Seek increased funding of technology research
Lawmakers have blamed the slow growth in technology development in Nigeria on poor implementation of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) funds and others.
Besides, the lawmakers fumed that government agencies which were established to revolutionise job creation opportunities or to develop technologies for industrial development are either poorly funded or abandoned, even as there is pervading poverty, unemployment and general capacity underutilisation leading to mass frustration among Nigerians.
Indeed, the lawmakers, who are members of the House Committee on Science and Technology, promised to assist NASENI secure more statutory funds from the Federal Government in carrying out its various research and development mandate, even as they pledged their commitment to help the Agency achieve the collection of levy on income or turn-over of commercial companies operating in Nigeria as stipulated in NASENI’s Act 2004 Part VI 2(b) Laws of the Federation.
The NASENI, an organisation set up by the Federal Government to produce home-grown technologies, local capital goods, machines and equipment targeted at reducing over-dependence on importation by Nigeria’s manufacturing sector. These include all engineering inputs and technology need for operations by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) within the country’s borders, suffer underfunding.
The House committee led by its chairperson, Beni Lar, undertook oversight function on NASENI Headquarters at the weekend in Abuja. The committee members, according to a statement made available to The Guardian, and signed by the Chief Information Officer of NASENI, Olusegun Ayeoyenikan, were amazed by the technology development they saw on ground in NASENI.
There were a quantum of state of the art technologies, machines and equipment already produced by the Agency awaiting commercialisation, but it lacked the required funding to make the technologies find their ways to market stage such that Nigerian public could benefit.
Lar said: “I think what we need to do is to sit down with Nigeria Budget office to critically look at the necessity to fund Agencies like NASENI. Nigeria needs technology in order to tap both its vast human, material resources and to control, in the most efficient manner, its national development initiatives toward the direction of sustainable development. Application of and updating of knowledge is what make an economy sustainable, and that service is what Agencies like NASENI and the likes of them are doing for Nigeria. Therefore they require our maximum support and funding.”
Interestingly, the National Assembly (NASENI Act 2004) prescribed payment to NASENI: ‘Levy on income or turnover of commercial companies and firms with turnover of N4 million and above, which shall be: At the rate of ¼ per cent in the first instance collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) or by any other suitable means as may be specified by the Agency credited to the account of the Agency.
The non-implementation of this law disappointed the lawmakers against the background of the potential of NASENI, which by now should have turned the industrialisation fortunes of Nigeria around positively.
“How we pray the Federal Government had been diligent in implementing this funding aspect of the law of NASENI, thereby assisting the Agency to produce industrial capital goods, machines and equipment to achieve an efficient industrial sector. It will also help us to save foreign exchange currently flying out of the country on account of importation of such goods and technologies by the Nigeria’s manufacturing sector,” the lawmakers lamented.
NASENI currently has to its credit the development of home-grown technologies awaiting commercialisation in the areas of 7.5 Kilowatt Solar technologies facility, Propeller Turbines Power Generation technology, 35 killowatt Cross Flow Small Hydro Turbine, five killowatt Kinetic Hydro turbine facility, First Made in Nigeria Tricycle and Motorcycle.
Others include: Nano science and Nano-Medicine facilities, Rotary Furnace manufacturing technology (all on commercial scale), Pole mounted Transformer, Integrated Cassava flour Manufacturing facility, Energy saving bulb manufacturing technology, Multi Grain threshing Machine and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Facility.
The latest machine developed by the Agency, which was launched last week was the Electronic Voting Machine powered by solar energy. These and many more of such technology products are at different stages of commercialisation and mass production by the Agency but the processes are currently hampered by inadequate funding.
“There is no way out of economic recession or poverty doldrums except by revitalising a productive national economy,” said Lar. However, a special task also has been handed down by the Lawmakers to NASENI to develop an efficient Nigeria home-made refinery in order to reduce the current huge out-flow of foreign exchange by Nigeria in importing petroleum product: PMS, gas and kerosene.
According to the Lawmakers, the funding mechanism for NASENI and other similar research and development institutes in Nigeria, need to be changed from the regular yearly budget system to a more predictable source of funding.