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Nigeria Transforms Statistics Bureau to Provide Reliable Economic Data

October 1, 2010

  • Accurate and accessible data on Nigeria’s economy can guide development strategies, according to experts
  • The country is looking to expand its data network and become a leader in statistics in Africa
  • An IDA-funded project is helping Nigeria achieve that goal by reforming the government's Statistics Bureau

ABUJA – October 1, 2010 – Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, an institution once viewed as undependable and decaying, is now generating surveys that provide valuable insight into the country’s economy, thanks to funding from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).

For years, the statistics department was largely unknown and undervalued and many statistics users viewed the data as unreliable and of only limited use. With help from IDA and Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID), Nigeria began to transform the bureau by merging the Federal Office of Statistics and the National Data Bank to create the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Since its revamp in 2005, the NBS has conducted over 21 functional surveys and studies on Nigeria’s development, focusing on areas such as employment, welfare indicators, trade, agriculture, industry and business, energy, environment, inflation and others.

The revitalization was part of the Economic Management Capacity Building Project (EMCAP) and the Economic Reform and Governance Project (ERGP) and included help from other partners such as the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the European Union (EU).

Partners also helped with providing and upgrading infrastructure and equipment; human resource management and development; and improved data production methodology, data management, dissemination and access. Attention was also placed on capacity building in statistics, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and management in order to improve the performance of all categories of staff.

NBS provides results

The precursor to the National Bureau of Statistics, the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS), was created as a government agency in 1929 but fell into decay in the 1990s due to poor government attention and funding,bad management, and out-of-date data production and management technologies. Workers suffered from low morale and productivity and a position at the FOS was often seen as punishment by civil servants.

Unlike in the past, the data provided by the NBS can now serve as reference for socio-economic development strategies. The department has “moved from darkness to light,” said Professor Ben Kiregyera, former director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and chairman of the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics. “Other African countries should come to Nigeria and learn what transformation is all about.”

In addition to conducting the 21 studies since 2005, the bureau cleared all backlog of annual abstracts of statistics, Nigerian foreign trade summaries, agriculture survey reports and national accounts of Nigeria from 2000 to 2008. Since its transformation, NBS has also published and disseminated over 54 new series on different sectors of the economy. These studies, surveys, and publications are now highly valued by Nigerians and international organizations.

Goal is to be hub for statistics in Africa

The positive transformation motivated the NBS to expand its scope through the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) to cover both federal and state producers of statistics. The objective is to make the national statistical system in Nigeria one of the foremost and modern knowledge-based National Statistical Offices in Africa and the world at large. The 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory are being brought on board. Each state is expected to develop a State strategy for the Development of Statistics (SSDS) that would feed into the national strategy.

The NBS, encouraged by its success in recent years, is pushing the envelope further by creating the highly-integrated Nigerian Data Nervous System (NDNS) which would bring all data producers and user agencies together through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and connect them to the Internet.

But, these additional reforms require more investment. The total cost estimate for implementation of the NSDS stands at US$471 million for 2010 to 2014. The Nigerian government, recognizing the importance of statistics, will provide US$281 million and total donor support now stands at US$40 million. Despite these various funding options, the project still faces a financing gap of about US$140 million.

Though we have come a long way, we still need a lot of assistance from our partners to implement the master plan and particularly the Data Nervous System which will completely transform the generation, dissemination and use of statistical products in Nigeria and Africa as a whole,” said Statistician General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Bureau for Statistics Dr. Vincent Akinyosoye. “Our goal is to be a hub for statistics in Africa.”