Successive Nigeria’s Budgets Not Based On Concrete Data, Information – Oyewole | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

CEO Interview

Successive Nigeria’s Budgets Not Based On Concrete Data, Information – Oyewole

Posted: Apr 29, 2016 at 2:34 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)


Dr. Oyedokun Oyewole, is the President, Chairman, Governing Council, Institute of Information Management (IIM) . In this interview with OYENIRAN APATA he speaks on the need for government to invest in quality information and data management in order to make seamless and informed policy decisions among others.

What is the vision and mission statement of IIM?

The institute of information management is a professional institute developed to help develop information management industry in Nigeria and Africa.

The institute came into being as part of the gaps and challenges identified by the Records and Information Management Awareness Foundation which started in 2004. During the cause of operations, we identified a number of gaps in the information management. In this part of the world information management industry seems not to be in existence.

If proper information management is not in existence in Nigeria then what is in place?

What people are familiar with is just information technology. Most times, when you talk about information management what comes to mind is the talk about information technology. This is completely wrong. The RIMAF foundation then decided that as a result of the several gaps and challenges already identified in the industry as lack of proper recognition of professionals by employers of labour in both private and public sectors. The fact that most people believe information management is proper but when you talk about making sure that they possessed all the necessary infrastructure in place; that will ensure that emerging information is properly management beginning from the point of creation all through to the point of circulation. I am talking about information life cycle.

Most organizations do not have all of these in place and that is why most organisations; private and public, are not in control of information they receive, generate store and process. They are not in control of such information because they are not properly managed.

How many of our government agencies at all levels of governance can you visit and seek for information at the least notice; this is practically impossible. Right from the time Freedom of Information bill became an Act how many government organisations have ensured that their records are in proper shapes such that it will give room for security and accessibility.

Quite a number of them are not doing anything in this direction. I can remember when the Act was still a bill, when agitation for the act was at its peak, we embarked on a lot of sensitisation for government agencies to make sure that their records are properly managed and put in better shapes to engender the success of the FoI Bill when it was successfully passed.

Till date information retrieval both in private and government establishments is still an issue were are still struggling with in this part of the world. For us to ensure that the society gets good governance, transparency and accountability there is need for government to promote good information management.

How can proper information and data management be achieved given the leaky state information gathering and dissemination in the country?

Government need to enact laws that will guide the processes involved in information generation, storage, retrieval and sharing. Government should also determine how long such vital information that has become an asset should be kept or preserved.

This is the major problem especially in the public sector because the sector lacks what we call retention policy. Retention policy under information management helps to determine how long an organisation is expected to keep certain information depending on its classification.

If information is not even classified it becomes an issue for the organisation to know and determine its life span. So, these are some of the things government needed to look into.

We have always harped on the need for government to constitute a committee that will help to assess the level of compliance in the public sector. The need for government to work with professional in making sure that it comes to fruition. We have committee of experts drawn across the globe.

We are ready to help government ascertain the level of compliance in this direction. By so doing it will help government to identify gaps and at the end of the day recommendations will be made on how government can get to implement information management in the interest of the country.

Talking about gaps, challenges and governance, the yet to be resolved 2016 budget is still held back with controversies bordering on omissions, removal, and conflicts in figures. At what level did the executive and the National Assembly mismanaged data and information before it degenerated to a national embarrassment?

In information management there is a term called business process. For any organisation to win the battle of information management there has to be a business process in place. That is, a process that will ensure that information is transmitted right from the point of generation up to the ultimate targeted audience that the information was meant to meet his or her needs without the integrity of the information being compromised.

I think the major problem the Nigerian government had is that they do not have all the processes, they do not have the policies in place, procedures are lacking, there no specifications, and there are no standards.

All of these are the essential ingredients that any organisation that really want to succeed in managing information must put in place. If all of these are not on ground, the tendencies for leakages of information get increased and this will go a long way in jeopardising the authenticity of the information government intended to pass across.

If government has standards and procedures in place this will ensure that there will be a pre-formatted template that ensures that information is captured in a particular manner using a particular method. It could be software using a particular tool to ensure that such information is uploaded into the system. Should any individual has need to effect a change, remove or tamper with information as it is the case in government organisations in the content, the system automatically captures the person’s identity for the record.

Such system will record that a given document was altered; even if an alphabet or number is removed or added, the system will record it that at a registered date and time through a particular IP address traceable to a particular person effected a change on the data.

This is because each person that has access to the system has ID recognised by the system. At the end of the day by the time the document or information gets to the person that will give final approval, the processes using the designed workflow that recognises people that are authorised and have access to read the document.

Passing comments on a document does not translate to a change in its content. If any inadequacies is noticed an observation for a change could be made and not necessarily changing the content of the original information. At the end of the day there will be a consolidator that has admin rights to incorporate some of the comments received from different stakeholders on the workflow and append those comments on the final document.

All of these processes mentioned would give room for accountability because at the end of the day you can generate a report to capture the movements of the document with a clear account of who did what to the original document.

Put in the perspective of the budget, the final document is what will get to the Senate and a history of all the modifications that were done on the document can be obtained and understood. The issue of padding, removal or missing project wouldn’t have come up at all.

The processes would have provided a seamless solution to the challenges. If people know that such processes are in place nobody will want to tamper with the document from the Executive.

The issue of controversy on figures supplied and figures amended will not arise in the first place. Government need to put in place policy, procedures, and standard in place as this will guarantee that information generated by government is protected and preserved for as long as the government desires. When a particular document becomes a record it means that it can no longer be changed or altered. If you examine the information cycle there will always be a point the document gets matured to become a record. The moment it becomes a record nothing can be changed.

