By Mohammed Mohammed
The atmosphere was indeed electrically charged, coupled with pervasive excitement of staff and visitors at the Headquarters of the National Agency for Science Engineering and Infrastructure (NASENI)Technology Orientation Centre, Idu in Abuja last weekend, ostensibly because of the swelling consensus of opinions from different quarters across the country that NASENI truly holds the key to Nigeria’s industrial emancipation and technological breakthrough.
The convergence at NASENI Headquarters at the just concluded appreciation and award ceremony for deserving Nigerians resonates across the country invariably to pointing NASENI as Nigeria’s research and innovation powerhouse as the country’s game changer expected to holistically turn around the economy that has become over dependent on foreign imports.
The ceremony attracted the Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade, the Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, the Governor of Nasarawa State, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, Hon Beni Lar, Hon. Olaide Akinremi, Senator Uche Ekwunife, the President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Ayuba Waba, ASURI-NASENI Coordinating Chairman, Dr. Oluwaseyi Ogungbenro, the Sarkin Jiwa and Emir of Jiwa, Dr. Idris Musa, Mr. Nuhu Toro of the Trade Union Congress among several other distinguished Nigerians.
Expressing confidence on the capability and leadership sagacity of Prof. Mohammed Haruna, to deliver on the agency’s mandate, the Governor pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to expressly make available the 1% Federation account to NASENI to actualize Nigeria’s dream of becoming Africa’s technological hub soonest.
While still reposing trust, he said: “I want to acknowledge the outstanding performance of the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of this organization, in fact I made my choice to come here to receive this award because it is interesting to me as a Professor of Science.
In an apparent lamentation and reference to Nigeria’s clay-footedness in technological emancipation, Ayade, said “For how long will Nigeria continue to depend on foreign technology. It is a well-established fact that today Nigeria is the leading light of Africa and indeed the whole of Africa depends on Nigeria.”
He however, added that there is light at the end of the tunnel, stressing: “Today Nigeria has a great opportunity through the instrumentality of NASENI to emancipate itself from its dependency status.
“So, your 1960 independence means nothing when you are dependent on foreign technologies. We import toothpicks and for a country that has so much solar resources, yet she imports solar equipment and manpower from the temperate climate to come and help us establish solar plants a country that export their crude oil and import refined because they cannot maintain their refineries is not a country that is truly independent.
“The true independence of Nigeria starts today. I want to plead with President Muhammadu Buhari to expressly make available the 1% federation account to NASENI. Don’t forget our prayers are with you and you can be a source of pride to the black-man.”
In their remarks, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Waba, who was represented by his FCT counterpart, Comrade Hassan Abubakar and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Nuhu Toro, acknowledged the onerous responsibility that lie in the EVC’s shoulder, adding that that Prof. Haruna is a man who can think outside the box and is therefore expected to meet the needs of Nigerians technologically.
The TUC boss said: “Often times you see unions and employers quarreling, but in this scenario 3 unions from 3 federations coming together to say this guy is doing well and that for me is quite instructive.”
Waba, added: “NASENI is responsible for the technological development of Nigeria and it is not surprising that the workers of NASENI deemed it fit to organize this award to distinguished Nigerians.”
In her contribution, the Chairperson, House of Representatives Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon. Beni Lar, admitted that she was overwhelmed with the approval of the 1% federation account by the Federal Government and the National Assembly for NASENI.
She acknowledged that Haruna is indeed an accomplished trail blazer, adding: “Today, I’m overwhelmed. I remember very clearly when the journey began, NASENI was set up as an agency to bring about technological advancement and growth in Nigeria.
“However, the establishment Bill which makes it mandatory for 1% and because of impediment in the law NASENI was unable to meet that mandate.
“When Prof. Haruna came onboard, he made it clear in 2015 that NASENI will not go far unless the 1% establishment was made into an Act.
“Today, I’m happy that that dream has now become a reality.
“I therefore acknowledge the role that he has played in bringing an agency from almost non-existence agency to one that we can be proud of in research for the technological advancement of Nigeria to Africa and the globe.
“I’m happy that international partners will be coming. We as legislatures will continue to work for the advancement of the agency by making sure that NASENI fulfills its mandate because that is the only way Nigeria with teeming youths who are unemployed can find meaningful ways of engaging them.”
Also in a remark, the Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Dalong, who was represented by Mr. Mohammed Kabiru, while commending the EVC, said: “What I have seen in him is dedication for the technological industry, I have encountered so many heads of agencies, but Prof. Haruna is indeed a leader of inestimable value.
“I know the personal sacrifices that he has made over the years to make NASENI what it is today and with the approval from the government, he is not only going to change NASENI, he is also going to change Nigeria.”
Dr. Oluwaseyi Ogungbenro, ASURI-NASENI Coordinating Chairman, who spoke on behalf of the Joint Action Congress (JAC), underscored the role of technology and industrialization as hallmarks of advanced countries, stressing that this holds the key to national food security, military might, national security and economic stability.
He said the way forward for Nigeria is investment in science and technology through NASENI, which remains the leeway to Nigeria’s technological transformation.
He said: “This is why the directives given by President Muhammadu Buhari early this year on the full implementation of the establishment Act of NASENI is the way to go.
According to him, between 1960 and 2019, South Korea recorded GDP growth averaging 7.3% per year, adding that much Israel, the country has a booming technology industry.
He also acknowledged the EVC as an indefatigable servant leader who has served the agency selflessly, an innovator, a mentor, a goal setter, a visionary leader, reformer and a union friendly CEO.
On staff training, Ogungbenro added: “Over time, you have given opportunity to technical staff of this agency for training outside and within, adding 60 engineers just concluded their training in China with provision for them to continue their Masters to PhD levels.
“Now, 98 engineers and scientists are already booked to travel to China in 2022 for a 3 month follow up training.” He added
The President of COREN Engr. Rabiu, represented by the Vice President, Council for the Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria (COREN), said: “I’m proud of NASENI and what our engineers have produced. COREN regulates engineering practice in Nigeria and is always interested in everything that affects engineering practice across the country. We appreciate NASENI’s effort in attracting its staff, the majority of whom are engineers.”