Most government policies and programmes fail to realise set targets and national objectives because their planning and execution were neither based on not backed by statistical data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), experts have said.
The experts, drawn from the academia, government agencies and organised private sector, development partners, Labour, Diplomatic Corps, research and development institutions, military, para-military and non-governmental organisations, as well as others, spoke at the workshop on the production of National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) in Abuja on Tuesday.
Some of the speakers at the two-day workshop organised by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) criticised the practice by successive administrations in the country to ignore the inputs from the NBS in decision making processes involving critical national policies, programmes and projects.
Others faulted the decision by the government to exclude the Statistician General of the Federation from the list of officials allowed to participate in the deliberations during the weekly meetings of the Executive Council of the Federation where important policy decisions of the government are usually taken.
They called for the proper deployment and application of statistical data from the NBS on all sectors of the economy in national planning and execution of policies, programmes and projects for effective impact.
Also, they urged the NBS to ensure that it continued to consistently produce and provide accurate and reliable data that reflect the realities in the economy on a timely basis no matter how unpalatable they may appear, to guide and moderate citizens’ decision making processes.
“When the FEC meets to take important decisions on policy, programmes and projects that shape the direction of the government without the Statistician General of the Federation in attendance among the officials, it is easy to see why such policies, programmes and projects usually don’t meet their targets, or create the desired impact. Apart from the conception and planning of those policies, programmes and projects not benefitting from inputs and advice from the NBS based on its statistical data on observed socio-economic trends, their implementation and execution will not be successful if they do not depend on efficient and accurate data reflecting the prevailing conditions in the society,” Senator Shehu Sani said.
Sani was of the view that most of the costly mistakes made in policy formulation and Implementation in the past by successive governments would have been avoided if accurate statistical data were used.
He said the ideal thing for every new administration to do before making any pronouncement on policies and programmes was to sit down with the Statistician General of the Federation to harvest all information on the current socio-economic statistics and data on all segments of the economy to determine areas of need for the people.
The former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, described statistics as an indispensable tool in the arsenal of any nation aspiring to achieve sustainable growth and development.
Apart from providing the vital information that enable the people to understand the complexities of their society, he said statistics allow the government to make informed decisions, and shape policies that benefit citizens.
A well-developed statistical system, Peterside said, was essential for effective governance, as it empowers policymakers with accurate and up-to-date information to make informed decisions; allows effective monitoring of the progress of national development goals, track the impact of policies, and adjust strategies as needed.
Also, he said statistics was fundamental in economic planning and growth, adding that accurate statistical data on economic activities, such as gross domestic product (GDP), employment rates, inflation, and trade, are indispensable for policies that stimulate economic prosperity, attract investment and international cooperation, foster economic stability and job creation.
The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said a reliable national statistical data system was the backbone of evidence-based decision-making, policy formulation, and national development.
The Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Nebolisa Anako, said apart from playing an instrumental role in enhancing the quality, relevance, and accessibility of statistical data in Nigeria, the new NSDS would provide the necessary guidance for the systematic and coordinated development of statistical activities in the country.
He said the objectives of the development of the new NSDS for 2024-2028 would enable the government to seek to further transform the country’s statistical system, and expand its reach and capacities.
“The new NSDS will bridge existing gaps and challenges, setting the stage for a unified, integrated, and comprehensive data production system that accurately reflects our current realities. The new NSDS will not only address the strategic issues of the past five years, but also anticipate and adapt to the evolving statistical landscape.”
He expressed optimism that statistics would play a vital role in assessing the implementation of the eight-points agenda of the present administration, stressing that strengthening the statistical system would help to evaluate the current position and subsequent progress of the current administration.
In his keynote address, the Statistician General of the Federation, Adeyemi Adeniran, said the new national statistical strategy would serve as the guiding light that would help steer the nation towards a modernised and transformed statistical system.
“The development of this new strategy is a unique opportunity for us to assess our past, understand our present, and chart a course for our future,” he said.
He said the inputs by all stakeholders would be invaluable for the process, as they would guide in identifying the most pressing data needed and challenges in our society.
On the key principles to be considered during the process, Adeniran emphasised inclusivity, quality and accuracy, innovation and technology, capacity building, partnerships and collaboration with different stakeholders.
Describing Statistics as the ‘silent language of governance’ underpinning a robust, informed, and thriving society, Adeniran stressed the need for officials and agencies of government to allow statistics to form the bedrock upon which policies and programmes were shaped, resources allocated, and progress assessed or evaluated.
“We recognize that statistics are more than just numbers. They are the voice that narrates our nation’s story, informs our decisions, and paves the way for a bright future”, he said.
He underscored the vital need for a robust strategy to guide the growth and development of the system that produces the statistics that all stakeholders would rely on for their respective programmes and activities.
The Director General/CEO, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, Issa Aremu, urged the NBS to ensure that the statistical data it provides are not only times, but consistent, reliable and accurate, reflecting the socio-economic realities in their society and not only what the government wants to see or hear.
He pledged to partner with the statistics agency and other stakeholders to ensure the provision of those vital statistical data that would promote national planning and development.