Talking about leakages in government records and data, the immediate past administration alleged that the Boko Haram sect infiltrated government information machinery; given such scenario, what is your assessment of information management with successive administrations in the country?

Sincerely as a professional of two decades and a Nigerian who has witnessed so many developments, the primary challenge at that level was lack of professionalism. A lot of people that are charged with government information are not professionals. I make bold to say that. A lot of people saddled with information management especially at the government level do not know why they are occupying the office.

A lot of them occupy the office through appointments and compensation for political affiliations and loyalty. When people are charged with responsibilities they know nothing about, it becomes a problem not for them alone, but for the country and its citizens.

I remembered we wrote several proposals to work with the immediate past administration because we spotted the loopholes that later a national problem for the country. You will agree with me that during the life time of the administration two ministers were saying different things about same issue. It got so bad we felt information was not properly managed and we made efforts to intervene on what they needed to do to remedy the situation but our letters were not even acknowledged.

The beauty of it is that the new government has been responsive. We have received responses to our proposals and this portends a good development for information management for the country and we are happy about it. I believe that before the end of the life of this administration a lot of things will evolve in the information management space.

Good Information management engenders trust and accountability, how can government manage the skepticism that greets moves to effect a change or embark on projects in the interest of the public?

Before government makes any pronouncement they should ensure that the programme or project has been fine tuned.

Nigerians have witnessed some many failed promises such that an average Nigerian has lost interest completely in government pronouncements. My advice is that for any information to be passed to the citizenry government should ensure that those promises or project they planned to do should be followed up with immediate action.

The trust will start to build again because Nigerians are tired of promises and this has eroded the confidence of citizens in governance. When citizen see practical evidences, tangibles outcome of promises trust will build again. Government should reduce the volume of information disseminated to the public. They should be more interested in practical demonstrations of governance and not more talks fewer actions.

Talking about talking less and more tangibles actions, at the mention of information management what readily comes to mind is the ability of the minister to speak queens English and defend government; what is the place of information management and data management in a nation like Nigeria?

This is a pertinent question that has come up a couple of times and I have tackled it severally in the broadcast media where I featured in some interview programmes.

This is the misconception about information management. Most times people think at the national level when you talk about the office of Minister of Information, what comes to mind immediately is always about the mouthpiece of the government. That is the perception; that is completely wrong at the national level. If possible under the ministry of information, there should be a portfolio for government PR.

The role of minister of information is not primarily to tell the citizens government is fighting this menace or government is doing this and that. That is the job of a PR person and I prayed that I will have an audience with the information minister to be able to reinforce this.

The reason being that when you talk about the role it is about managing the information life circle; it is about the management of the entire gamut of government information how it is captured, stored, interpreted and disseminated. It could come in form of e-mail, text messages and pictures and generated on the social media platform.

Does the government has the capability to generate and capture such information to make sure that all the policy are properly captured and classified at the end of the day so that government can develop strategic policies to make informed decisions?

What is the point of having a gamut of information that you cannot manage adequately. It is better not to have the information at all than to have it and fail to make use of it to make informed decisions. It is very important that government put all of these in place and can be treated by professionals who will help government classify and store to ensure that it is restricted to avoid distortion.

Complaint about infiltration into the administration of previous government happened because the people saddled with information management do not know why they were occupying the offices. They don’t even know what they are supposed to do and mange government information. All of these might sound simple, but it saves a lot stress.

I remembered about two years ago when America and other countries volunteered to fight Boko Haram, Nigerians were happy and hopeful that the intervention will signal the end of the sect. At the end of the day, they abandoned us because whatever strategy they were trying to put in place leaked to the sect even before implementation. The problem with Nigeria’s growth is that people do not have access to quality information. Nigeria is blessed with many intelligent people but we don’t have access to information.

What are the benefits of informed data and information gathering to nation building?

Many developed countries thrived security wise, economically and socially because citizens have access to information that is properly captured, organised, processed and standardised in a format that citizens can interpret and forecast on what may likely happen in a business and job creation sectors. All of these lead to informed decisions by government and the citizens in return receive such policies emanating from the data centres with trust convinced that it will make life better for them.

The budget we are expecting is based on assumption and any plan based on assumption will crumble. Over the years in Nigeria budgets are based on assumptions they are never based on any concrete data and whatever is based on assumption can never achieve accurate or desired results. That is why previous governments have not been able to achieve much because someone will wake up and say we are allocating so much billions to education. What informed such allocation; do we know the number of children in primary and secondary schools, the number of available teachers, the number of graduates from the various levels of education, the total number of unemployed youths in the country, number of farmers? Our population is mere guess work.

How did we arrived at the billions of money voted for agriculture; do we know the number of mouth the country should feed, the number of adults, when you don’t base budget on informed data it will amount to guessing work that has never lead us to attainment of any meaningful results. Information management should be brought to the front burner because information is the blood of any organisation. We don’t know the birth and death rate; we don’t have information on the number of people within the age bracket that can work, or determine the productive ages or the aged. All MDAs should key into proper information management. If cash is flowing everyone will see the movement and also see practical.

Most government functionaries need to get proper exposure to information management. Like I always say that the advent of information technology has exposed us to information risk. Whether we like it or not, a single sheet of paper from the presidency in the wrong hand; that finds its way into the social media platform will make nonsense of government policy or information. Government should ensure that professionals are put in the right places to manage its information.

We will keep raising awareness believing that one day Nigeria will get it right in order to make seamless and informed decisions.