Nigeria: Wole Soyinka Centre Discusses Data, Media and National Development

The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) on Monday, held a lecture on national development and the role of data and media, in commemoration of the 86th birthday of the Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka.

This year's lecture is the 12th lecture series held in honour of the Nobel Laureate and first to be held virtually with the theme; "Data, Media, and National Development."

The 12th lecture series was funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

At the lecture, the representatives of WSCIJ discuss national issues and have had conversations on different national issues ranging from corruption to taxation, to education, electricity, among others.

First held in 2008, the annual lecture series seeks to stimulate debate on issues affecting Nigeria and also set the tone for policymakers and concerned parties in the role they have to play.

Kole Shettima, who represented the MacArthur foundation at the lecture said the foundation is passionate about national development, and how data informs policies and development.

Mr Shettima said since Yemi Kale assumed duty at the National Bureau of Statistics, there have been significant improvements in terms of quality and depth of data but there is a lot more to be done.

"We truly believe that the media is critical, very important to the work that we do in our country. Ours is one of the few countries that have raised the status of the media to an institution of integrity. So, whatever support we can give to the media to have an independent media that holds government accountable, we should give."

He added that professional collection of data should be a primary focus to combat the unavailability of data in Nigeria. He urged the media and other professionals to also pay attention to the available data.

Delivering her lecture at the virtual event, Oluwayemi Alaba, a Senior Lecturer of Statistics at the University of Ibadan said data collection and access to uniform data is still a problem in Nigeria and relevant agencies such as the National Bureau of Statistics need to do more.

"Data must be transparent and follow ethical standards and accessible to users including the media," she said.

Mrs Alaba urged the NBS to work on producing relevant data that apply to the peculiar needs of the country in order to help professionals carry out their responsibilities.

Speaking at the lecture, Yemi Kale, the Director of National Bureau of Statistics said without data, it will be difficult to solve any problems in Nigeria and professionals should begin to focus on the use of data as a problem-solving approach.

Mr Kale said data use has increased in the past five years which is a pointer that attention must be paid to data collection and use as a tool for national development.

Manni Dan-Alli, a former Editor at Daily Trusts and a panelist at the lecture said the media needs to move away from producing reports and materials as they are given to them by organisations.

"Data must be accurate and reliable, journalists need to specialise more to understand data and present it in a way that readers can understand," he said.

Mr Dan-Alli added that the media still has a problem with access to relevant data pertaining to government activities, because of the secretive nature of the government, making it difficult to know how public officers disburse public funds.

Oluseun Onigbinde, the Director of BudgIT urged the media to do more work in embedding data systems in the newsrooms.

"Our approach to data identity in Nigeria is very poor, we cannot fight corruption when government agencies are not publishing their audited accounts.

"We need to be a country that wants honesty, and if we want honesty, the only way is to accept the cruel fact or truths that emanate from data."

He said media and civil societies need to work together in filling data gaps in Nigeria to harness national development.

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