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Part 4: Out of Africa: The Case of Nigeria

Note: The following is excerpted
from Steven Mosher’s book, Population
Control—Real Costs, Illusory Benefits

The combination of
bribes, threats, and blandishments used to induce governments in the
developing world to address their “population problem,”
or at least to allow foreign-funded groups to operate freely within
their borders for the same purpose, defies simple description or

In some cases the
population control proposals are relatively straightforward, as in
2000 when the UNFPA offered the government of Pakistan $250 million
for accepting a national sex education syllabus for primary and
secondary students in which both graphic sex ed and the benefits of
population control would be prominently featured. According to the
Pakistani Health Ministry, “The UN official [promoting the
project] contended that if the children are imparted awareness on
small families from an early age, it will help control population
growth.” Pakistan rejected the aid package because of the
extraordinary conditions that the UNFPA imposed on the project. The
UN organization not only demanded control over classroom sex
education throughout the country, it also insisted on control over
the budget out of concerns that previous money for “population
welfare projects” had been “misspent.”1

This bold attempt to
hijack the Pakistani school curriculum is only unusual in that
Islamabad successfully resisted—this time around–—the
attempt by the controllers to impose their own agenda on the country.
More common is what happened in Bangladesh, where USAID programs met
little opposition. By the early seventies, USAID, in conjunction
with other foreign aid agencies, had virtually taken over the health
care system. U.S. and foreign contractors were providing both the
intellectual justification for the Health and Family Welfare
Ministry’s focus on population control, as well as the technical
expertise needed to allow this work to go forward.

Of course, to mute
local opposition, the pretence that Bangladesh still controlled its
own population destiny was carefully maintained. For example, US
officials were nowhere to be seen on July 11, 1996, when the
Bangladeshi Health and Family Welfare Minister, Salahuddin Yusuf,
publicly unveiled a seven-year plan (1997-2004) to reduce the
country’s population growth rate.2
A week later the U.S. ambassador, David Merril, called on Minister
Yusuf to congratulate him on this effort and pledge $200 million in
support of this new effort. Lowering the population growth rate,
Ambassador Merril told Minister Yusuf, was a wise course of action
for Bangladesh because it would alleviate poverty, reduce hunger,
secure democracy, and improve the general health of the population.3
(We will examine the extravagant claims made on behalf of population
control programs in chapters 7, 8, and 9.) The press did not report
that this course of action had been imposed on Bangladeshi by a
phalanx of foreign aid donors, led by the U.S.

How does this happen?
The controllers are nothing if not persistent, seeking to gain entry
into a country and influence over its family culture in multiple
ways—through international institutions like the World Bank and
the United Nations, through national ministries of health and
education, through local schools and clinics, through the mass media,
even through religion. How these multi-pronged attacks work in
practice is best grasped through the medium of a case study.

I have chosen to
present an example from Africa, simply because that continent has
always loomed strangely large in the minds of those who have made the
elimination of people their primary concern. Lightly populated
relative to China, India, and Southeast Asia, the Dark Continent has
nonetheless received a disproportionate share of attention over the
decades. When Pentagon researchers in 1988 warned of a dramatic
shift in power in coming decades, for example, they spilled much ink
on Africa.4
They worried that, by the early decades of the next century,
Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zaire, Tanzania, and South Africa would all
rank among the top 25 nations in population worldwide, and that
Nigeria, in particular, would move past the United States into third
place. Although they conceded what has since actually
transpired—that the AIDS epidemic might undercut their
projections—they nevertheless concluded that U.S. policymakers
must energetically pursue programs to lower the African birthrate.

