Yemi Kale, National Bureau of Statistics DG – The nightmare of lazy governors, ministers and other public officials
Many would think that the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu is the biggest fear of corrupt and irresponsible politicians in Nigeria. Considering his efficiency and fearless prosecution of indicted government officials, it is right to think so. However, very few know that Yemi Kale, the Statistician-General of the Federation, and Director-General of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) holds a similar weight.
The EFCC has limitations because some public officials such as governors enjoy immunity, and can not be prosecuted while they are still in power. In such cases, the anti-corruption agency will have to wait until the officials’ tenure expires.
But the NBS only speaks with data, and that has no restrictions. These figures show whether an official is working or not; it shows if something has gone amiss in some sectors of the economy. That’s much more dreadful for slothful politicians.
It’s not about commitment to statistics… it’s commitment to service… wherever and whatever
In a recent interview on Public Conscience, a radio programme on Nigeria Info, Kale said he received death threats after releasing the unemployment figures for the third quarter of 2018. That’s how far the impact of the NBS data figures go.
“The job is extremely sensitive. My job description is to tell Nigerians what the situation on the ground is and that situation might not sit well to the same people that appointed you or people extremely powerful that might have an influence on the people that appointed you,” he said.
He used the Smart Nutrition Survey as an example. The United Nations uses this to determine whether states would receive a grant.
He explained that “UN gives money to states based on if their indicators are improving so you only get the grant if the last time you collected money it showed an improvement in the indicator.”
“A lot of states including mine, Ogun, dipped. We reported it that way so states came to us to say we are losing X billion naira if these indicators are negative, is there anything you can do to make them nicer. They won’t approach me directly initially. They implied some form of compensation and I said we don’t do this here.
“Once that didn’t work, the next approach was to attack the integrity of the data. There are many instances like that. I won’t mention which administration I’m talking about but every now and then I get such pressure.
“Towards the election, I got a couple of death threats over the unemployment data. I decided to ignore them and watch my back better.