Community Politics and Policy

Let’s Explain the NBS Corruption Survey to ACP Abayomi Shogunle

Mr Abayomi Shogunle is one of the students affected by the ongoing strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. He would have concluded his M.Phil/PhD conversion exams in the University of Ibadan on the 16th of August 2017 but for the rude interruption by the agitating unionists. He is no rank and file officer pouting from a place of ignorance. Contrary to the ordinary perception many Nigerians have about the Police, he is a long-serving and learned officer who would probably have a ‘Dr’ prefixing his name in no distant time.

He is the head of the Public Relations and Response Unit of the Nigerian Police. From his twitter bio, we learn that the ACP’s unit is responsible for providing 24-hour guidance to citizens who may have one issue or another to call the Police’s attention to.

Over the past week, however, the ACP has rather drawn unusual attention to his exalted self.

And what is at stake? The truthfulness of evidence that the Nigerian Police Force is, in the experience of Nigerians, the public agency with the highest prevalence of bribery in Nigeria.

This was a part – and not the ultimate intention – of the report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Mind you: the NBS is the most authoritative body in the country for data on all things Nigerian, from jobs to inflation, vehicle accidents to bank staff enrolment. When foreign agencies need numbers about a country, they go to the statistics body for that country. Figures released by the statistics bodies of developing countries (e.g. of Rwanda) and of others like Chin and Russia, are sometimes treated with some suspicion due to doubts about methodology and political manipulation. But these doubts come from outside the shores of the country, not from the country.

In a fit of whatever it could be called, Mr Shogunle described the authors of the Nigeria Corruption Survey as “Jobless people”, with an exclamation mark. In the same tweet, he described the NBS (and the 14 beneficiary agencies including the Nigeria Police Force which made up the National Steering Committee) as “Everyone”; that their survey, carried out for the period between June 2015 and May 2016 to explore the perception citizens have of corruption in the public service, was “bogus” and the findings “unrealistic”. His other jab at them invoked bad vocabulary so requires not to be repeated here.

This is not Mr Shogunle’s first rant on twitter: the fallout from that first one is the reason for the insistence on the “Mr” on this page. But that was a somewhat agreeable cause. In choosing to go to battle with the official statistics body of the country, however, questions are now being asked if that first spat with ‘The 25 year old’ was really just about age and respect.

Could there be something he knows that the rest of Nigerians do not?

The survey finds that “the elevated risk of being requested to pay a bribe when citizens have dealings with the police force and judiciary is a particularly worrying sign for the enforcement of the rule of law” But as the ACP rejoined in his tweets, his challenge of the NBS’s damning assessment of the Police borders on two main points: (1) that “a researcher should verify claims”, and that (2) because a large percentage of a population can assume misinformed observations to be reality, this survey would not solve problems. In faulting the quoted qualitative expressions of respondents of the NBS survey, the ACP implies that the report was a summary of Nigerians seeing Turkeys and calling them peacocks, and taking Rabbits to be Hares.

But should the ACP review his conversion notes on the qualities of a good survey? Because the NBS survey was, fundamentally, a qualitative assessment. The survey instrument was derived from “extensive qualitative research on patterns and modalities of corruption in Nigeria” which was “carried out to further the understanding of patterns, forms and manifestations of corruption in different parts of the country”. In other words, its design was to get out the unrestricted opinions of Nigerians on corruption, not to “verify” them. It is not the job of the organizer of a Focus Group Discussion – which was employed in this survey – to commission inquiries about the truthfulness of matters shared by the respondents, which included Police officers. We should be confident that the NBS, with its partners in the research, should have done due diligence in choosing the proper persons for the discussions. The Police may do undercover verifications in investigating misdemeanors and crimes, but researchers have a duty to their respondents which does not involve cross investigation.

Again, insinuating that the report presents diverted views as reality is beside the point: if the Nigerians interviewed said that “Police ON MY STREET are”, then “Police ON MY STREET are” it is. The researcher is not there to question their choice of grammar, or to guide the respondents’ answers to be appropriate. Qualitative interviews collated into quantitative data, like programming, usually outputs ‘What You See Is What You Get’. It is true that the NBS and the other authors construed judgments based on the data they collected, hence subject to bias and conjecturing. But that should not obscure or taint the veracity of the raw returns they obtained from 33,000 persons, 99% of whom were visited three times each.

And for the record, the report involved cognitive testing, a measure taken before qualitative interviews are done to the thousands of respondents, in order to understand “the ways in which respondents interpret, consider and ultimately answer the questions as well as to identify potential response errors”. 40 respondents were used for this purpose and it is just about the right number.

ACP Shogunle made a misstep by attacking the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, by extension its helmsman, Dr Yemi Kale, and all agencies that were part of the survey, with his choice of critique. As a citizen and public official, he had the right to disagree with everything in the report – methodology, research design, etc – and that is what he would wish to be interpreted in his rants. However, he went about it without the circumspection that should guide a chief of public relations. By alleging that an official bureau of Government would commission a report with the sole philosophy of judging the Police smacks of unprofessional crybaby-ness.

Other agencies indicted includes the Nigeria Customs Service, which collects by far the largest amount of bribes (N88,500 on average compared to N5,000 for the Police), and staff of Insurance companies who are perceived most guilty of bribery prevalence in the private sector. Moreover, the ACP Shogunle discredits an agency which has done amiably well to put numbers to the many challenges of the nation, so that the right words could be crafted when solutions are being designed.

There is a way out for the ACP, and for the Police Force (given no one has offered him a rebuke, it can be taken that he has spoken for Louis Edet House): the third line in the first tweet of the rant, posted 8:03am on August 19th, states that the findings “can’t stand test of time”. It is simply up to him and the Police to make sure of that.

Because, depending on what time of day you are reading this, there is probably an ongoing interaction between a Nigerian and a Police man somewhere. In the words of Basketmouth, there are two things involved: it is either one is imparting justice, and/or the other is parting with some money.

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