How Data is Helping Nigeria Fight Corruption and Recover From Recession – Statistician General @SGYemiKale


On Friday 8th of September 2017, we had a tweet chat with the Statistician General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale on how data is helping to fight corruption in Nigeria.

Undoubtedly, effective governance depends on data to make good decisions on a wide spectrum of social, economic and other relevant issues.

Dr. Yemi Kale; who became the Statistician General of the Federation at age 35, weighed in on how it has been heading affairs at Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

“It has been extremely challenging, as Statistician General.There was very little to work with when I started: Antiquated procedures and methodology, appalling poor funding, quite low morale of staff who did not feel their work mattered..”

Challenges faced by Dr. Yemi Kale as Statistician General of Nigeria

In his first year, the nation’s budget for data was just N120m for the whole year.

Also, people argued he was too young and couldn’t handle it and thus would fail. So, Dr. Yemi had to work extra hard to prove them wrong.

In his words, “Predecessors had a history of always getting sacked for publishing unflattering data.”

“MY first releases, I recall my directors pleading with me not to publish because it made the government look bad and I may be sacked.
With my focus on revamping the statistics system, I was prepared to improve things, even if it means I will be sacked.”

He also noted how respondents attitude was very poor. They sometimes refused to give data.

Now, things have improved significantly. There is now a better and efficient process, although funding still poor but much better than before.

With corruption been the number one challenge facing the Nigerian society, there is obviously a need to use data to identify key areas, and curtailing this menace.

Data and procurement systems (like many other systems) can always be manipulated to corruption means. To this end, the Statistician General noted that, “Following the data (closely) is a critical way to spot (and stop) such abuse.”

Data can obviously help to tackle corruption, and this way help in the process of recovering from recession.

The National Bureau of Statistics recently released the Nigerian Corruption Survey which revealed that citizens spent 25% of their income bribing people to get services they are already entitled to..
“By removing corruption in government investment efforts will ensure roads, rail, health etc are delivered.
For example, revenue leakages from oil sales will improve crude oil GDP and increase forex reserves needed to improve manufacturing & trade GDP.”

With concerns from certain quarters about the accuracy or efficiency of the survey operation, the Statistician General made known that the methodology for the survey was well spelt out in the document. Each respondent to the survey was visited 3 times and in many instances required to provide a witness that could collaborate his/her claim of having to pay a bribe.
The results were then collated and analyzed, before been published, in line with the specifications of the statistics law.

Noting how data is helping to fight against corruption, Dr Yemi recalled that, “..when I came in to NBS, nothing was published.

Departments held on to the data and didn’t publish. Many were selling the data to desperate users unofficially..”
“What did I do?
I revamped the website and pasted everything there, so nobody has to come to NBS to beg someone to release data to them.
That’s an example of understanding how bribery works and putting measures to stop it.”

Primaru role of Data or Statistics is to solve problems

“The whole point of the data is to solve problems.
Agencies involved or those responsible for tackling the problem (identified/revealed by data) should ideally take the data.
Understand how the bribery in their area works and introduce policies to block it.
For example, I hear immigration has now stopped cash payments. This makes sense since data revealed cash payments were the most popular bribes were paid.”

“Denials do not solve problems.
Our agencies should look at data report – use it to identify areas or local government where issues are more prevalent and then give those areas more attention.”

Finally, the number one Data Champion in Nigeria says; “We need OPEN DATA, as a transparency and policy solution.

Imagine all agencies being forced to publish on their website all data pertaining to their activities?
We definitely need more data, open data and better funding for data.”

The need for more data, open data in Nigeria

What are your thoughts?

Be sure to share in the comment section or engage us on Twitter, @Discuss_NGR


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