Poor budgetary allocation, redundant agencies kill science, technology development in Nigeria

Science and Technology lab Nnamdi Azikiwe University

There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is not just a developing country but also one of the nations with very low human development index (HDI).

Reason: poor investment in science and technology (S&T) and research and development (R&D).

Little wonder the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) with over 17 agencies got a paltry allocation of N66, 823,303,434 in the 2019 Appropriation Bill or rather proposed budget of N8, 826,636, 578,915, which is still with the National Assembly (NASS).

This means S&T got less than one per cent of the proposed 2019 budget with 0.757 per cent.

A breakdown showed that large chunk of the money is for the payment of salaries and are not channeled towards R&D.

According to the Appropriation Bill 2019, N35, 020,953,172 is proposed for recurrent expenditure and N31, 802,350,262 for capital expenditure.

Unfortunately, the budget for S&T is the least in the Appropriation Bill 2019. Even the office of the secretary to government of the federation got more money than S&T with N65 billion. Ministry of Information and culture got N45 billion.

Others include: N58 billion for agriculture and rural development; N66 billion for foreign affairs ministry; N68 billion for ministry of petroleum resources; N75 billion for office of the national security adviser; N123 billion for federal ministry of youths and sports; N316 billion for ministry of health; N436 billion for ministry of defence; N462 billion for ministry of education; and N569 billion for ministry of interior.

The FMST is a Nigerian ministry whose mission is to facilitate the development and deployment of science and technology apparatus to enhance the pace of socio-economic development of the country through appropriate technological inputs into productive activities in the nation. Dr. Christopher Ogbonnaya Onu is the Minister of Science and Technology.

The ministry as established has the following mandates:
*Formulation, monitoring and review of the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation to attain the macro-economic and social objectives of Vision 20:2020 as it relates to science and technology;

*Acquisition and application of science, technology and innovation contribution to increase agricultural and livestock productivity;

*Increasing energy reliance through sustainable R&D in nuclear, renewable and alternative energy sources for peaceful and development purposes;

*Promotion of wealth creation through support to key industrial and manufacturing sectors;

*Creation of technology infrastructure and knowledge base of facilitate its wide application for development;

*Application of natural medicine resources and technologies for health sector development;

*Acquisition and application of Space Science and Technology as a key driver of economic development; and

*Ensuring the impact of R&D results in the Nigerian economy through the promotion of indigenous research capacity to facilitate technology transfer.

The government-owned agencies under FMST include:
*National Board For Technology Incubation (NBTI), Abuja

*Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), Abuja

*The Nigerian Institute of Science Laboratory Technology (NISLT), Abuja

*Nigerian Institute For Trypanosomiasis And Onchocerciasis (NITR), Kaduna

*National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Abuja

*National Centre For Technology Management (NACETEM), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Osun State

*National Office For Technology Acquisition And Promotion (NOTAP), Abuja

*Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Lagos

*National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA), Abuja

*Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Abuja

*Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBBRI), Lagos

*National Institute of Leather Science and Technology (NILEST), Samaru Zaria

*National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria

*Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), Abuja

*Project Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu

*Federal Institute of Food & Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO)

*National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Abuja

It unfortunate that with all these agencies, Nigeria is still importing even matchstick.

Why? Former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) and a foremost virologist, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, told The Guardian that science and the twin, technology, are the orphans of the Nigerian budgetary allocations.

Tomori said disdained and misunderstood by both the executive and the legislature, science and technology are considered the non-revenue yielding ventures, the “have-nots” in Biblical terms, who must yield the little they have to those who already have.

Annually, he said, the two arms of the federal government – the executive and the legislatures – collude to starve science and technology of the necessary funds needed to make science and technology the catalysts for Nigeria’s orderly and rapid socio-economic transformation from a backward to a developed nation.

Further analysis showed that for the past seven years, since 2012, the ministry of science and technology has received on the average 0.76 per cent of the federal budget ranging from 0.6 per cent in 2012 to the highest so far, 0.92 per cent in 2017.

The situation is not better in 2019, as the proposed 2019 allocation to the FMST, N66.8 billion naira is lower by 12 per cent than the 2018 allocation and 0.73 per cent of the proposed budget.

