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Our Figures On Nigeria’s Economy Are Not Fake And Partisan—NBS

.....Explains Failure of Nigeria’s Biggest-Economy Ranking Under Jonathan
By Fisrter Media

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has denied insinuations that inflationary and unemployment figures released by it are unrealistic and partisan.

It has also explained why the ranking of Nigeria’s economy as the best in Africa, during Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Administration, did not translate into better standard of living for the ordinary citizens of the country.

The Bureau made its position on the two matters known at a one-day training workshop, meant to enlighten journalists on procedures for arriving at statistical figures to describe performance of the economy as well as update the skills of reporters covering its, to correctly interpret statistical and economic data.

Speaking at the workshop, held at Hotel JVM in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, on the adjuncts of Abuja, the Statistician General of the Federation (SG) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale, said the organisation has been receiving knocks from some Nigerians over figures on economic and social indicators that are released quarterly on the state of the economy.

“In recent times, … , some members of the public, have expressed some skepticism about some of the data produced by the NBS, as they believe the numbers reported do not reflect the reality of things around them”, Dr. Kale decried.

He gave the instances of how some Nigerians reacted negatively to positive inflationary and unemployment employment ratings it released during the Dr. Jonathan regime as well as ranking of the nation’s economy as the best in Africa at that time, which some Nigerians said did not put food on the table.

The SG further buttressed that the Governor of one of the States in the Federation (name not given by him) chided the rating of indigenes of his state as the poorest in the country, but later used the report issued by the Bureau to make case for loan for his the state. According to the SG, the poorest state rating too was misunderstood as referring to economies of the different affected states. He said, it rather referred to the poverty rating of the individual indigenes of the states in terms of their per capita income, as compared to indigenes of states rated higher.

Dr. Kale attributed the negative reactions, to the lack of understanding of statistics by some citizens and wrong interpretation of the Bureau’s figures by a section of the mass media and other analysts who convey such to the masses.

“In the past we have witnessed some cases of data misreporting by the media which I personally believe was due to lack of understanding of the data made available to you”, the Statistician General maintained before the journalists at the workshop.

According to him, misinterpretation of data by the media and other analysts sends wrong signals about the economy, to investors and other users, who could be discouraged from investing in the country, hence should be avoided.

Similarly, the Head, Corporate Planning and Technical Coordination, Mr. Harry S .B, flayed critics of the Bureau and pointed out that the positive statistical figures released on the trend of inflation and unemployment during the immediate past government were based on reliable data, thus were realistic. He added that the Bureau also issued realistic figures that gave negative economic and social indicators during the past administration, an action he said, proved that the NBS is non-partisan.

Mr. Harry said, “NBS does not falsify figures to suit any government’s interest or policies because doing it so is unethical and dangerous for the economy, so NBS gives the true figures”. He pointed out that the country needs reliable data for successful planning as such official figures cannot be skewed by the Bureau.

He lauded the Muhammadu Buhari administration as that which appreciates the role of the NBS, noting that the Statistician General of the Federation, who was re-appointed for a second term contrary to past rumours of sack, seats on the National Economic Council to furnish government with the data needed for planning and decision making.

On the past rating of the economy as the best in Africa, Mr. Harry explained that it was true and based on the indices used for the ranking. He asserted that Nigeria was ranked best economy in Africa in the immediate past administration because of large population, which makes for large market and large workforce needed to enhance local and foreign direct investment in the country.

According to him the ranking was not that of overall economic development, a point he said was not understood by most Nigerians, thus resulted to the question of whether the ranking was able improve the ordinary citizens’ standard of living.

He contended that the ranking did not put food on the ordinary citizens’ table, because Nigerians did not key into the opportunity to invest in order to benefit from the economic potentials of the country.

Economic pundits agree with this view, alluding to how Chinese and Indians invested in their countries which also have the largest populations in the world and are now investment havens. But other analysts outside the NBS say the reason advanced for the crashing of the “best economy-status” of Nigeria, contradicts the fact that the enabling infrastructural and financial provisions were not in place to induce local entrepreneurship in the country. The NBS does not seem to have made a pensive thought on this counter argument.

On conflicting unemployment figures, another director in the Bureau, Mr. Isiaka Olarewaju, noted that statistical figures released during the immediate past government and those issued in the current administration were based on professional research procedures, as such were reliable. He regretted however, that the misconception among some Nigerians arose from the wrong interpretation of the data by some journalists.

According to Mr. Olarewaju, unemployment figures released by the NBS in the last quarter of this year (2016) concerned the labour force, that is, total number of persons qualified and were willing to work but could not get salaried or self-paid (profit-oriented) jobs in the quarter of the year that the research was done. The labour force, he explained, also include those working less than 20 hours in a quarter of the year; citizens less than 15 years old and those above 60 years old as well as underemployed, that is, those on jobs not suitable to them in terms of training, qualification, capacity utilization and benefits.

He therefore clarified that the last quarter’s unemployment figure in 2016, was calculated based on the labour force only, not the entire population, as used by some journalists who mislead the public that 80% of Nigerians (based on the total population of the country) were unemployed.

