Tayo Busayo, Abuja
– The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said the insecurity situation in the country is affecting its operations.
According to the Bureau, the wave of terrorism and insecurity reached $52 billion in 2017 and $119 billion in Africa, between 2007 and 2016, a situation that necessitated the economy and socio-economic group, including the statistical system competing for resources to drive the growth and development of their respective sectors.
Statistician-General of the Federation (SG), Prince Semiu Adeyemi Adeniran, made these known during the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Statistical Association (NSA), held in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
Adeniran said a number of NBS staff were kidnapped by bandits during field operations in Katsina.
He said: “I cannot give a specific number now. It is not all the time that we have our staff kidnapped.
“It happened in Katsina where the bandits kidnapped some of our enumerators in one of our surveys but the community, knowing the importance of why we were there, rallied round and communicated with the bandits and the staff were released”, he said.
“As I earlier pointed out, the wave of insecurity challenging the country is affecting all sectors, including the statistical system. But how so? I believe this effect can be categorised directly and indirectly.
“First, insecurity affects directly by impeding our field operations. While we are increasingly generating a lot more administrative data, a significant proportion of statistics produced, approximately 60-70 per cent in NBS, is produced from surveys, census, or field data collection. This as you know involves sending enumerators across the nooks and crannies of the country, very often to remote areas and difficult terrains.
“The insecurity poses a serious challenge for the system in this regard, as several cases of attack on the field staff, robbery and theft of survey equipment, and kidnappings have been recorded. Also, there have been increasing numbers of inaccessible areas in parts of the country where enumerators are not able to go in for data collection.
“As an example, under a school-based exercise recently undertaken by NBS, head teachers and facilitators had to leave their communities and meet up with enumerators at the headquarters of the local government for interviews to be conducted, because those communities were unsafe to visit.
“While this could be done for a school-based exercise, it will be impractical to do under a household-based or establishment-based survey. All these disruptions to field operations, when carefully considered, can result in significant additional costs to the budget, and heavily impact the lean finances within the system.
“So, in direct terms, you are looking at the safety of lives and equipment, disruptions to the field processes which have significant financial implications and possible data quality issues, if not properly checked.
“Indirectly, there are also effects on the statistical system from the wave of insecurity. In a situation where security is challenged, every other sector takes a backseat. There are severe economic losses that occur within an insecure environment.
“According to a report by the UNDP, global economic losses due to terrorism and insecurity reached $52 billion in 2017, and $119 billion in Africa, between 2007 and 2016.
“Nigeria is certainly no different, with each sector of the economy and socio-economic group, including the statistical system competing for resources to drive the growth and development of their respective sectors, each will have to take a backseat in the order of priority as security becomes the focus and attention of the government.
“This has substantial effects when we take into account the level of investment required to enhance the system to the levels where it should be, and what is also required to sustain it for optimal performance.
“Many of our offices, both NBS and state statistical agencies need more human resources, technical capacity, equipment, and adequate facilities to be able to function. The absence of this vital investment has a significant impact on the systems’ ability to perform their functions, both in terms of the volume of the statistics produced and the quality and reliability of the ones produced.
“So, the statistical system suffers indirectly also, from its inability to produce adequate (volume), reliable (quality) and timely (delay in conducting routine surveys or data collection) statistics for proper policy design, implementation, and monitoring.
“So how have we been addressing these challenges? Before I list out some of the measures taken to address this security challenge and its effect on our data production processes,
“I must commend the federal government, particularly our ministers, the Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the Minister of State, Budget, and National Planning, both of whom have really stood by us, and supported the statistical system, even during these economically challenging periods.
“The first thing we have done is to acknowledge this as a serious issue and look for ways to address it, and in doing so, adopted the use of technology. We established a call centre at the headquarters through which we now conduct phone surveys. Using this platform, we are able to collect data in inaccessible and hard-to-reach areas when necessary.
“This was extremely useful during the COVID-19 lockdown and has been used to collect very important household data that was applied in the planning and design of household interventions and support during the height of the pandemic. Other measures taken using technology to mitigate the effects of insecurity, include remote data monitoring for quality assurance.”