One of the best
documented and most disturbing cases of population control
imperialism comes from Nigeria. It is largely the work of Elizabeth
Liagin, a researcher-journalist who has spent many years documenting
how First World cash and clout was consciously and deliberately used
to try to reshape the views of Nigerians on children, family life,
and even religion. It is a story she knows from the inside, for she
resided in Africa’s most populous country for a decade, and
raised her own family there.5

In the
mid-eighties, officials with the US Department of State and USAID
mulled over the problem of Nigeria. For almost 20 years, they had
tried to build a network of “family planning” services in
oil-rich Nigeria, black Africa’s most populous state. They had
little to show for their efforts. The birthrate had remained high.
Repeated controversies had erupted over the heavy-handed, even
duplicitous methods used in the campaigns. And among ordinary
Nigerians, the campaign had generated a seething suspicion of US
motives. But these US officials remained convinced that there were
already too many Nigerians, and they were determined to move ahead,
whatever the cost, to cap its population growth.

One problem they had encountered was that a huge
majority of Nigerians belonged to religious groups which rejected
Western birth control methods on moral grounds. More than half of
Nigeria’s people, mostly those residing in the north of the
country, professed Islam, while a substantial portion of the southern
population were Catholic. The Catholic Church’s prohibition of
artificial contraception, having been recently restated in the papal
encyclical, Humanae Vitae,6
was scarcely amenable to local obfuscation or reinterpretation.
Islamic teaching on the subject roughly paralleled that of
Catholicism: Children were blessings from God while contraception,
sterilization, and abortion are frowned upon. Islam, however, lacks
a pope, and in the absence of a central, authoritative figure able to
offer a final judgment on contraception the controllers saw an

USAID embarked upon a project breathtaking in its
cultural arrogance. Working, as is its wont on the population
control front, through middlemen—the Futures Group, the
Pathfinder Fund, and the Carolina Population Center7—the
agency hired a Pentagon consultant to create texts suggesting that
Islamic teaching approved of family planning.8
These works were disguised as the product of research initiated by
the Nigerian government, and were planted in Islamic colleges and
universities throughout the country.

Carolina Population Center was
involved in contacting prime contractors for this “Islam and
Population Policy” project, in which capacity it sent a
confidential proposal to Muhiuddin Haider at the Pathfinder Fund. In
the proposal, dated 14 November 1986, the Center is careful to point
out that the project was to proceed “exercising great caution,”
warning Haider that “Any tendency toward politicization in this
matter might have serious effects.” Reading the enclosed
contract, one can appreciate the necessity for stealth, since it
proposed to tamper with religious convictions held sacred by

According to the
contract, the objectives of the “Islam and Population Policy”
project were to “motivate Muslim men and women to time and
space births,” to “help to disseminate correct
concepts on Islam and family planning,” and to promote
“involvement by Muslim leaders with issues of population
policy.” [italics added] The activities described in the
draft—including the publication of “a source manual for
Muslim scholars” and a series of “carefully organized,
small seminars”—were to be funded under USAID’s
“RAPID” program.

RAPID was a too-clever-by-half acronym for
“Resources for Awareness of Population Impacts on Development,”
and was carried out through the Glastonbury, Connecticut-based
Futures Group. Like other “policy development” programs
funded by USAID, RAPID was intended to convince leaders in poor
countries to formulate and implement national policies to reduce the
This often meant in practice convincing the leaders of poor
countries to allow USAID population contractors like the Futures
and its employees and consultants to formulate and
implement policies to reduce the birthrate.

That is certainly what happened in this case.
According to the 1986 proposal, a Professor Abdel-Rahim Omran was to
research and write an Islamic textbook, plan and participate in
seminars, and assist in follow-up activities. Professor Omran taught
epidemiology at the University of North Carolina until the mid-1980s,
at which time he joined the staff of the Center for Development and
Conflict Management at the University of Maryland.10
The final version of the “Islamic” text he authored
bears the title, A Resource Manual on Islam and Family Planning
with Special Reference to the Maliki School
. Prof. Omran is
identified on the cover only as a “consultant to the Ministry
of Health, Nigeria.” No mention is made of his Pentagon
connections, nor of the fact that he received $25,000 from Pathfinder
in 1987 for preparation of documents on Islam and family planning,
and another $57,000 between March and September of 1988 for “Islamic
and population workshops.”11