Earlier in his speech, a Public Affairs and International Relations staff of the Bureau, Joel Ichedi had described the wrong report, which according to him emanated from a news agency and diffused by the agency’s subscribers, as clearly false and illogical, yet was not discerned by others who used the news.

According to Ichedi, given both salaried and self-employment jobs over the years as well as the yardsticks for computing unemployment figures, the Bureau could not have issued a staggering figure of 80% of the total population as unemployed at the time the NBS did the research.

Another public affairs staff of the Bureau, Mr. Leo implored journalists to ensure that they report and interpret data about economic and social issues correctly, because giving the recession in the country wrong information could create more anxiety and even mislead some persons into wrong acts.

On how the Bureau arrives at Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in its quarterly report, its Head of National Accounts, Mr. Innocent Odu, stated that it is based on guidelines issued in the 2008 edition of the National System of Accounts (NSA) issued to all countries by the World Bank.

Mr. Odu also stated that the GDP is computed from actors in the economy – financial, non-financial, in private and government sectors at all levels, and on sectoral basis, to ascertain the value of goods and services produced in the country in a particular period of time.

According to him, the NBS looks at gross earnings of products and services produced by the actors in the economy, current price index and constant price index which indicates recession (inflation) or not, the computation of consumption of goods/services at the prevailing market prices, in order to ascertain Gross National Income (GNI) and Gross National Domestic Income.

For clarity, the GNI is a measure of total income of Nigerian citizens abroad and those earned by Nigerian Citizens based in Nigeria at the particular period of computation. Gross National Domestic Income is a computation of the transfer of income abroad to Nigeria, minus incomes within Nigeria to arrive at what is left. What is left is the disposable income, that is, the money that the consumer in Nigeria could spend on goods and services, after tax. And this is the indicator of higher or lower purchasing power of the consumer, from which inflation rate is computed.

The use of consumption for computation of the rate of inflation, according to Mr. Odu is the best world over, pointing out that the use of gross output (total quantity of goods produced in the country) – the GDP alone, misleads. This is because, according to him, higher cost of production leads to decrease in quantity of production which leads to higher prices of goods and services due to demand overshooting supply. When this occurs, he said, the economy is said to be in a period of inflation, especially, if the trend affects the entire economy.

The clear defect of using volume of production alone to ascertain general inflation rate, according to Odu, is that, it does not show actual purchase of the goods and services as well as the income earned by the producers and the entire economy, as use of consumption index would show.

Moreover, he said, consumption method, apart from showing the income earned by producers and consumers who actually spend their disposable income, also considers spending by households, government, industrial as well as legal and illegal income earners and dependants included in the computation of the GNI, to depict that there is recession or no recession.

Earlier, he demystified the confusion about an economy growing at little margins of percentages as in Nigeria, adding that for developing countries like Nigeria, a 2% increase is satisfactory because it is a growing economy. Equally, he stated that a 2% retrogression is not a surprise because the economy of a developing nation could not be stable for a long time. He noted that even developed economies having long stability do not grow at very higher margins just as they hardly decline at very high gaps.

He expressed hope that if the diversification programmes of the Buhari administration, especially the agricultural programmes and construction projects, are successfully implemented, the current recession would end.

In separate papers delivered through Messrs Biyi Fafunmi, Samanga, Anyakora Austine and other directors of the Bureau, respectively, the NBS explained how it uses information communication technologies (ICTs), to carry out its research, with speed, precision and reliability; the data production methods it uses and how foreign trade figures as well as consumer price indices are arrived at after field survey, for processing, testing, approval and issuance of report.

Given more funds and facilities, the NBS assured, it would do more to provide all vital data needed for administrative and economic purposes, in the country for purposeful development.

It called on all government ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs), states and local governments, private sector operators as well as the general public, to support NBS discharge its duties more effectively for the benefit of all stakeholders. The Bureau declared its offline and online database to the public, for use, free of charge in order to ease private and public sector research, decision making and implementation of projects as well as get enlightened about its activities.

Meanwhile, the NBS and other government organisations have been advised to be more transparent and grant journalists and other members of the public timely access to government’s data to curtail false reportage of economic and financial figures.

This was the charge by Dr. Emman Usman Shehu, who delivered a lecture on “Media Relations in Orgnisations”, at the NBS workshop for journalists.

Dr. Shehu who is a veteran journalist and Director of Studies at the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Abuja, also stressed the need for public relations executives in government organisations to proactively enlighten publics on the activities of their organisations, as well as secure trust and support of the media and other stakeholders in the dissemination of information.

Represented by Mr. Chris, a lecturer at the IIJ, Abuja, Dr. Shehu, decried the unethical acts of citizen-journalists on the internet, and stressed the need for professional journalists to re-enact investigative and ethical journalism so as to attract more audiences who would rely on them for truthful information.

He advocated regular use of the Freedom of Information Act by journalists to gain access to public records and make reports and analyses that will impact on the economy of the nation positively.

In his remarks, chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Paul Ela, lauded the organizers of the workshop to update the skills of journalists covering the NBS as a beat. He called on other organisations to emulate the gesture in order to enhance the reportage of other specialised beats.