Lack of statistical data a cog in the wheel of national development

Regular sources of information and the flow of information are very vital to all economies to be centrally planned or market oriented. Information is presented in various ways. One of such way of presenting information is statistical method.
In statistics, information are collected, collated and recorded either in a tabulation form, graphical, pie, chart or by graphs. Statistical method enables information to be presented in such a way as it gives the reader a deep insight into a situation being described at a glance.
Statistical data are therefore very important and useful for purposes of economic analysis, performance evaluation and for making projections and plans. In most other countries great attention is paid to data collection storage and preservation as its give the true picture of the economy.
In Nigeria however, this cannot be said to be true. Statistical data are not available on regular basis and where they exist are hoarded in such a way that they distort information flow. It is little wonder then that things do not work the way they should.
It is a matter for concern that this stage of Nigeria’s development she does not really know how many people are within her geographical boundary. Ask any Nigerian how many people are in Nigeria? He would tell you about 100 million people. If you probe further how he got his figures, he would tell you we are told by so and so minister or government official.

For any meaningful development plan to be achieved a nation must be able to establish how many people she has its plan for. Since Nigeria does not know the actual number of her citizen, there is no way she can reliably know the structure of her population.
She cannot therefore establish the number school-age children she has it plan for. This lack of data in planning our educational facilities is the cause of the present chaotic educational situation in the country. Government in the country makes plans and provisions for perhaps 5,000 children.
At the end of the day, 15,000 children turn up for enrolment. Because government has no option it is compelled to accommodate all the 15,000 based on the facilities initially and ideally meant for 5,000 pupils. In the end the citizens and the government cry that standard of education has fallen. It is not the standard of education that has fallen but the standard of the nation’s statistical base that does not avail the nation the necessary information to enable her plan for a larger number of school children.
In the same vein, Nigeria cannot as of today state authoritatively the figure of its workforce. That is, Nigeria has no statistical data on the ages of 15 – 60 the active population. When schools were being opened here and there and their facilities expanded, universities inclusive, at the time the going was good for Nigeria, nobody cared about gathering data on how many school leavers and graduates the nation would have at the end of the each year.
Because the nation had no data on this, she could not plan her productive capacity to meet the challenge of the increase in school enrolment and graduates turnout. She was caught napping with huge and inaccurate figures of unemployment and underemployment. It is very certain that as of today Nigerians are not truly aware of the magnitude of the unemployment situation in the country. Nobody, not even one of the shortsighted policy makers has mustered up courage enough to own up to the inadequate efforts put in to project or forecast the nation’s employments needs based on accurate data collection any analysis.
What every policy maker and governments functionaries seems to be saying is that the Nigerians youths have acquired the wrong type of education that gave them no orientation towards self employment. At least these young unfortunate Nigerians did not build nor equipped or did they plan their own educational system. Somebody else did. Who were these people?
The either retired major generals or serving ones; the-in-and-out of jail politician or the retired or serving permanent secretaries. They have forgotten that in their days they read general degrees courses that can only pass today for general studies in most of Nigerian universities. Yet they serve in industries, banks, commerce, etc, where today the highly specialised Nigerian graduate cannot even find jobs.
Equally important is the lack of data and information in the Nigerian production economy. There are no reliable statistic data on aggregate capital formation and capital replacement. In effect, net capital formation cannot be reliably determined or projected.
It is arguable that there are no reliable figure on the pattern of industrial production. The kind of industries that use particular raw materials are not known to Nigeria with certainty. It is not surprising that it took Nigeria up to 1986 to realise that maize can be adequately produced in the country to serve domestic needs. It equally took her the same length of time to realise that a large proportion of her foreign exchange was spent on wheat and malt made from barley that can either be produced locally or be substituted locally. This attributable to its lack of industrial statistics.
It is difficult to admit that Nigeria does not actually know on the aggregate the level of her industrial output and their distribution outlet. If actual figures and channel of distribution were known it would have been real impossible for producer/middlemen to actually hoard finished products as happened in 1985/86 period.
The same holds true for the agriculture and mining sectors. As a result of these statistical inadequacies one cannot say with any level of confidence if Nigeria’s gross domestic producer or Gross National Product is accurately calculated. This has made it increasingly inevitable for users of statistical figures on the Nigerian economy to depend on the United Nations estimates. This is by no means encouraging.
Many Nigerians who have due respect for statistical figures are never impressed when institutions like NEPA and others are charged to the people’s court for non performance. What many Nigerians may not realise is that NEPA does not know with certainty the number of residential and business houses in any given area.
Perhaps NEPA may make provision for 100 business houses and 10,000 residential hoses based on crude estimate on figures made available to her. It may turn out that in actual fact there are about 150 business houses and about 20,000 residential buildings. If NEPA supplies a transformer to this area based on the former figures, in no time it will be overloaded. The best you can get out of such situation is frequent power cuts by the grace of power rationing.
It will surprise most Nigerians that there are no adequate figures on Nigerian external trade. It takes years to get these figures after series of adjustment such figures are never available on current basis.
Nothing based explain this situation than the fact that Nigeria did not know how much she owned her external creditors until a consultant bank was appointed in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria to undertake the debt of reconciliation exercise. In a situation like this any manipulation can be carried through without hindrance. Many Nigerians were not surprised at the celebrated JMB foreign exchange swindle nor were they during the $2.8 billion ghost withdrawal from NNPC account. Nor is anyone who is aware of this statistical data problem is surprised at Nigeria’s present economy predicament.

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