21st September, 2011
The lack of reliable statistics in Nigeria has become a national embarrassment, and many are asking, â€œHow does Nigeria plan or know when it is on the right path?â€
The problem is so dire that recently even the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and her counterpart in the Trade and Investment Ministry, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, could not agree on the unemployment rate in the country.
At a public function early this month, Okonjo-Iweala put unemployment rate at 21 percent. Aganga told another gathering on the same day that between 14 and 16 percent of Nigerians are out of work.
In 2006, the National Population Commission, NPC, put the population of Lagos State at over nine million, below that of Kano State. The Lagos State government which conducted a parallel count disclosed that there were over 17 million residents in Lagos.
The disparity between the figures has remained a mystery and to date, many people still do not know what the true population of Nigeria is.
In the aviation industry for instance, the number of passengers who boarded planes into Nigeria or within our country are all contradicted by various government agencies.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the National Civil Aviation Authority early this year presented different figures, with a disparity of over one million passengers. Again the disparity has not been explained to the extent that it is hard to assess our aviation industry in terms of volume of traffic.
In other sectors of the economy, basic information about our country is missing. For instance, information about how many houses, hospitals, schools do we have, is all missing.
There are also no reliable statistics on the number of students seeking admission into Nigerian universities or the yearly number of graduates. How many of these students are physically impaired is not known or at least made public.
The Federal Office of Statistics does not seem to have figures on the volume of trade within Nigeria last year. It does not also seem to know if Nigerians are spending more now than they did last year or how many blind people are in the country.
We do not also know how many Nigerians live below or beyond the poverty level. How many people suffer from malaria or how many of them suffer from meningitis. We do not even know how many jobs were created last year in Nigeria and how many have been created this year.
Recently, the Institute for Statistics, UIS, an arm of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, excoriated Nigeria for its lack of reliable statistics. It said that with the lack of statistics, Nigeria can hardly plan for development.
This has made the agencyâ€™s attempt to evaluate the countryâ€™s preparedness to meet some international targets like the Education for All, and the Millennium Development Goals, MGDs, difficult to achieve.
When there are no reliable statistics, how do we plan for the future? How do we assess our leaders? How do we even know where we are or what is needed for meaningful development? To positively transform its economy and plan for the future, Nigeria must get some basic things right, among which is reliable statistics.
How long will Nigeria remain in the dark? We cannot certainly continue this way. To achieve meaningful development, Nigeria must first get a reliable data base in all sectors.