President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said Nigerians should be wary of statistics from world bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The president played up the significant role which an accurate collection of data can play in the country's social and economic planning but recommended that local institutions are better suited over foreign agencies to collate such records.
"Today, most of the statistics quoted about Nigeria are developed abroad by the World Bank, IMF and other foreign bodies. Some of these statistics are wild estimates that bear little relation to the facts on the ground," Mr Buhari said on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
The president said he had raised the matter with the recently-constituted economic council and urged them to prioritise a framework on data collection that would make national planning and policymaking more feasible.
"We can only plan realistically when we have reliable data. As a government, we are taking very serious steps to improve the quality of data available for policymaking, and today I charged the Presidential Economic Advisory Council to prioritise the collection of primary data," he added.
Social and economic planning across the country has suffered from decades of inaccurate, insufficient or false data collection, a situation that successive governments identified as constituting a major impediment to prosperity.
The World Bank and other foreign bodies have long been seen as reliable in data gathering.
Their records are often cited across the world, with many countries using them as the primary source of authentic statistics.
The National Bureau of Statistics, established under the Statistics Act (2007), has been the only public institution collecting centralised data on social and economic activities across Nigeria.
Although the NBS's predecessor, Federal Office of Statistics, existed since the time of independence, it left no useful data for the bureau. Insufficient budget and other constraints also contribute to the acute unavailability of statistics.
Still, the NBS is largely responsible for most of the data collected for use in Nigeria and by foreign bodies, the bureau's director-general, Yemi Kale, said.
"Majority of data published in Nigeria comes from the NBS," Mr Kale told PREMIUM TIMES. "The foreign bodies do not collect data in Nigeria."
Mr Kale said World Bank, IMF and other foreign institutions regularly enter into a partnership with the bureau for data collection.
"The World Bank partners with us a lot and they give us financial support," Mr Kale said. "We are currently collecting data on poverty which in partnership with the World Bank and another project on corruption in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)."
However, Mr Kale said there are still cases "where foreign bodies do data modelling due to unavailability of the data they wanted".
"They do estimates in their countries sometimes when the data they needed does not exist," he said. "They only create models when they cannot access the data they need anywhere else."