The Chief Executive and Statistician General of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, Yemi Kale, has said Nigeria needs to get to a place where data is used to advance development goals rather than used for short-term political gains by politicians who have the tendency to reject unfavourably data.
Speaking during the 12th Wole Soyinka Media Lecture Series which held as an online seminar on Monday, Kale said Nigeria had witnessed an increase in the demand for data from the public in order to hold government accountable, adding that over the years, the accuracy, speed and efficiency of data has increased.
The COVID-19 response by the Nigerian government, he said, was based strictly on data in terms of understanding the problem as well as understanding the socio-economic impact of covid19.
Kale, speaking on the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the use of data in Nigeria, said, “The public is very eager to see the performance of government and to hold their government to account. The is also demand from businesses seeking to invest in Nigeria, whether external businesses or even domestic businesses that want to understand Nigerian market.
“There is a huge demand in government to understand areas of policy intervention and to some extent, even international development partners, NGOs who want to intervene in development projects in Nigeria or just want to monitor and evaluate various things in Nigeria are also demanding huge data.”
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He said, “I would say that the misuse and abuse of statistics often to achieve short-term political advantage is a constant challenge that needs to be raised at the National Bureau of Statistics where there shouldn’t be any kind of political interference. But it doesn’t stop politics to interpret the data in anyway they want and give it a different narrative.
“So, we have a lot of such challenges. So, even when the data is accurate, if it is given the wrong narrative, it might lead to the wrong policy in terms of national development goals. I have often said that there is no gain in running down the Statistics office simply because you in the opposition party today. “
Kale said, “People always joke and say I have no permanent friends depending on how the data is. I might be the friend of government or enemy of the opposition and the next time the data is in the negative, the reverse is case. we have to get to the stage where data is used to solve problems rather than attacking the data selectively.
“It is not a menu where politicians select data. I have been in presentations where a governor or a minister agrees with data on page two of a document and on page five of the same document, he will tell you how what is there is not correct even though the document was produced by the same National Bureau of Statistics.”