Looking at statistics in any subsector of Nigerian agriculture, it would be very difficult to get reliable industry-specific data that investors and project planners can rely on to make informed and impactful decision.
Even at the federal level, the statistics often cited by top officials are those put together by international or multinational agencies; and they are poorly collated and not harmonised.
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At the state level, the structure for collection of reliable statistics is either absent, weak or manual, making data for planning and tracking development in many sectors difficult.
Currently, investors find it difficult to make key decisions because reliable and current data is hard to get; and where there is data, it is usually old, not detailed and mere projections, a situation many experts said was responsible for poor planning and failure of many projects and interventions.
How death of APMEPU kills good statistics
During the implementation of the World Bank Agricultural Development Projects from 1977 up to early 1980s, Nigeria had good available agricultural data generation, harmonisation and validation through the Agricultural Projects Monitoring, Evaluation and Planning Unit (APMEPU), a permanent country-wide institution based in Zaria, Kaduna State.
APMEPU’s main task was to supplement the purportedly scanty data base available to project preparation and appraisal teams.
As the projects progressed, the evaluation units would measure the impact and effectiveness of project implementation, thus providing management with information to initiate the necessary corrective measures.
During the World Bank funding, data was regular, but when the funding stopped, there was no institution that took over, and the APMEPU was scrapped, marking the beginning of agricultural data drought in Nigeria.
Many projects were then poorly planned without reliable data, leading to poor implementation of multibillion naira projects by the federal and state governments. Even investors struggle to get data that will help them take good business decision.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, under her Technical Cooperation Programme, is “strengthening institutional capacity for improved data and information systems for policy planning and tracking the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.”
The country representative of the FAO in Nigeria, Fred Kafeero, said in Calabar, Cross River State, that the organisation was interested in building the country’s statistical system because it is weak and it would be difficult to track SDGs if the trend continued.
The United Nations (UN) agency is collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), other data-producing ministries, departments and agencies and four states – Cross River, Kano, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“The issue of data is part of the core mandate of the FAO to support the government. Without data you can’t do good planning. The country has really been trying despite all the challenges. These institutions have been doing their best to generate data. We want a situation where data will be adequate for those who need it and where it will be consistent and systematic,” Kafeero said.
At the moment, the organisation has deployed the use of Python software and other softwares for data collection and analysis – data preprocessing, data visualisation, and statistical analysis (this includes interlink of Python and Microsoft Office (MS-Excel, MS Word and PowerPoint etc.) and dashboard development and deployment on the web for data summary and visualisation.
It also deploys the ODK package for use in android smart phone/tablets and the practical use of R-package to address the problems of normality in statistics.
These packages allow data to be collected and sent to server, geo-tagging the locations, such as farms, agro processing centres or market, eliminating data fabrication or falsehood.
Kafeero said the trainings were expected to result to improved competencies of the units or sections of the participating federal counterparts like the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, other ministries, departments and agencies, and those of the participating states and the FCT, for generation, analyses, storage and dissemination of credible and timely data and information for policy planning and tracking implementation of the SDGs.
Mr Mark Joseph Aji of the Cross River Agric Development Programme, which is an extension arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, said good data would give the state a roadmap of exactly what was happening in the state’s agriculture and what needed to be done.
On her part, Mrs Akedoh James of the state Bureau of Statistics, said the state needed reliable statistics seriously “because we are working towards being an industrialised state first; and our main pillar in Cross River State is agriculture.”
She stated that policy makers needed data to make informed policies in the state.
Earlier, the Commissioners for International Cooperation in the state, Dr Inyang Asibong and her counterpart in the Ministry of Agriculture said the state was focusing on agricultural value chain for its industrialisation drive.