Recent media reports claimed that the immediate past Statistician-General of the Federal (SGF), Dr Yemi Kale, said during his time in office, the President Muhammadu Buhari regime forced him to publish false economic statistics.
The reports indicated that Kale, who doubled as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), made the revelation during an interview with Arise TV, where he spoke on political reactions to the unemployment data published under his watch.
VERDICT: False. It is not true that Dr Kale said on Arise TV interview that the Buhari regime pushed him to publish false economic statistics. A Daily Trust’s transcript of the interview revealed the former head of the NBS said he did his job diligently and independently, not minding political pressure or people disagreeing with the Bureau’s reports published under his watch. Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the NBS, Mr Sunday Ichedi, has debunked online media reports portraying Dr Kale as admitting to publishing false data as a result of Buhari’s regime coercion. In addition, Dr Kale told Daily Trust that media reports attributed to him were false as he did not publish any inaccurate statistics as statistician-general.
On September 1, 2021, an online news medium, People Gazette, published a story with the headline, “Buhari regime pushed me to publish false economic statistics: Yemi Kale”.
The story’s headline was accompanied with the intro: “Yemi Kale, the immediate past Statistician-General of the Federal (SGF) said during his time in office, the President Muhammadu Buhari regime pressurised him to publish inaccurate data.”
Several online media, including Newsdirect and Nairaland, also published the same story with the same headline and intro.
So, did Dr Kale admit publishing false data when he was in office as statistician-general due to pressures from the Buhari’s regime?
Concerns on accuracy of NBS reports under Kale
Under Kale’s watch, some government appointees disagreed with some NBS reports.
The special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had in the past publicly expressed concerns about the accuracy of some reports published by the NBS under Kale.
For instance, Ngige differed with the NBS on the outcome of the fourth quarter of 2020 Labour Force Statistics report which put the unemployment rate in Nigeria at 33.3 percent.
Reacting on the unemployment numbers released by the NBS, the labour Minister said: “There has been a little confusion as to the accuracy of data generated by the NBS. So, we want to align everything tomorrow. The World Bank says the NBS methodology doesn’t conform with the global standard, especially the ILO format of arriving at such Employment Index.”
Similarly, Garba Shehu had once described a report published by the NBS under Kale as “unfair” to Buhari’s administration.
Kale always maintained that he acted with professionalism and the right methodology not minding individual opinions on the outcomes of NBS reports, which he oversaw.
But how true is the media report that the former statistician-general said on a national TV that he was forced to publish false statistics by the Buhari’s regime?
The NBS has debunked the media report portraying Kale as admitting to publishing false statistics when he headed the NBS.
The spokesperson of NBS, Sunday Ichedi, told Daily Trust that the story is fake news and should be ignored.
“It has come to our attention that a publication is quoting Dr Yemi Kale wrongly, this is fake news and should be ignored. We have confirmed that the former Statistician-General (Kale) never made this statement, the general public should take note,” he said.
When contacted on Saturday, Dr Kale told Daily Trust that the news report indicating he was forced to publish an inaccurate report was false.
“The interview on Arise is public for all to see. No such thing was said by me at any point. I was simply asked how I handled political pressure or people disagreeing with our reports and I said I am very stubborn and I don’t listen or pay attention to what anybody says but I just ensure my work is done properly and as long as I am confident about the work, I act accordingly,” he said.
He said the news report differed completely with what he said when he appeared on Arise.
“So that statement was clearly false. No correlation even slightly with anything that was discussed and definitely no such thing said by me,” the former NBS boss told Daily Trust.
Meanwhile, Daily Trust obtained the interview aired live on Arise TV Morning Show in which one of the anchors, Dr Reuben Abati, sought Dr Kale’s take on how he reacted to the political reaction to the data the NBS published under his watch.
While responding to the question, Dr Kale did not say the Buhari regime pressured him to publish inaccurate data as reported in the online media.
He responded to Dr Abati’s question thus: “I’m extremely stubborn; which a few of my friends have said is a requirement for the job. But on a serious note, when I started this job, I remember mentioning to my key staff that if I must do this job, I must be ready to be fired at a moment’s notice.
“I’m serving my country and I will serve it correctly and I’m ready to lose my job for doing the right things. I am not ready to keep my job for doing the wrong things. Once I convince myself that that’s the way it was going to go, I didn’t particularly care about any political attacks or any opinions that were not ideal. What I did was to ensure that we followed the correct methodology.”
It is worthy to note that Arise TV, which conducted the interview, published on its website what transpired during the interview.
The station reported that Kale said he was “very stubborn” in ensuring that accurate data was published, not minding political attacks and involvement.
It is not true that Dr Kale said on Arise TV interview that the Buhari regime pushed him to publish false economic statistics. A Daily Trust’s transcript of the interview revealed the former head of the NBS said he did his job diligently and independently, not minding political pressure or people disagreeing with the Bureau’s reports published under his watch. In addition, Dr Kale told Daily Trust that media reports attributed to him were false as he did not publish any inaccurate statistics as statistician-general.