By Olusegun Ayeoyenikan
The National Assembly once more has demonstrated through legislation its resolve to support all new socio-economic efforts in Nigeria based on continuous deployment and use of Knowledge, research, science and technology innovation to positively turn around the nation’s economy.
The latest act in this direction by the highest lawmaking body of the country was its recent move to restore all statutory funds due to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) as contained in the Nigeria Financial Act 2021 which was newly signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The new Financial Act 2021 as amended was passed into law by the National Assembly recently wherein the lawmakers upheld provision of 0.25% levy on profit before tax of commercial companies to be credited to NASENI in support of its R&D’s mandate. This is patriotism at work.
The Executive Vice Chairman/CE (EVC/CE) NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna while thanking both President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly said: “This latest move by the federal government is an indication that Nigeria is now on the paths to greatness and soon to be numbered amongst the comity of nations who are using investments in research and development (R&D’s), technology and innovation to transform their national economies.”
Of note, this is not the first time the lawmakers had demonstrated great act of patriotism and vision for the future of the nation.
Recall in September 2020, through its Senate Committee on Finance and Review of Public Expenditures, the National Assembly directed the Accountant General of the Federation and all other concerned Agencies of Federal Government including FIRS to release all statutory funds due to NASENI because of obvious values which the agency was already adding to the socio-economic transformation of the country with its coming up with world class designs and fabrication of machines, equipment, including successful research and development activities of various technology devices to transform the nation’s industrial sector and competitiveness.
According to the Senate Committee Chairman, Solomon Adeola, said the committee was aware of huge potentials for financial returns on investments in technology innovations by NASENI and the ability of the agency to alleviate poverty and avert future economic challenges and hence the committee directed the Accountant General of the Federation to release the 1% Federation Account statutory fund to the agency.
The Committee also observed that with right support and proper funding of NASENI, the Nigeria economy would benefit in many ways and in several sectors from many technology innovations emerging from the agency.
The lawmakers admitted that NASENI had the requisite human and material capacity to intervene and bridge all development gaps in different sectors of the Nigeria economy.
“NASENI has the requisite human and material capacity to intervene and bridge all development gaps in different sectors of the Nigeria economy through its core mandate given to it by extant laws to domesticate foreign technologies and innovate new indigenous ones in line with its mission statement which is to create enabling knowledge-driven environment for local mass production of standard parts, goods and services required for the advancement of technology in Nigeria.” That was the committee’s verdict then in year 2020.
Following the latest development of amendment of the financial law, public analysts are of the view that “it would have been a case of the National Assembly reversing its own order and determination to deliberately fund research, science and technology innovation toward national development had the lawmakers acceded to recent concerted efforts to amend the NASENI’s Act 2004 seeking to expunge the provision that stipulates the agency’s funding mechanism to include 0.25 % Levy from turn-over of commercial companies above 100 Million.”
As contained in the amendment sent to the National Assembly in the Financial Act Bill 2021, the prayers sought aspect of the NASENI Act to be removed, thereby narrowing down the agency’s funding to only 1% of the federation account.
However, during the lawmakers consideration of the Amendment Bill, they invited all stakeholders, where the Executive Vice Chairman/CE of NASENI and team of NASENI management were able to convincingly justify the reasons why the 0.25% levy should continue to be part of NASENI Act.
The amendment Bill sought to amend section 20 of NASENI Act were as follows : (a) substituting for subsection (2) (a) and (b), that is, new subsection 2(a) and (b) (a) 1% of the Federation Account; (b) levy on profit before tax of commercial companies and firms with turn-over of N100 million and above covering the banking, mobile telecommunication, ICT, aviation, maritime, oil and gas sectors which shall be- (i) at the rate of 0.25%,(ii) collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and (iii) credited to the account of the agency (NASENI) to be removed.
Hitherto the amendment seeking to remove the 0.25% levy as enshrined in the NASENI 2004 Act did not sail through with the lawmakers.
During the consideration of the Bill it was evident from the debates that the lawmakers were abreast with modern trends and they had since come to absolute understanding of the importance of science, engineering and Innovation technology development to achieve the desires of every well-meaning Nigerians to create jobs and wealth for the citizens through the sector.
Both NASENI Statutory Fund of 1% federation Account and 0.25% Levy on commercial companies therefore have been upheld by the National Assembly and the provisions subsist in the NASENI Act.
When the funds are received by the agency, it will go a long way in making the agency to fully actualize its mandate and purpose, said Haruna.
He explained further that NASENI through its numerous projects and programmes had demonstrated that Nigeria has the capacity to produce indigenous and home-grown technological machines and equipment for self-reliance.
No doubt this joint act by President Muhammadu Buhari led executive arm and the legislature is now the new vistas for assessing Nigeria’s development priority and investment windows leading to the affirmation that a new Nigeria economy, supported by deliberate investments in science, engineering and technology innovation is emerging.
Remarkably also the latest effort is one of the outstanding achievements of Prof. Mohammed Haruna led NASENI in his continued efforts to take the Agency to greater heights toward development of science, technology and innovation sector in order to positively turn around the economy of Nigeria.
Deputy Director, Information for the agency, signed the piece for NASENI.