late 1987, USAID decided to move ahead with an even more ambitious
plan. On the table was a blueprint for an externally funded
population control program in Nigeria, a huge, green-covered,
two-volume document the size of a couple of big-city telephone
directories. The final version, dated 9 July 1987 and designated
“unclassified,” described the soon-to-be implemented plan
as “a major, innovative, and far-reaching endeavor . . .
designed to increase the acceptability and the practice of family
planning by approximately four-fold in the most populous country of
Africa.” Its initial target was to recruit 2.5 million
committed contraceptive users within five years. “At the end
of the five-year project,” it added, “80 percent of the
population aged 15-45 will be informed of family planning concepts.
Hopefully, smaller family norms will result.”

obstacles stood in the way of this ambitious assault on Nigerian
values and birthrates, the document went on to acknowledge.
Fertility surveys suggested that the average Nigerian woman was
likely to give birth to between six and seven children during her
reproductive lifetime.12
Even worse, from the State Department’s point of view,
Nigerian women had no sense of having “too many”
children. USAID-funded fertility surveys showed that the average
woman wanted between eight and nine children. In others words, a
truly voluntary program of family planning, one based solely on
facilitating the free will choice of Nigerian women where
childbearing was concerned, would result in nothing less than a 25
percent increase
in the national fertility rate. State and USAID had no intention of
allowing this to happen, of course. Permitting Nigerian women to
decide for themselves the number and spacing of their children was
emphatically not
what they had in mind.

The preference for large families runs deep in
Nigerian culture, an appendix to the 1987 document noted, to the
extent that the celebration of fertility is “ingrained in many
rituals of life and even in daily greetings. . . . Nothing is more
rewarding to most Nigerian women than to bear and raise children.
Nothing can give a Nigerian man more pride than to be surrounded by
an admiring crowd of family and children. They are not just a sign
of his wealth and power, they are his wealth and power.”

The report went on to
note that the Nigerians are a religious people and that most object
to Western birth control methods on moral grounds. In fact, a pair
of World Bank consultants were cited in the report to the effect that
opposition to Western birth control programs spanned the religious
spectrum: “[P]oliticians, civil servants, and political
activists all feel that the programs may run counter to the basic
spiritual beliefs and emotions of African society.”

Another section warned
that political currents were equally unfavorable to an ambitious
anti-natal program: “The political furor surrounding censuses
in Nigeria reflect some of the political obstacles to family
planning. Political groups, regions, and ethnic groups and religions
vying for position all want to be numerous.”

Past efforts to enlist
African governments and leaders into promoting population control
among their own people failed, the report said bluntly, because those
embracing such activities in the past “have repeatedly been
attacked on the grounds that population programs are a form of
foreign intervention and that they are imperialist, neo-colonialist
plots to keep Africa down.” For this reason, “African
governments have given either no leadership or uncertain leadership
to family planning programs.”

None of this really mattered to the elitists
gathered around the table. The “spiritual beliefs and
emotions” of the Nigerian people they regarded as mere
superstition, the desire for large families as a false consciousness,
and the unwillingness of African leaders to lead an anti-natal
campaign as mere political cowardice. These considerations would
affect their tactics, but not their overall strategy. The US
government had determined that Nigeria’s population was growing
too rapidly. For a whole host of reasons ranging from U.S. national
security (remember Nigeria’s oil) to improving the health of
Nigeria’s women (women who have been sterilized do not die in
childbirth), Nigerians had to stop having babies in such numbers.
State Department officials were determined to seize the opportunity
presented by Nigeria’s economic slowdown to force the country’s
leaders to adopt a Western-dictated population policy.

You can read more in Steve’s book, Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits, available here.


