As Nigeria plans to diversify its economy in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, experts have identified Science, Technology and Innovation as the major instrument for national economic development.

Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, while declaring open the 2020 Science and Technology and Innovation Expo said that the sector has capacity to bind Nigerians together in the common pursuit of creating more jobs and wealth, reducing poverty, strengthening the naira, reawakening a sense of pride and ultimately stimulating growth in Nigeria’s economy.

Over the years, the field of Science, Technology and Innovation was not given the needed attention and budgetary allocation to enable the sector explore its potentials for viable economic development. However, there is a shining light coming from Buhari’s administration through the initiative of Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), giving rise to the hope that the sector will be reawakened for growth and development.

“Since we achieved political independence on October 1, 1960, in the development of policies to guide economic growth and development, it is only the current Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 that correctly recognized STI as being at the center of all economic activities in the country”; Dr. Onu said.

Dr. Onu noted that many efforts have been made by the Ministry in promoting Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) as the major instrument for national development. He identified the need to synergize and collaborate with tertiary institutions in order to harness their research findings and innovations, which are the bedrock of scientific discoveries and technological advancement.

He affirmed that the 2020 Expo will help Nigeria in its commercialization process whereby ideas from our universities and polytechnics; research results from our institutes and industrial laboratories including those from the informal sectors are converted in to products found in the markets for the good of all citizens.

The 4th Edition of the Expo which was held on 16th March 2020 came at a time when the world is grappling with the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this challenge, Dr. Onu stated that the significance of the event to national development enable the Ministry to bring together researchers, inventors, innovators, investors and entrepreneurs to provide the best opportunity to achieve the goal of attaining self-reliance as a nation.

“We are holding this Expo at a very unusual time in the history of the world. CoVID 19 has afflicted, with great pain, many countries in different continents of the world. Many deaths
have occurred in many countries involving both men and women. Factories in many countries were shut down, many other production processes were closed, large gatherings of people including sporting activities were stopped”; he said.

To create the enabling environment for the sector to strive, President Muhammadu Buhari has on Monday 5th February 2018 signed Executive Order No. 5 for the planning and execution of projects, promotion of Nigerian content in contracts and planning science, engineering and technology.

To boost economic growth and help Nigerians take full advantage of the Order, the President directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design and execution of national security projects.

According to expert, the implementation of this Order will stimulate economic growth and development in the Science and Technology sector with a number of favorable implications ranging from the promotion and application of local content in science, technology and innovation within Nigeria, encouragement of indigenous experts in diasporas to return to their home for public procurements purposes thereby leading to improved standards and healthy competition in all sectors.

Other implications of the Order on the economy includes: the preference given to Nigerian companies and firms by procuring authorities in the award of contracts will create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths. It will also help to create special immigration class for experts in other African countries to work and reside in Nigeria to share ideas, research and innovation with Nigerian experts and as well foster inter-Africa relations. It will lead to self-reliance on local consumption and reduce overdependence on importation and create a path towards sustainable industrial growth.

The National Strategy for Competitiveness in Raw Materials and Product Development in the country already passed by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) will help to intensify efforts by citizens in producing locally made products to create more jobs
rather than importation

In the second term of President Muhammadu Buhari, “the Science and Technology sector for instance helped to create over 900,000 jobs”. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that Nigeria saved over one trillion Naira in the importation of raw materials in both 2017 and 2018.

To preserve the right of ownership of innovations, there was increased patents for scientists and engineers who passed through the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), an agency under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST). For example In 2015, the first year of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, it was only 6 patents. In 2016, it was 16, 50 in 2017, 55 in 2018 and 57 in 2019.

The FMST has continued to make progress in leading the way to move the economy from depending entirely on commodities to depending on knowledge that is innovation driven. This
journey is one that will take a long time to get to our destination. It calls for patience, commitment, perseverance, determination and endurance.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has been able to involve Nigerians, both the young and the old. For example, since 2017, the Ministry has initiated the process of identifying bright young Nigerians at the secondary school level in a programme tagged 774 Young Nigerian Scientists Presidential Award (774 YONSPA) which was a grassroots mobilization programme for of young Nigerians in all 774 Local Government Areas (LGA) of our country.

Similarly, President Buhari has granted scholarship awards up to the Doctor of Philosophy Degree level to the three best most promising young scientists in the country, through the 774 Young Nigerian Scientists Presidential Award (774 – YONSPA) as a way of encouraging the study of science and mathematics in our nation.

Experts affirmed that apart from the prospect of scientific, and technological innovations to boost the economy, it has capacity to revive the economy in post Covid-19 pandemic and that changes in it are more important than changes in capital and labor during the growth of any economy.

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