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Using science and technology to boost national economy



From all indications, the Federal Government is determined to foster national development by closing existing technology gaps.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, gave the assurance when he recently featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.

He said that all the agencies under his ministry, particularly the National Office for Technology and Acquisition Promotion (NOTAP), would be fully engaged to fast-track the country’s development, using technological applications.

“We have the national technology acquisition promotion initiative that will close the technology gaps which we have in the country. There are a lot of technology gaps almost in all sectors.

“We have a basket of incentives, some will come from NOTAP, some will come from the Ministry of Trade and Investment and some will come from the Ministry of Finance.

“These are incentives for companies that come into Nigeria, not only to make profits but also to transfer skills that will enable Nigerians to acquire the technology,’’ he said.

The minister said that for instance, the Federal Government, through the ministry, had facilitated the commercial production of high-nutrient biscuits, which were the outcome of a research of Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO)

He said that the government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NASCO Foods Limited, Jos, for the production of high-nutrient density biscuits for the National School Feeding Programme.

According to him, the MoU indicates President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s commitment to fulfilling its campaign promise to provide quality education in the country.

“The MoU was meant to provide a strategic guide for the collaboration between the Ministry of Science and Technology, FIIRO and NASCO Foods Limited on the commercial production of high-nutrient density biscuits.

“The initiative was an innovation of FIIRO for the National School Feeding Programme in the spirit of Public-Private Partnership being promoted by the government.

“This is based on the realisation that an institute on its own cannot make the much-desired impact without collaborating with relevant organisations.

“With this collaboration, jobs and wealth will be created, while the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be enhanced through the productive sector of the economy,’’ he said.

The minister, however, said that the choice of Nasco Foods Limited for the production of the high-nutrient density biscuit, an innovation of FIRRO, was based on the company’s integrity and experience in the industry.

Besides, Onu said that Project Development Institute (PRODA) would also play a crucial role in efforts to promote national development by bridging existing technology gaps.

He said that the ministry had directed the institute to produce pencils.

“We consume pencils in millions, considering the number of primary school pupils, artists and architects that use pencil. And all the component parts of pencil are in Nigeria.

“What we want is to use our own raw materials to produce all the component parts for making pencil because that is how we can create jobs.

“If you bring in the machines and the parts from outside, you are not creating jobs. If you have to process, add value to our own locally available raw materials; then, you will create a large pool of jobs.

“After that is done, we will now look at those machines that we can redesign and produce in Nigeria.

“Through that way, we can also create a new set of jobs,’’ he said.

Onu underscored the need for Nigeria to adopt modern technological applications in its efforts to diversify its sources of revenue and economy.

He expressed optimism that the success of the on-going projects would encourage Nigerian entrepreneurs to stay and do business in the country.

The minister said that the Federal Government would also sensitise Nigerians to the need to patronise made-in-Nigeria products, particularly vehicles.

Onu explained that the only way to make Nigeria a manufacturing country was to encourage local manufacturers to produce goods and grow the economy.

“We already have made-in-Nigeria vehicles; we want to champion the idea of Nigerians looking inwards and thinking Nigeria by patronising made-in-Nigeria products so as to encourage our own local manufacturers.

“It is very important. That is the only way that we can ever become a producer nation because we cannot continue to be a consumer nation alone; it won’t help us.

“We must all start to think of how we can help our own local producers. The emphasis should not be only on automobiles; it should be on all products,’’ he said.

Nevertheless, Onu assured Nigerians that the government would ensure that vehicle manufacturers in the country maintained the minimum standards that were obtainable anywhere in the world.

On Nigeria’s space programme, the minister said that the time for the proposed launch of a made-in-Nigeria satellite, earlier fixed for 2018, might be extended due to logistic issues.

He, nonetheless, underscored the need for Nigeria to take advantage of space science and technology.

“This is because space science and technology has direct impact on agriculture, environment, and health.

“Satellite can facilitate education delivery, particularly distance learning, and it can also assist in defence.

“For instance, if you have the right satellite to monitor what is happening in areas where there is insurgency, you can now go exactly there and get what you want.

“It is also very important to our economy; we just have to ensure that we are not excluded from the uses of space science and technology,’’ he said.

The minister said that the Federal Government would build a science and technology museum in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country.

He said that the rationale behind the venture was to stimulate the children’s interest in science and technology.

“The science museum is very important. We want our young people to have interest in science and technology; a Science and Technology and Innovation Museum will do a lot for us.

“For all the natural phenomena that happen such as lightning or rainfall; we will have explanations on them there.

“In the museums, we will arrange the equipment in a way that will enable children to start developing interest in science and technology from an early age.

“Then, adults will also like to go there because we also showcase our major achievements in science and technology across the country,’’ he said.

Similarly, Onu said that the Federal Government would soon begin work on SHESTCO Silicon Valley, as funds had already been allocated for the project in the 2016 budget.

“We are going to start a technology village. The money allocated for it is not much but we thank President Buhari and we have been assured of more support.

“We will start work; our intention is to have a technology village in each of the six zones,’’ he said.

Analysts believe that if the government’s plans to develop the science and technology sector are properly executed, practical opportunities will be opened in efforts to diversify the nation’s economy.

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