When experts brainstormed on Nigeria’s statistical data

Stakeholders in the nation’s statistics profession recently converged on Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, to re-appraise various efforts targeted at enhancing the quality of the nation’s statistical system with a view to charting a common course towards the realisation of the broad policy goals of developing timely, research-based and accurate data for national development.

The event, which was organised by the Nigerian Statistical Association of Nigeria (NSA), the umbrella body for professional statisticians in the country, is seen by analysts as another initiative that, if the recommendations are taken seriously by governments at national and subnational levels, could help in creating the required platform for consolidating Nigeria’s modest achievements on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and fast-track the journey of making the country one of the most developed, globally, by 2020.

At the forum which attracted participants from a broad spectrum of nation’s political and economic environments, as well as representatives of the donor agencies, who in the past few years have been partnering the government in statistical data and quality-enhancing projects.

One issue stood out which the stakeholders considered critical to rapid transformation of the economy namely, the need to place emphasis on utilisation of statistical data as handy tools for managing the challenges of climate change, in order to mitigate its negative effects on the economy.

With most countries pushing the issue of climate change amongst the key developmental agenda in social and economic policies formulation and implementation, the soundness of the NSA focusing on the issue at the conference could not have been misplaced, particularly when Nigeria’s vulnerability to climate change threats remains indisputable.

The President of the Association, Dr Mohammed Tumala, set the tone of the deliberations on in his address at the 37th Conference on why Nigeria needed to look beyond the conventional application of statistical data to development, by using research-based data in the implementation of climate change programmes, particularly in areas of erosion, oil spillage and other environmental challenges.

Tumala, who lamented the poor state of statistical data development at the sub-national level, said the NSA decided to use climate change as the theme of the Conference and fulcrum of experts’ discussions as a way of coming up with recommendations that will complement others that governments are adopting to manage the change as part of the association’s commitment to sustainable national development.

He said, “The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Creating Sustainable Environment with Statistics.’ At the turn of the 2010s, Nigeria and many other countries around the world have witnessed destructive events associated with global climate change. In particular, Nigeria had been subjected to effects of gully erosions, oil spillage and fasttracked desertification. The continuation of these environmental challenges, in addition to windstorms and flooding, and effects of dwindling prospects of good education, insecurity and want of social infrastructure can only further impoverish our people.

“These recent developments have indeed reminded the human race that the environment and knowledge thereof is the greatest wealth in its possession. It is in this connection that the NSA focused on environment and its sustainability this year.”

While recalling recent efforts aimed at achieving a well-integrated national statistical system and successes recorded, the NSA boss noted that despite such initiatives, states were yet to commit the desired resources and policy frameworks to achieve the goals of the developmental agenda. He, therefore, called on them to do more in order to realise the objectives of the national agenda.

In his goodwill message, the Statistician- General of the Federation, Dr. Yemi Kale, commended the association for its commitment to the drive towards improving on the Nigerian statistical system and re-assured the members of National Bureau of Statistics’, NBS, readiness to continue to partner with the Association in the collective agenda of holistically transforming the statistical system.

The NBS chief, who was represented by the Director, Social Statistics and Demography, Mr. Louis Gambo, spoke briefly on the various projects being undertaken by the Bureau, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to develop a strong, fully integrated statistical database for the country and the need for all stakeholders to support the initiatives.

Other participants who spoke described the drive for a qualitative and well-integrated statistical system as desirable for the economy and called on the federal and state governments to continue to fulfil their funding and other obligations that would fast-track the implementation and completion of the ongoing statistics-oriented projects and help Nigeria improve on her current level of micro and macroeconomic performances with the attendant implications for socio-economic development.

It would be recalled that until recently, statistical data as tool for planning and implementation of public policies in Nigeria was never an issue as leaders in government and the civil service largely based their operations on conjectural basis.

Yes, the country had never lacked wellresearched statistical data on all sectors of the economy as the National Bureau of Statistics (formerly Federal Office of Statistics), the academics, multilateral institutions, research agencies like National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) have never ceased to produce data that should naturally support various administrations in their efforts to achieve sustainable development of the country.

What had been lacking largely until recently was the failure of the administrations to muster the political will and prioritise the use of data in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of various policies designed to transform the country.

But then, the NBS, thrugh the supervision of the National Planning Commission, has in the last few years changed all that with the ongoing projects, including the State GDP Computation, the National GDP re-basing and other socio-economic surveys, which many analysts have described as desirable steps towards Nigeria’s building the blocks of development on evidence-based statistical data.

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