By Adedayo Akinwale in AbujaÂ
The Minister of Science â€Žand Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu has expressed worry that Nigeria spent over $6 billion on emoluments annually, out of which $3 billion leaves the shores of the country through capital flight, thus putting additional pressure on the Naira.
He said it was disheartening that in spiteÂ of the high unemployment rate in the country, Nigeria still import an estimated 1 million artisanal from other West African countries.
The minister revealed this while declaring open the 2017 Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NIBRRI) International Conference with the theme, â€˜Emerging Materials and Technologies for Sustainable Building and Road Infrastructure.â€™
He decried the enormous housing challenges being faced by Nigerians living in rural areas and city slums in providing decent, efficient but cheap accommodation for themselves and members of their families.
The minister noted that the Institute’s research should concentrate on building materials and methods that could help Nigeria have access to a decent accommodation.
Onu stated: “The training of artisans plays a direct role toward mitigating the challenges of capital flight. It is disheartening that an estimated one million artisanal labour are imported from other â€Ž countries like Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, China and Korea.
“This is happening at a time when many Nigerians are unemployed and are looking for work to do. It is even more disheartening that over $6 billion is spent on emoluments yearly, out of which half of this figure ($3 billion) leaves the shores of the country.
“It is easy to imagine the additional pressure this capital flight puts on our currency. No wonder the Naira remains under additional pressure which has resulted in its devaluation.”
The minister however said that with the recently commissioned NIBRRI Artisan Centre in Ota, Ogun Stateâ€Ž, the country would be able to build indigenous artisan capacity to build the career potentials and competencies of the teeming youth population who could service not only the country’s need but also other countries.
Onu charged the conference to concentrate its effort on how research must be demand-driven, adding that research and innovation must target important needs of the nation.
Earlier, the Director General of NIBRRI, Prof. Danladi Matawalâ€Ž said that construction materials have been touted to constitute about 60per cent of cost building infrastructure, depending on the complexity and finishing of the structure.
He noted that in spite of this realisation, many of the construction materials used in the provision of building and road infrastructure in Nigeria are sourced wholly or partly as finished or raw materials from outside the country.
Matawal stressed that aside putting pressure on scarce foreign exchange, it also exposes the construction industry and indeed Nigeria to undue dependence on foreign content, while reducingâ€Ž the capacity of increasing local content and acquiring local expertise experience in development of building and road infrastructure best suited to the inheritance environment.
“Though some concerted efforts have been made in developing suitable and tested construction materials in the past primarily at NBRRI, as well as other tertiary institutions, the input is little or nothing compared to the potentials of the country,” the DG stated.
Matawal said the country needs to take note that in many technological innovative areas gaining ground globally, academics, researchers and practitioners in Nigeria need to make concerned effort to keep abreast of developments in other parts of the world.