“Certainly, this is clear evidence that we are interested in replacing science and technology with magic and prophesy,” Tomori said.

Funding research in Nigeria
The virologist, who has worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO), said funding research in Nigeria has followed the same haphazard development of the FMST.

Often, annual budgetary allocations to the FMST only just cover staff emoluments and nothing more! Indeed, in 2018, only 0.01 per cent of federal budget was earmarked for research and development.

This represents 1.87 per cent of the Ministry’s budget. Recurrent expenditure in 2018, accounted for 42.8 per cent of the entire Ministry budget.

In the proposed 2019 budget, the recurrent expenditure is set to take 52,4 per cent of the budget while research and development accounts for only 1,13 per cent of the Ministry’s budget and only 0.01 per cent of the federal budget.

Tomori said what is common to many of the successful and developed countries is the proportion of the national gross domestic product (GDP) allocated to the R&D, as well as the education sectors.

Between 2009 and 2013, allocations to R&D amounted to three per cent or more of the GDP in Israel, Japan Germany and South Korea.

He said the failure of Nigeria to adequately fund R&D is clearly shown by the difference in numbers of patents applied for in countries such as the China and United States (U.S.) which provide substantial funds for R&D.

Between 2009 and 2011, the average number of patents application in China and US 310,330 and 238,213 respectively.

For the same period, Nigeria averaged 43 applications. Again, between 2006 and 2009, scientists in China published an average number of 50,376 research papers in peer reviewed journals; Nigerian scientists only succeeded in publishing 440 papers.

According to Tomori, about the only glimmer of hope for ST in Nigeria came in 2006, and the glimmer has since dimmed into pitch darkness.

That year, President Olusegun Obasanjo announced a US$5 billion endowment fund for the establishment of a National Science Foundation (NSF).

This attracted global attention, including comments and an editorial in the journal Nature.

The editorial while calling the plan “far-sighted”, also described setting up a politically independent science agency with an endowment to ensure long-term viability is an “eminently sensible use of windfall oil revenues”.

The Nature editorial concluded that “if it all comes to fruition, Obasanjo will be leaving a “spectacular legacy” for science not just in Nigeria, but also for the continent” Obasanjo left office without a kobo being released to the still born NSF.

The same Obasanjo had earlier in 2001, donated US$ 5 million to the African Academy of Science, to promote inter-African cooperation and integration through effective application of science and technology that are important to the continent.

His successor in 2012 decided to revive the fund under a new name The National Science Research, Technology and Innovation Fund, as an independent board and headed by the President Jonathan himself. Up till he left office, specifics on how it will operate were not released

Tomori said to be fair to the government; it has initiated programmes for the funding of research, example Education Tax Fund (ETF), Science and Technology Education Post-Basic project (STEPB).

However, he said, the success and performance of these interventions have not attained the desired objectives.

These agencies have not operated independently, with both grantor and grantee, often not subject to accountability and rigorous auditing.

“According to the Executive Chairman, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the fund spent over N300 billion on transformation of tertiary institutions in the country from 2009 to date. (2013).

The amount was spent on provision of infrastructure and training of lecturers with a view to prepositioning the education sector for better performance20 in addition, more than 8,000 lecturers in tertiary institutions had been sent abroad to pursue master’s and Doctorate degree programmes during the same period.

However, in the Daily Trust edition of September 28, 2013, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, indicated that in the 2013 Appropriation Bill, no capital budget allocation was made to the TETFund.”

Tomori further said the activities of the fund were interventionist in nature and observed that various proprietors of these establishments have abdicated and abandoned the funding of the sector to the fund.

This, he said, has greatly reduced the impact of the fund in funding the education sector in the last five years.

According to him, unnecessary political interference in the implementation of beneficiary’s projects, which has led to delay in execution, poor workmanship and cost overrun as well as inexperienced desk officers for the fund’s projects in the states have caused poor workmanship and mismanagement of projects.

According to Tomori, despite government efforts to improve facilities in our universities, a major setback for effective utilization or operation of these funds and facilities for research funds is the poor infrastructures and facilities – electric power supply, water etc. “Electricity power supply in Nigeria is so erratic and unreliable that what we get is EPI-LECTRIC.

