The usefulness of data for effective policy making, meaningful resource allocation and efficient public service delivery was the highlight of the 12th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series that was held virtually on Monday to mark Professor Wole Soyinka’s 86th birthday.
A press statement by Director/CEO Wole Soyinka Centre Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Motunrayo Alaka, said speakers at the event organised by the centre pushed for Nigeria to have accurate and relevant data towards national development.
He said the panellists who discussed the broad theme: Data Media and National Development included Senior Lecturer, Statistics Department, University of Ibadan, Oluwayemisi Alaba; Statistician-General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Yemi Kale;former Editor-in-Chief, Daily Trust Newspaper, Mannir Dan-Ali; and Co-Founder and Director of BudgIT Foundation, Oluseun Onigbinde; just as the Founder TechHer, Chioma Agwuegbo; moderated the session.
The director said Alaba in her presentation emphasised the need for an effective National Statistical System (NSS) in Nigeria because of the growing demand for data globally.
He said the university listed the characteristics of the NSS to include, strategic direction, data quality, effective leadership and management, and shared vision. Alaba recommended coordination of the NSS, other government parastatals and the thirty states of the federation in the production of quality statistical systems in Nigeria.
On his part, Kale explained the current framework of accessing credible and usable data in Nigeria considering its strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats.He stressed that both the public and government now know that the problems of Nigeria cannot be solved without data and discouraged the misuse and abuse of statistics to solve short-term political goals.
According to Dan-Ali, the media has a big problem with accessing reliable, accurate and relevant data, as a lot of needed data were not available.
He decried the fact that data from government agencies on the same subject matter were contradictory thereby questioning the integrity of such data, even as he challenged journalists on the need to specialise on how to use and present data visually.
Similarly, speaking on the realities of access to data in Nigeria Onigbinde from stated that there was need to connect all the dots on a policy level by embedding data systems in newsrooms, through partnership building and broad coalitions with sources of power.
“We need to be a country that wants honesty by accepting the truth that emanates from data and what we need to improve and change the society we want,” he said.
He further stated that the fight against corruption cannot be taken seriously when data on financial audit of government agencies are not published regularly.
Representative of the director WSCIJ director, Adeolu Adekola, who is a Senior Programme Officer, in her opening address noted that the theme was chosen to highlight the connection between data, media and development and spotlight the issues so that all stakeholders, could see where their responsibilities lay and work towards the change we deserve.
In his remark, Director of the Africa Office of the MacArthur Foundation, Kole Shettima, called attention to how media houses could become sources of data collection and use it as a source of revenue.
He challenged participants to think of a visual data dashboard that would match Nigeria’s population needs with what was available in the country to put the government under pressure to make future development plans.
A total of 194 participants including journalists, policy makers, representatives of pressure groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) l, students and other members of the public attended the lecture which was hosted online for the first time since its commencement in 2008.