Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has said government will establish science and technology villages and museum centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country in 2017.
Towards making the project a reality, the minister who spoke at the convocation ceremony of Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, said the ministry is targeting one per cent of federal budget to finance research and innovation.
According to him, the National Research and Innovation Council (NRIC), which took 30 years to hold its first meeting has already met three times in 2016.
Onu said: “A bill to institutionalise the NRIC as well as the National Research and Innovation Fund (NRIF) will soon be before the Federal Executive Council for onward transmission to the National Assembly for enactment into law.”
While recalling nurturing the plans several years ago, he said, the pioneering spirit has been with him for long, adding, I remember vividly how more than 20 years ago in 1992, as governor of old Abia State, I started work on the establishment of a technology village in the state.
He said: “At that time, we had purchased computers for distribution to selected primary and secondary schools in the state.
On the ministry’s plans at commercialising research findings, he said though it was difficult to achieve, the government is determined to succeed.
“We have strengthened inter-agency cooperation and promoted a cordial relationship between industry and research institutes as well as between universities and research institutes.
“We have encouraged the commercialisation of research findings, as well as the protection of intellectual property through patents. We have on several occasions seen the sad effect, on our economy, whenever there is a sharp drop in the prices of commodities in the international market.”
According to him, the ministry is working hard to move the economy from a resource-based to a knowledge-based and innovation driven economy.
He said: “As the developed countries of the world spend enormous resources on research and innovation in order to fully exploit the huge contributions of science and technology in nation building, Nigeria did not do so in the past. We are working to ensure that this changes.
“In the years to come, we can no longer afford to pay lip-service to the development of science and technology. We must see it as our future and hence work very hard to utilise it as an important tool for enduring and sustainable development.
“The current state of science and technological development is a big challenge as well as a wake-up call for us to rise up and fully embrace science, technology and innovation in biotechnology, chemical technology, food safety and security, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics and space technology.
The minister, while acknowledging that the country is not doing well in research, said: “We should reorder our national priorities so that in the next one or two years, we should be spending at least one per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research and innovation.
“This percentage should gradually increase with time, such that in the next 25 years we will be spending at least 3 per cent of our GDP on research and innovation. We should work very hard to commercialise research findings.”
According to him, ideas are only meaningful when converted into goods and services available in the market place for the good of Nigerians.
“The linkage between research institutes and industry must be strengthened just as that between universities and research institutes. Government, industry, universities and research institutes must work together for the common good.
“Our research efforts for now, in the short term, should focus on agriculture and energy. Nigeria must be able to feed herself.
“Nigeria should use science and technology to support food production, storage, safety, processing and preservation. Nigeria must be secure. Nigeria must achieve food security. We should also achieve energy security,” he said.