Every establishment, (tertiary institution included), provides, at huge cost, its own electricity for running operations.

One of the universities, a small private university with a student population of 5000, spends over N12 million monthly, purchasing diesel to power generators supplying electricity to the academic areas for 12-14 hours a day.”

A growing worry, he said, is the poor rate of accessing available research grants by researchers. Tomori said it would appear that our academicians have lost interest in conducting research.

“Otherwise how can we account for federal and state governments lamenting the failure of tertiary institutions to access research funds?” The Executive Secretary of TETFund, was reported to have said that some federal and state universities are yet to access the about N121 billion intervention fund provided through TETFund to the universities.

Former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, had also expressed concern over the non-utilization of N1.5 billion in the state’s 2013 budget earmarked for the funding of research in tertiary institutions.

“I have a personal experience. During the first two sessions of our university, we allocated some N20 million to support staff in conducting research. Not one proposal was written for the two years! I had occasion in the Senate to appeal to the Professors to take advantage of the funds and submit proposals. I told them I did not expect Assistant Lecturers to submit proposals when their professors have woefully failed to do so,” Tomori said.

Implementation of National Science, Technology Innovation Roadmap 2030

The FMST had announced plans to fast track implementation of the National Science, Technology Innovation Roadmap 2030 (NASTIR 2030).

Director of Science and Technology Promotion in the ministry, Dr. Ekanem Udoh, told journalists that the ministry would use its Science, Technology and Innovation EXPO 2019 (STI EXPO) to fast track the roadmap implementation.

According to him, the theme of the STI EXPO 2019, which held between January 14 and January 18, 2019 in Enugu State, was “Science, Technology and Innovation for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth”.

He stated: “NASTIR 2030 is an integrated roadmap 2017-2030 meant to catalyse Nigeria’s economic growth and competitiveness.”

Udoh stated that the objectives of STI EXPO 2019 included encouraging interactions between researchers and investors with a view to commercialising research results, inventions and innovations from Nigeria’s research and tertiary institutions.

Others, he said, were bringing to the fore, the capacities of Nigerian scientists, engineers, investors/inventors in contributing to sustainable development of Nigeria and promoting collaborations among research institutions and researchers/inventors.

The EXPO facilitated growth of indigenous manufacturing hinged on STI, as well as promoted culture in Nigeria and fast track the implementation of NASTIR 2030 and Presidential Executive Order No.5.

According to him, the EXPO 2019 featured an exhibition of research and development results, inventions/innovations and STI products and services.

He said: “STI entrepreneurial exhibition, investors/researchers forum, technical sessions on emerging STI issues, special days for organisations and states, among others, assessment of research and development results, inventions/ innovations and STI products and services were also on display.”

He noted that prizes and certificates were awarded to outstanding exhibitors in the categories of tertiary institutions, research institutions, investors/innovators, STI entrepreneurs, and junior engineers technicians and scientists.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said that it requires N180 billion for effective funding of science, technology and innovation in the country in the next three years.

This is contained in the NASTIR 2030.

According to the document, in the short term lasting from 2018 to 2020, the country will require N180bn to fund the sector for the first three years.

It said: “The estimated funding requirement for the short-term NSTIR programme is N180bn over three years, which averages just N60bn per year.

“It should be noted that the budget passed for science and technology for Nigeria in 2014 was a paltry N36bn out of a total national budget of N4.9tn, which was 0.73 per cent of that national budget.

“There has not been much improvement on budget allocation to the STI in Nigeria. An allocation of three to four per cent would be adequate to generate significant advancement to the benefit of Nigeria.”

Outlining the sources of funds, the FG said 15 per cent would come from the National Research and Development Fund and the NSTIR programme.

Other sources are 50 per cent from government allocation; 15 per cent from public and private partnership fund; 10 per cent from international science and promotion and 10 per cent from venture capital funds.

Neglected Space programme
NASRDA was established on August 1, 2001 after preparation period since in 1998 by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the Nigerian government with a primary objective of establishing a “fundamental policy for the development of space science and technology” with an initial budget of $93 million.

In May 2006, the new extended national space programme was adopted.

