News Analysis by Cecilia Ologunagba, Tolu Aiyegbusi, Sunkanmi Onifade, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Expectedly, varied opinions ushered in Nigeria’s 59th independence, recently, with many citizens of the most populous black nation divided on whether or not the nation has cause to celebrate the annual event as a sovereign geo-political entity.
While many citizens believe that Nigeria has nothing to celebrate, for what they describe as lack of technological development among other parameters, others say the country has the potential to be a great nation in scientific and technological development.
Those on the latter school of thought anchor their argument on the fact that, all the nation needs is a push, in form of political will, to get to the promise land in achieving feat in science and technology.
Others specifically call for investment in science and technology sector to put the country on the world map as a nation to be reckoned with in science and technology.
No doubt, many Nigerians, especially intellectuals and others are alike are of the opinion that while Nigeria cannot be said to have arrived in terms of tangible leap in science and technology, it is also not a fledgling entity in the sector.
The majority view is that the 59 years of Nigeria’s journey to nationhood has seen her making some significant steps in science and technology, first with the establishment of 17 parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
They include National Board for Technology Incubation, Energy Commission of Nigeria, The Nigerian Institute of Science Laboratory Technology and National Space Research Development Agency and others.
Analysts note that most of the aforementioned institutes are functioning and contributing to the realisation of scientific and technological dream of the nation.
A science and technology expert, Jones Oni, has lauds the government for efficiently applying science and technology in each sector of the economy, to achieve the desired results.
Oni, the founder of VineTech Hub, Abuja said government had achieved a lot in the area of science, technology and innovation (STI), by embracing new technologies and applying them to key sectors of the economy.
He, however, urged application of emerging innovations to critical areas such as finance, transportation, education and security for the nation to achieve its millennium development goals.
“No country in the world of today can achieve its desired goals or project without adopting emerging technologies or innovation, it is impossible.
“It is only by so doing that government can achieve sustainable development and build solid economy.
He further noted that sectors such as education, transportation, finance, security among others, where the government had introduced innovation, had brought about positive economic changes in the country.
“The introduction of computer-based test (CBT), single treasury account, as innovation in all government agencies and parastals has reduced corruption and strengthens the educational system.
“Tracking, electronic networking has also helped in the fight against terrorism, kidnapping and clear out their hideouts,“ according to him.
However, there has been growing concern on the need for the leadership to give increased interest in investing more in science and technology, if Nigeria must make the desired in road into science and technology development in the world.
This the stakeholders became imperative to boost research development through increase funding of research in science and technology for improved value and enhanced commercialisation patent products.
A Professor of Chemical Engineering, Okechukwu Ukwuoma, identified absence of venture capital market as one of the challenges in the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) sector.
Ukwuoma, Director-General of National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM), stressed the aid need for the country to have viable venture market, boost research and development in science and technology.
“When we have increased research and development output in science and technology, this will boost the end results of research.
“It is because of this gap that is making it look as if Nigerians are not productive in the area of research and development.
“Also, people prefer to buy things abroad instead of looking inward to develop what we have and patronise our own indigenous technologies, “ he said.
According to him, the advancement in STI has been trajectory, since independence because the Ministry of Science and Technology has had teething problem in delivery on its mandate effectively.
The director-general said another problem was the policy of merger and demerger of the ministry with other agencies.
“It has not been a smooth trajectory for the ministry which has affected the development of science and technology in the country.’’
Ukwuoma commended the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, for projecting the sector and giving it a different perspective.
He said one of the activities that the minister introduced was STI Expo which had been holding for the past three years.
“The Expo showcases what Nigerians are producing, what researchers are producing and all these things are documented.
“Anybody who wants to know what is available in the sphere of STI, it can be made available from the documented information from the Expo.’’
In addition, he said another challenge in the sector was the ability to measure achievement since the output of STI was not tangible.
Ukwuoma further mentioned funding as one of the challenges in the sector, saying:
“Funding is the basis for STI; funding being the basis also means that we should encourage Nigerians to look inward.
“Encourage them do not mean that we should call them to market, but to provide them with enabling environment for the best result.
“Once the enabling environment is there, then people can look inward and see what they can produce, but if the enabling environment is not there, it will discourage people to invest in science and technology sector.’’
The Ministry of Science and Technology has the mandate to facilitate the development and deployment of science and technology apparatus to enhance the pace of socio-economic development of the country.
Contributing, a leather technologist, Dr Solomon Tanko, urged the Federal Government to key into global trade leather market, properly, to create jobs for youths in the country.
“Nigeria can produce quality leather with the provision of enabling environment.
“In terms of processing, leather is very easy to process, we have the technology but it involves a lot of equipment and chemicals to do that.
“I can assure you that when we talk about investment in leather, Nigerian economy can be improved and translate to developing the leather industry,“he said.
He said leather as an article of international trade had changed the economies of many nations such as Italy, Spain and some Asian countries, through its robust value chain, adding that Nigeria should not be left behind.
“The global leather trade is puts at 100 billion dollars per annum. Therefore, it is natural for Nigeria to key into global trade property to create jobs for our youths.
“This will avail the country the opportunity to produce and meet the local demand as well as increase our exports to earn foreign exchange and as increase the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Besides, if the 200 million reported population in the country can buy a pair of leather shoe in a year, you can see that it is a big market.
“It is unfortunate that Nigeria is importing shoes instead of us to be exporting to other countries.’’
“The market for leather products is available, the technology is also available and we have all it takes to produce leather for international market.“
“We conducted a research and the first day in Kano Metropolis alone, we collected over four million pieces of skin from ram and sheep.
“If we continue, we will get five times of that, particularly the skin of sheep which can be used for warm clothing and other purposes.
“We are fortunate in this country, that we are within a temperate region and do not use them for clothing, we use them for bags and shoes.
“In the temperate region, the countries have to continue to import sheep skins into their countries to be able to produce warm clothing,“ he said.
According to him, sheep skin is a value material; even the goat skin is a material that is highly demanded in the international market. We have hides from other animals.
“In fact, in the business of leather, you can use the skin of any animal; we have raw skin from fish, from bird and even chicken.
“There is nothing we cannot get raw skin from. It depends on what you want to produce.
He also called for heavy investment in science and technology for the nation to achieve best result in the sector.
When all is said and done, the fact remains that Nigeria has all it takes to achieve her dream of becoming a technological giant nation in the world.
This, analysts believe, is possible if much cognisance is given to heavy investment and boost research in science and technology.