- UNESCO expresses readiness to provide technical support to ministry to drive STI
By Dwelleth Morountodun
The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, on Thursday assured that the Revised 2022 National STI policy will soon be sent to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for its consideration and approval.
Speaking at the validation workshop on the revised draft STI policy, which attracted inputs from stakeholders across sectors at the RMRDC Headquarters, in Abuja, the Minister, said:
The Minister acknowledged that the revised policy is a compass that will pave the way for Nigeria’s holistic development and nation building, explaining that it will give direction to the speedy growth of every sector of the economy of our national life.
Meanwhile, the Director of UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office for West Africa, Dr. Dimitri Sanga, commended both Ministers: Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi for their proactiveness and bold initiatives in driving the emerged national STI policy document.
Sanga, who was represented by the National Professional Officer, Science, Dr. Enang Moma, assured that UNESCO will render technical support to the federal government to make sure that STI drives development in the country.
On assumption of office in 2015, Onu, said the ministry then had only one national STI policy which has been in existence since 1986, explaining that even though it had been revised several times till 2012, yet it was not fully implemented.
He regretted that this has impeded progress in the sector because its lead organ, the National Research and Innovation Council (NRIC) never met even once.
Onu, said it was in 2016 that NRIC held its first meeting under the chairmanship of President Muhammadu Buhari, 19 ministers as members, members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and representatives of Nigerian Academies who are also members of the Council, stressing that on Monday 30th, the Council will be holding its 9th meeting.
According to him, the revised policy holistically covers: “Human capital development, agriculture, industrial growth, health, environment, energy, space technology, ocean technology, banking and finance, information and communications technologies, women and youth empowerment, job creation, tourism, trade, science acculturation, natural resources management, nutrition, building and construction, national security, nuclear science and technology, sports and recreation, diplomacy, transport management and entertainment, among others.”
While expressing excitement at the times, triggered by emerging technologies, he said: “Things that never happened before are now happening. A satellite that has traveled millions of miles from the earth was able to be at the atmosphere of the sun.
“In order to combat the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines were developed, produced, tested and used under one year.
“This set a record that had never existed. An artificial sun, hotter than the sun itself, has been created here on earth.
“We now have hypersonic destructive missiles that can be launched from one continent to another. All these things are made possible because of the advances in technology.”
He charged that the country must catch-up with the rest of the world, and even aim to overtake them in this human race for the acquisition of STI.
“We missed out at the first, second and third industrial revolutions. This 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) gives us an opportunity to catch-up.
“Our aim at the ministry is to get involved so that we will continuously narrow the gap between us and the technologically developed countries of the world.
“There are emerging technologies that provide us this opportunity. Such technologies include: advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology, big data, new engineering materials, block-chain, machine learning, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).” He said.
According to the Minister, the revised document which will soon be presented to FEC will prepare Nigeria both for today and the future, stressing that this is very important, because the immediate past Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 recognised the need to leverage STI in building a knowledge-based economy.
He added that the current National Development Plan (NDP) 2021-2025 recognises that Nigeria’s national strategy in the medium term is to pursue an aggressive technology and innovation strategy to unlock the potential of non-oil sectors competitiveness.
The journey to revise the national STI policy started in 2019 with an inter-ministerial committee and others established committees, acknowledging that UNESCO has helped a great in fast-tracking the development of the document.
“We thank all the stakeholders including our Universities, Polytechnics, State Governments, Research Institutes, industrial laboratories, and the Organised Private Sector (OPS) who have made very useful contributions as inputs in preparing the document that is now before you.
“This validation exercise will help us to critically examine this document, and prepare a final revised 2022 national STI policy that will be sent to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for its consideration and approval.
“I am happy that the ministry now has additional 5 policies approved by FEC, these additional policies, all include the STI roadmap (2017-2030), the national strategy for competitiveness in raw materials and products development, the presidential executive order No. 5, the leather and leather products policy and the methanol fuel technology policy.” He said.
These policies, the Minister, added have helped to move the economy from depending entirely on commodities to depend on knowledge, that is innovation driven.
Our professionals, contractors and manufacturers are now given preference in procurement by government as the economy is now diversified and we are all working very hard to further deepen the diversification, he explained.
In his remark, the Minister of State for STI, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said it is an undisputable fact that STI is key in achieving Nigeria’s economic stability and government is therefore emphasizing more on the need for all sectors to recognizes the need to deploy STI for global competitiveness.
The Regional Director, UNESCO, Dr. Dimitri Sanga, represented by the National Professional Officer, Science, Dr. Enang Moma, said, with due adherence to due process, UNESCO has built capacity for ministry officials toward the implementation and actualization of the national STI policy.
While, pledging support for the ministry, Sanga, said the body commissioned Prof. Willie Sanyibola, a consultant to work with federal government’s team on the revised policy.
According to him, UNESCO is harping on a robust STI policy that will drive development, adding that SDGs has just 9 years to hit the deadline emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming women into its implementation.
He advised that Nigeria must use emerging technologies for the growth of all sectors to facilitate development.
He acknowledged that Nigeria now has an STI policy that other African and West African countries are using in domesticating their STI policy.
On openness, Sanga, emphasized that STI has to be open for it to drive development and one of the reasons why researches are stuck in shelves is because Science is not open.
Again, he said: “Science must be expressly communicated for people and stakeholders to understand so that it can be backed up, adding that the sector has to be well funded not just from the regular budget of government, stressing that capacity has to be developed for the funds to be accessed. “Science must be gender balanced and mainstreaming gender to achieve result in the STI policy.”