Indeed, more countries have now made giant strides in their space programme. Most notably and recently are China and India. But NASRDA that promised to send an astronaut to the moon by 2030 has become almost inactive.

With a budget less that 0.1 per cent of the 2019 proposed budget, what can they do? Little wonder that NASRDA, on the last World Science Day, November 10, 2018, called for increased S&T budget to boost development in the sector.

The UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted world Science Day for Peace and Development, marked on November 10 every year, in 2001.

The day was set aside to highlight the important role that science played in the society and the need to engage wider publics in debates on emerging scientific issues.

Chairman, Space Ambassadorship Programme of NASDRA, Dr. Benjamin Ayatunji, appealed to the government for special intervention funds to build its Assembly Integration and Testing Laboratory (AITL).

He said: “In developing science and technology in Nigeria there is a need to increase funding for the sector. In Nigeria, you notice that S&T budget is always among the least and no nation can develop beyond its capacity.

“We are talking of developing S&T but the agency has been struggling to build its AITL over the past 12 years.

“Building the lab cannot be achieved with the slim budget that comes to the sector and at this point the agency needs a special intervention fund to build that.”

Indeed, the major problem that is plaguing the NASRDA is the unavailability of sufficient funds to effectively execute their mandate.

The Centre for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD) has attested to the wealth in human capital the country possesses; however, they lack the financial support to set up the AITL centres, which is at the heart of the space programme.

Until now, the Nigerian government has launched five satellites into outer space. Early plans to launch a national satellite in 1976 were not executed.

The NigeriaSat-1 was the first Nigerian satellite and built by a United Kingdom-based satellite technology company, Surrey Space Technology Limited (SSTL limited) under the Nigerian government sponsorship for $30 million. The satellite was launched by Kosmos-3M rocket from Russian Plesetsk spaceport on 27 September 2003.

Nigeriasat-1 was part of the worldwide Disaster Monitoring Constellation System (DMCS).

The primary objectives of the Nigeriasat-1 were: to give early warning signals of environmental disaster; to help detect and control desertification in the northern part of Nigeria; to assist in demographic planning; to establish the relationship between vectors and the environment that breeds malaria and to give early warning signals on future outbreaks of meningitis using remote sensing technology; to provide the technology needed to bring education to all parts of the country through distant learning; and to aid in conflict resolution and border disputes by mapping out state and International borders.

NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, Nigeria’s third and fourth satellites were built as a high-resolution earth satellite by SSTL for DMCS also.

The NigeriaSat-2/X spacecraft was built at a cost of over £35 million. This satellite was launched into orbit by Ukrainian Dnepr rocket from a Yasny military base in Russia on 17 August 2011.

NigComSat-1, a Nigerian satellite ordered and built in China in 2004, was Nigeria’s second satellite and Africa’s first communication satellite.

It was launched on May 13, 2007, aboard a Chinese Long March 3B carrier rocket, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China.

NigComSat and NASRDA operated the spacecraft. On November 11, 2008, NigComSat-1 failed in orbit after running out of power due to an anomaly in its solar array.

On March 24, 2009 the FMST, NigComSat Limited and CGWIC signed a further contract for the in-orbit delivery of the NigComSat-1R satellite. NigComSat-1R was also a DFH-4 satellite, and was delivered in the fourth quarter of 2011 as a replacement for the failed NigComSat-1.

On December 19, 2011, a new Nigerian communications satellite was launched into orbit by China in Xichang.

Former Director General of NASRDA, Dr. Robert Ajayi Boroffice, announced at a public lecture on space technology development that Nigeria would be able to build indigenous satellites in the country without foreign assistance by 2018.

Ajayi Boroffice, who was also the past Chairman Senate Committee of S&T, disclosed also that Nigeria would take advantage of its geographic location to launch into near-equatorial orbit by indigenous developed space launcher from a national spaceport to be built near 2025-2028 with possible help from Ukraine.

Also, the country had plans for moon planetary probe for launch in 2030.

He had promised that the first Nigerian astronaut is scheduled to launch abroad a foreign spacecraft sometime between 2015 and 2020.

Negotiations with Russia were held in the 2000s for astronaut transportation. Moreover, after Nigerian space partner China launched the Shenzhou rocket in 2011, China has been planning to take on foreign astronauts.

