Nigeria’s Recent Population Censuses: A Benford-Theoretic Evaluation

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University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Population censuses in Nigeria have been plagued with under- or over-enumeration, as well as outright manipulation. This paper examines the claim of manipulated results of Nigeria’s 1991 and 2006 population censuses. Data on both censuses were obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics and analyzed via fitting Benford’s probability distribution. The overall census data, as well as aggregate data for the six geopolitical zones of the country were examined to determine the level of conformity with Benford’s distribution, using the Chi-square goodness of fit test. The conformity analyses showed that the overall counts differed significantly from Benford's in both censuses. The North-West region had the highest deviation in both censuses, while the North-East and South-West had the lowest deviation in 1991 and 2006 censuses, respectively. Significant conformity was observed in the sizes of the local government areas and the population density for the 2006 census. It is concluded that some datasets with built-in minimum and maximum values may still conform to Benford’s distribution provided the range of values of the first significant digit span digits 1 to 9. It is recommended that census results are scrutinized on the basis of Benford’s distribution as an additional check on the quality.



Benford’s distribution, demography, population census, fraud-detection