.

Therefore, he maintained that it will be very erroneous for LISGIS to project the variables of the country only based on birth and death.

“Birth and death records in Liberia- there are people still giving birth outside of the clinics and hospitals and they have not been recorded. Many people don’t even report death or have death certificates. And so, you can’t rely on this number that is inadequate and lack basic scientific statistics test,” he added.

He said that the census results are very far from reality.

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