China is seen as a more likely country of choice for flying a Nigerian astronaut to space than Russia given current relations.

Nigeria’s stagnated nuclear power programme
Since 2004 Nigeria has a Chinese-origin research reactor at Ahmadu Bello University, and has sought the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop plans for up to 4,000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2027 according to the National Programme for the Deployment of Nuclear Power for Generation of Electricity.

Nigeria hoped to begin construction in 2011 and start nuclear power production in 2017-2020.

On July 27, 2007 Nigeria’s former President Umaru Yar’Adua had urged the country to embrace nuclear power in order to meet its growing energy needs.

In April 2015, Nigeria began talks with Russia’s state-owned Rosatom to collaborate on the design, construction and operation of four nuclear power plants by 2035, the first of which will be in operation by 2025. In June 2015, Nigeria selected two sites for the planned construction of the nuclear plants.

Neither the Nigerian government nor Rosatom would disclose the specific locations of the sites, but it is believed that the nuclear plants will be sited in Akwa Ibom State, in South-South Nigeria, and Kogi State, in the central northern part of the country. Both sites are planned to house two plants each.

Paying lip service to traditional medicine development
Despite several studies that have demonstrated how Nigeria can make up to N360 billion ($1 billion) a month from the herbal medicine industry, if government provides the enabling environment, government’s inaction by not providing adequate funding has left plans to develop traditional medicine practices especially herbal medicine in the cold.

The Guardian investigation revealed the plans by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Nigeria Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to verify herbal cure claims after clinical trials might have been aborted due to lack of funds.

It was also gathered that the promise by the past administration to introduce herbal medicine into the curricula of medical schools has not been matched with any circular to that effect.

Also, a Scientific Committee on Verification of Herbal Cure Claims set up by NAFDAC in 2013 had identified 15 potential novel herbal drugs but there were no funds to continue with the development. In fact due to paucity of funds, the committee has not met since 2014.

Little attempt made by the FG to advance the practice such as the development of the Traditional Medicine (TM) Policy for Nigeria in 2007, the establishment of NNMDA Lagos, and the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) Abuja have not been backed up by the political will and adequate funding.

The Minister of S&T told journalists that plan was in the offing to develop Nigerian herbal medicines for export.

Onu said a situation where traditional medicine from Asian countries flooded Nigerian markets called for serious attention from government, saying there was need to look inward to develop local herbs for export.

He added: “We are tired of importing everything we need from outside; the time has come for us to look inward and see how we can export our traditional medicines.”

According to him, many diseases that appear incurable through orthodox medicine can be cured with herbal medicines. But there is no budget line for practice in the 2017 Appropriation Bill as provided by the TM Policy.

Also, a bill for an act to provide for the establishment of the Traditional Medicine Council of Nigeria passed the third reading in the last National Assembly.

The Guardian investigation revealed that there is indeed no funding for TM in Nigeria. The NNMDA got N791.1 million in the 2017 National Budget.

A breakdown shows that bulk of the money is used for paying salaries and they do not have enough to meet their mandates.

The NNMDA was established in 1997 to enable the FG of Nigeria through FMST actualise its critical and strategic mandate to research, develop, document, preserve, conserve and promote Nigeria’s natural medicine (traditional/indigenous healthcare systems, medications and non-medications healing arts, S&T) and assist facilitate their integration into the national healthcare delivery system.

As well as contribute to the nation’s wealth and job creation, socio-economic growth and development effort.

The Guardian investigation revealed that due to poor funding, 22 years after its establishment, NNMDA has not being able to commercialise any of its discoveries in traditional medicine and is yet to export any product.

Sustaining homegrown technology for self-reliance beyond 2019
Onu said that the FG would intensify efforts at strengthening homegrown technology for the purpose of making the country self-reliant.

He restated that the ministry had inaugurated National Strategy for Competitiveness in Raw Materials, Products and Services, to ensure sustainability.

He said that Nigeria would save N3.6 trillion from overall import in five years and create more than four million jobs with the implementation of the strategy.

Onu said: “It is our intention to ensure national capacity to locally-produced acceptable high-quality raw materials, products and services.

