I’ve received threats from political leaders over unfavourable data – Kale

Yemi Kale, the statistician-general of the federation, says he receives threats from various parties when the National Bureau of Statistics releases reports that are unfavourable.

Speaking on Public Conscience, a radio programme on Nigeria Info, Kale who is also the director-general of the NBS, said he received death threats after releasing the unemployment figures for the third quarter of 2018.

“The job is extremely sensitive. My job description is to tell Nigerians what the situation on 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.

Using the Smart Nutrition Survey which was a determinant to whether states would receive a grant from the United Nations as an example, he explained how some people try to influence data.

“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.

“I have gotten governors who call me, extremely upset, saying ‘elections are coming, how can you put up these numbers?’ And they say ‘if I lose this election, you better leave this country’ fortunately, the person won the election.”

Kale, who was reappointed for a second five-year term in office, said there have been incidences of phone calls from ministers who also seek to influence data.

“Every single moment, I am scared but the insistence that this thing has to be done right is more important than the fear,” he explained.

“Initially, it was a lot harder but over time I have a reputation so they don’t bother to talk. Currently, nobody calls me to ask for a change. The worst is to say they don’t agree with the data.

“My current minister, Senator Udoma actually stands behind the office when there is pressure.”