“Pakistan may lose $250 million aid for not agreeing to sex
education,” Pakistan Business Recorder, 8 August 2000;
“UN Attempts to “Buy” Pakistan and Impose
Population Control,” Zenit, 16 August 2000; “UN Offers
$250 Million to Pakistan if it Teaches Population Control,”
CWNews, 9 August 2000.

"Plan to Reduce Population Growth Rate: Yusuf," The
Bangladesh Observer
(Dhaka), July 13, 1996.

"New $200 m[illion] USAID package for Health Sector Likely,"
The Daily Star (Dhaka), July 18, 1996.

The study commissioned by the Office of Net Assessment in the
Department of Defense and was published in abbreviated form by the
Center for Strategic and International Studies in the Spring 1989
issue of its publication, Washington Quarterly. “Global
Demographic Trends to the Year 2010: Implications for U.S.
Security,” by Gregory D. Foster, et al. The study
included information provided by the Futures Group, Johns Hopkins
University, and other major players in the anti-people movement.
Africa occupies a large place in the mental landscape of the
controllers, even though it is still a relatively lightly populated
continent. Pentagon researchers, worried about the accretion of
power by increasingly populated African states, warned in 1988 that
Nigeria would surpass both the United States and the USSR to become
the third largest nation in the world in the first part of the next

An earlier version of this case study first appeared in the PRI
as “Money for Lies,” PRI
(July/October 1998):5.

Humanae Vitae, which is usually rendered “On Human
Life,” was issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968, and forbids all
forms of artificial contraception. Natural Family Planning, on the
other hand, is encouraged as a means of welcoming and, if need be,
regulating births.

The Futures Group, according to the Guide to Sources of
International Population Assistance 1991
(United Nations
Population Fund, New York), is a “private organization
concerned with policy analysis, development and strategic planning.”
(p. 225) It works mainly with USAID and the Department of Defense.
The Pathfinder Fund, which we have seen elsewhere in these pages, is
a major recipient of funds from USAID’s Office of Population,
receiving tens of millions of dollars in multiyear contracts to
provide birth control information and services to developing
countries. According to USAID’s Users Guide to the Office of
Population, 1991, Pathfinder was then in the middle of a $67 million
contract. The Carolina Population Center, located on the campus of
the University of North Carolina, participated in the design phase
of the $100 million Nigerian population control program financed
through USAID’s African Bureau. See USAID agreement no.
698-0462-C-000-7012-00, from 1987, with a budget of $56,184.

The following section is based on research carried out by Jean
Guilfoyle and reported in her excellent article, “Islam and
Family Planning” PRI Review 2(4) (July/August 1992):
6-7, from which many of the below citations are taken.

The subcontract to Haider was written during RAPID’s second
contract with USAID, pithily called RAPID II. A 1991 directory of
USAID population projects explains that the RAPID project is
intended to “raise leadership of relationships between
population growth and development and about the positive
socio-economic and health effects of lower fertility.” See
User’s Guide to the Office of Population (USAID, 1991),
p. 13. By then the Futures Group was on to RAPID III, which ran
from September 1987 to September 1992, to the tune of $12,666,000.
Much of USAID’s population funding is expended in this
sequential fashion to a core group of trusted population control
surrogates, which are more properly considered quasi-governmental
organizations than non-governmental organizations.

Nations and Needs, newsletter of the Center for International
Development and Conflict Resolution, March 1985, 3.

Abdel R. Omran is also identified as a Pentagon contractor in a
study by Gregory D. Foster et al, called “Global Demographic
Trends to the year 2010: Implications for U.S. Security.”
Washington Quarterly (Center for Strategic and International
Studies, Washington, D.C.), Spring 1989. The payments to Omran are
recorded in “Overview of AID Population Assistance, FY 1989,”
Office of Population, April 1990, a computer database print, under
section of “Subproject Level Activities,” run date
4/5/90, 34 (Nigeria).

High infant and child mortality rates meant that many of those born
would not survive until adulthood, of course.

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