Making Science And Technology A Top Priority

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President Muhammadu Buhari and Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology

Unarguably, technological development has direct relationship with citizens’ standard of living of a country.Scientists, therefore, assert that it is important for Nigeria to appreciate the potency of science and technology to bring about significant changes in the citizens’ lives.
They note that countries such as the United Kingdom and France benefited immensely from the industrial revolution of the 19th century, observing also that the United States emerged from an agrarian economy to an industrial superpower in the 20th century through effective application of science and technology.
According to them, when local technology is developed, it enhances the vision of leadership, provides institutional framework, and enables policy and capacity building, among others.
They also hold a strong belief that the level of technology development of a country will determine its level of socio-economic improvement.
In addition to the Federal Government’s efforts at providing a sustainable platform for such development in Nigeria, therefore, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, called on the Nigerian Diaspora to contribute their experience in that regard.
Onu made this appeal when he addressed newsmen in Abuja on his visit to the U. S., Saudi Arabia and Portugal  recently.
According to him, such efforts from the Diaspora will fast track national development and ensure robust national economy.
“In New York, we decided to invite inventors, innovators and investors, we made our Nigerian foreign inventors to start thinking home and come to invest in our research and development,’’ he said.
He said his visit to Saudi Arabia was at the invitation of Islamic Development Bank (IDB), observing that the bank was interested in the area of commercialisation of research findings in Nigeria.
“Even though we are not investing much as the nation on research and innovation, our research institutes and agencies have been working hard and many of them have come up with research findings.
“Some are patented and many of these have reached a level where they should be commercialised.
“We are convinced that the idea of promoting made-in-Nigeria products can only be reasonably achieved when we can manufacture goods in the country,’’ he said.
According to him, commercialisation would lead to job and wealth creation through local production to fight poverty.
The minister also said he attended a meeting in Portugal on finding a mechanism to manage resources of the Atlantic Ocean with countries that had boundary with the oceans.
He observed that the Ocean “is an area that science knew very little about presently and knowledge will be needed on how to manage resources from the ocean.
“We concluded that there will be international research centres with the headquarters in Portugal and in some countries, including Nigeria.’’
Apart from this, the Director of Bio-resource Technology Department in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr Abayomi Oguntade, said Federal Government had been encouraging the improvement of local food processing.
He said research on food process and nutrition of the native crop by the ministry was mainly carried out by an institute of the ministry — Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, Lagos.
He expressed optimism that research findings of the institute would improve food products suitable for commercialisation by small, medium and large scale entrepreneurs.
Oguntade said agricultural wastes such as cassava peel and okra had been appropriately processed and blended with conventional feed ingredients at predetermined levels for the development of a nutritious feed for a day old broiler chicks.
The institute, according to him, had used its food technology to produce high nutrient density biscuit, ready- to-use therapy for management of severe acute malnutrition, onion paste and value added products from indigenous onion varieties.
But former Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, expressed concern that while science and technology sector in Nigeria was somewhat deficient, almost all sectors of an economy are linked to it.
As a minister then, she spoke at a lecture in Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Agbani.
She said advances in science and technology could help to diversify the economy by improving productivity in sectors such as agriculture.
“Developing countries cannot hope to prosper in an increasingly competitive global economy and open trading system if they do not build the appropriate science and technology capacity to produce more value-added goods and services.
“Nigeria is making some contributions to the development of science and technology, but we are under-performing relative to our abundant human capital.
“I know that Nigerian scientists are making progress, sending our own satellite into orbit; I am also aware of developments in medical science, such as drugs used in combating sickle cell and other diseases; but a majority of these remain at the formative stages,’’ she noted.
She said Nigeria needed a better and more coherent national strategy, alleging that the science and technology sector remained highly fragmented.
“Some of these institutions have been in existence for more than 30 years, yet there is little to show for their work as Nigeria still relies on research done internationally.
“If public sector research institutes in other countries can develop major technological advances like the internet and the human genome project, what is wrong with our own?” she asked.
The former minister said policy makers at all levels in Nigeria should be aware that few countries could achieve development goals of economic diversification and absolute poverty-free society without developing its science and technology sector.
Meanwhile, analysts agree that Nigeria should evolve developed science and technology sector as the most radical development of the 21st century, to facilitate speedy information transmission, high level decision making and in opening vast opportunities for information sharing among individuals, companies and governmental institutions.
Agbeja writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN.

Gabriel Agbeja