“We have successfully formulated Nigeria’s new National Policy on Leather Production; the first of its kind in the history of our nation since independence in 1960.

“This would fast track sustainable development of leather technology that will help to boost industrialisation and enhance growth in our domestic economy.

“By deploying resources to commercialise research findings, new products and service will be created for new jobs, it will reduce poverty and improve the quality of lives of Nigerians.

“It will also help in building strong and resilient domestic economy that is competitive and sustainable.’’

Onu also observed that the Presidential Order Number 5 had opened new opportunities for Nigerian professionals to arrest capital flight, strengthen local capacity and promote local manpower development for the good the nation.

He added: “The ministry successfully formulated high nutrient density biscuit for the children to complement school feeding programme of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

“This will further nurture our young ones with adequate nutritional requirements that will enable them to become productive citizens for sustainable development.’’

He said the ministry had created a strong platform for the development of indigenous technology, noting that the number of patents secured with the assistance of NOTAP, had risen to 54 as against six in 2015 when he became the minister.

He also said that the ministry had progressed to an advanced stage on the local production of solar power electronic-voting solution with cloud-based collection of election results capability.

Onu further stated: “Solar electronic voting solution will further enhance e-voting and help Nigeria in the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.

“The ministry had also recorded a breakthrough by successfully deploying genetic engineering technique in production of two varieties of cotton that are high-yielding and resistant to devastating attack of worms.

“The technique will increase cotton production in the country, as well as reactivate textile industries that used to be the second largest employer of labour in the 1960s and 1970s.’’

So what do we need to do?
Former president of NAS and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, called on the FG to allocate one per cent of the annual budget to R&D. He observed that no nation could attain greatness without STI.

Ibidapo-Obe said: “Increase in financial support towards research activities will advance the nation in a sustainable manner.

“Investing in human resources is also essential to expand the knowledge frontier to move the nation forward.

“Human resources development is the aggregate value of comfort to life, through agriculture and food security, rural development, water and environment, education, health, transportation and economy, among others.

“Researchers in developing countries should therefore focus primarily on aspects of knowledge expansion that relate to human welfare.

“The purpose of research, especially in science and technology, is to expand the knowledge frontier through investment in human capital and thereby innovating research for technology innovations is essential.’’

Tomori said if Nigeria must become an industrialised and manufacturing country, she must initiate and fund major investment in research and development, infrastructure and educational capacity.

He explained: “In the past five years, Asia increased its share of global research and development investment 33 per cent to almost 40 per cent. China went up from 10 per cent to 18 per cent, making it the second largest spender after the US.

This increased investment in research and development by China has double positive effect on China’s development, contributing 60 per cent to economic growth and reducing reliance on foreign technologies to less than 30 per cent.

China in 2011 produced 1.5 million new science and engineering graduates compared to 857,000 in the European Union. South Korea pursued such an initiative in the 1980s and is today a global leader in science and technology.

This is a lesson for Nigeria. We must invest in quality education by investing in, not just the universities and research institutes alone, but in every level of our education.

“In the last 20 years we have attempted to sidetrack developing science and technology and tailoring it to her needs. We have taken a shortcut by importing other peoples finished technology, and calling it transfer of technology.

We import complete knocked down parts of vehicles and appoint a Nigerian Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director to oversee the screwing together of these parts. We have in the last two decades expelled science from our education and banished technology from our shores.

“We have neglected science, misapplied technology and truncated our progress and orderly development.

It is not that we lack the appropriate policies to make Nigeria a great and developed country. What we lack is a national leadership, a national commitment, a national dedication, a national devotion, a national steadfastness and a national will to translate our great policies into productive action plans.”

Tomori said as Nigeria prepares for a continuation of, or a new government in May 2019, it is important to again renew the repeated calls made to numerous past governments.

The virologist said developing science and technology and its harnessing for national development requires:
•A Presidential Research and Innovation Council for effective contribution and synergy in the S&T sector, which is cross cutting and to ensure continuity and seriousness of purpose, the National Research and Innovation Council (NRIC) as inaugurated and chaired by the President and Commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with service wide representation in its composition should be enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

•Research and Innovation Fund In realization of the importance of R&D to Africa’s Development, the African Union (AU) Heads of States resolved in 2007 that a minimum of one per cent of GDP of nations should be dedicated to R&D purposes. This is still un-implemented in Nigeria.

