Nigeria delays census to May, its first in 17 years

People wait to be counted  on Ibeshe island,in Nigeria's last census
People wait to be counted as census enumerators visit homes on Ibeshe island, 29 km (18 miles) from Lagos, Nigeria, March 23, 2006 in the country's last census. REUTERS/George Esiri

ABUJA, March 15 (Reuters) - Nigeria will now hold its first census in 17 years in May instead of at the end of March, the information minister said on Wednesday, citing a rescheduling of governorship elections for the delay.

The census in Africa's most populous country will seek to update data on the exact population and the size of different ethnic groups.

Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed told reporters that delays in elections for new governors by a week to March 18 meant there was little time to organise the population count.

Mohammed did not say when in May the census would be held.

Nigeria's population is estimated at more than 200 million and the United Nations expects that figure to double by 2050. That would make Nigeria the world's third most populous country, behind China and India, overtaking the United States.

Census figures in Nigeria affect the sharing of oil revenues and political representation among the 36 states and 300 ethnic groups. Previous counts were discredited after disputes among the three main ethnic groups, the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo.

Reporting by Felix Onuah and MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Sandra Maler

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