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Which Nigerian figure is reliable?

By Tonnie Iredia

One thing that Nigeria is not good at and which many of its citizens seem to overlook is the issue of figures and statistics. It is rather difficult to run into any Nigerian figure that is reliable. Even when it is arranged for us, by outsiders, it suffers the same fate because of the numerous versions by different bodies and also because the helpers do not know many things about us.

Again, because we ourselves are negative about our country in addition to the fact that we do not have the correct statistics on anything, we have no option but to believe any conclusions about our nation. During the last independence anniversary celebration, lecture, Mr. Richard Dowden, Executive Director of the Royal African Society in London who spoke on ‘Nigeria in transformation’ identified our leaders, as the highest paid salary earners in the world.

For a country that is not the richest in the world to have the highest paid public office holders is food for thought but no one controverted Dowden, because till date, even the relevant body-the salaries and wages commission- knows only a fraction and not the exact take-home pay of certain office holders. So, we are free to believe such classification as that Nigerian leaders move about in the longest convoy of vehicles in the world.

As for the nation’s size, any claim can only be guess work. That our borders have been severally declared as too porous to be managed would cast doubts on how we got a figure of 923, 768sq km.   Our population figure is no less controversial as no one knows how many Nigerians there are.

Whereas other nations confidently announce their figures, Nigeria’s population is usually explained by statements like “out of every five black people on Earth, one is a Nigerian”.  At independence in 1960, we had 35million people. The 2006 census took the figure to 140 million-an incredible increase of over 100 million in less than 50 years.

Now that the indomitable Eze, Festus Odimegwu, a diligent manager of business is in charge of the subject, things may change. The only fear is that to count bottles in a well organized brewery is not the same as counting people in a Nigerian location where several people bear the same names and live in unnumbered houses in streets without names. May be Odimegwu can find out how America used its Central Intelligence Agency to count us, on our behalf and got a figure of 170, 123, 740.

Another issue that cannot be described with some certainty is the number of ethnic groups into which the country can be divided. Almost every literature says there are 250 such groups. How this figure was arrived at is not easy to know considering that as far back as 1990, one of Nigeria’s foremost sociologists, Professor Onigu Otite after an extensive field work, recorded 374 ethnic groups, in his book “Ethnic pluralism and Ethnicity in Nigeria”

In the area of politics, no one is certain about Nigeria’s voting population. For the 1983 general elections, over 65milion voters were registered to enable the ruling party at the time, the National party of Nigerian (NPN) to win 120 out of every 100 votes. No one was surprised when 15 years later, the voters list dropped to 57million.

Till date however, election results in the country are not related to the voting population or the voter turn- out. In 1999, former American President, Jimmy carter who led the international observers alleged that there was disparity between the number of voters at the polling station and the votes eventually declared.

Again, unlike most countries which operate the two tier federal system, Nigeria has a third tier. In reality however, our three tiers of government exist only in theory and by Law; but in practice, we illegally operate a two-tier structure. The third tier- the local government is only a strategy for attracting funds from the federation account.

Although the nation’s constitution formally guarantees a democratically elected local government, it is hardly obeyed across the nation. Thus we cannot claim to be running either a three or two tier federal system.

In business, Air transportation is becoming popular. As a result, many of our cities now lay claims to having international airports, although they operate only local flights. In banking, having moved its12 branches in 2000 to 320 under the leadership of Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, Oceanic Bank won the Nigerian Bank of the Year Award among banks from over 143 countries for 2 consecutive years, 2006 and 2007.

The award was organized by the Banker magazine, a subsidiary of the Financial Times of London. For us at the newly established NTA International at the time, it was good content but months later, with a change of guards at the Central Bank Oceanic bank got a new story.

The next year, 9 Nigerian banks reportedly made the list of the Top 1000 World Banks. This time, Zenith Bank and First Bank were the two top most in Nigeria in the exercise by Tier One Capital in the 2011 edition by The Banker magazine.. While Zenith ranked 296, First Bank of Nigeria Plc ranked 310.

Other Nigerian banks that made the Top list were Guaranty Trust Bank ranked 444, Access Bank (495), United Bank for Africa (513), Fidelity Bank (567), First City Monument Bank (586), Diamond Bank (650) and Skye Bank (657).

In education, an organization known as the 4International Colleges & Universities (, which ranks universities says the University of Lagos (UNILAG) is in the first position in the country. University of Ilorin emerged second, University of Ibadan, (UI), third, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, fourth and University of Benin, fifth.

Another ranking for the same period, this time by Webometrics,  an organization that ranks universities based on the size, content and publications, global performance and visibility of their website placed the University of Benin as the best in Nigeria and 22nd in Africa..

Interestingly, neither 4( nor Webometrics was aware of the decision by the British General Medical Council (GMC) to bar Medical graduates from 9 Nigerian universities from obtaining licenses to practice in the United Kingdom.

Those affected are: Ambrose Ali University, Ebonyi State University, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, University of Jos, University of Nigeria, University of Port Harcourt, Igbinedion University and the University of Benin. The schools were axed because they no longer met the required standards for practice in the UK.

From all that we have said so far, it is time for Nigeria to become diligent. Against this back drop, we are waiting to hear the response of the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu to the request by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), for information on how much has been spent on maternal health care delivery system and prevention in the country in the last five years. It is significant that the request is based on the Freedom of Information Act which gives the Minister 7days to act.


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