The National Research and Innovation Fund (NRIF) as stipulated in the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy should be made a centralized fund, sourced from government; Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs) from R&D based agencies, private sector and international organisations.

This fund will be utilized for STI activities service wide that will be well managed and closely monitored in line with the international best practices. This should as well be enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

• Increasing and strengthening of the theoretical practical base in terms of quality and quantity, providing the critical mass of S&T experts

•Promoting and maintaining an endogenous S&T base and R&D agenda.

•Directing S&T efforts along identified priorities and national goals.

•Facilitating the acquisition of knowledge to adapt, utilise, replicate and diffuse technologies for growth in a virile system of innovation.

•Supporting the establishing and strengthening of organisations, institutions and structures for effective coordination and management of S&T activities.

•Providing adequate and sustainable funding for the needed infrastructure facilities for training and research and development.

•Increasing public awareness in S&T and their vital role in national development through all possible means, including the media, research and development.

•Promoting the translation of results into actual goods and services example cassava flour in bread and other products, Nicosan drug for sickle cell developed from local West African drugs.

•Mainstreaming S&T into all sectors of Nigeria’s economy.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary, FMST, Mr. Bitrus Nabasu, urged relevant stakeholders to continue their support to the government to ensure that various research findings were converted into products and services.

He observed that there were strong signs that technology could do for Nigeria what it had done for China, South Korea, India and the U.S., among other countries.

“I will like to appreciate the minister for his effort at repositioning the ministry to serve as the bedrock of economic growth in the nation’’, Nabasu said.

Similarly, some scientists called on the FG to redouble its efforts in using STI for accelerated industrialisation for national development.

Former Director, Technology Acquisition and Adaption, FMST, Dr. Adeneye Talabi, told journalists that there should be constant improved financing of scientific research works for advancement of indigenous technology.

He said that such efforts would make the nation to be less dependent on the developed countries in many sectors of the economy.

According to him, human resources and the abundant natural resources of the country ought to be properly harnessed for development.

Dr. Femi Aluko of Department of Community Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, told journalists that proper spending on research would enhance homegrown technology to a reasonable level.

According to him, such effort will advance Nigeria to become a crucial global competitor in science and technology among developing countries.

Aluko said that the nation needed technological inputs to really excel and that Nigeria ought to deepen efforts in research and development to catch up with some Asian countries that were once in the same level of technology.

Aluko added: “The Asian Tigers such as Indonesia, India, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and China among, others were once on the same level of technology development with Nigeria.

“But these countries have been making progress since 1960s in an impressive manner while Nigeria has remained stagnant.’’

On solving the problems of the space programme and satellite exploration, George Etomi & Partners insist that the CSTD also require funds to purchase the effective devices to back-up the institutions data.

“Every institution should have a reliable back-up facility in the event of a natural disaster or an accident that tarnishes the centre’s resources.”

George Etomi & Partners in a publication titled “Overview of space exploration in Nigeria: challenges and solutions for the effective operation of the sector” recommended that private sector investment is also required for the infrastructural advancement of the sector.

The recommendations were published in Lexology.com.

It noted: “As stated earlier, the nation is rich in human capital, however continuous training is required in order to maintain global competitiveness.

Also, the creation of a Design Centre and an Assembling and Integration Centre would allow Nigerians build satellites domestically, thus cutting costs and creating an additional source of revenue by monetizing the facility in the event that other nations desire to utilize our facilities.”

To solve the issue of insufficient funds to achieve their mandate, the publication noted that the sector should be privatized so as to raise sufficient funds and encourage the level of training required to achieve the full potential of the sector.

Alternatively, the stakeholders may consider Public-Private Partnerships between the government and private individuals.

George Etomi and Partners concluded: “Furthermore, the National Space Research and Development Act (2010) may make a provision for the implementation of a separate fund for the attainment of space related solutions and research.

This fund would ensure easy access and disbursement of the funds generated for the purpose of the development of the sector.

“It is also important for the Federal Government to undertake enlightenment programmes to acquaint private sector investors and the general public of the benefits associated with satellite exploration.”

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