By Hillary Asemota
The former Secretary General of the African Union (AU) and also ex-Prime Minister of Tanzania, Dr. Salim Salim, was on point when he averred that a people do not commit themselves to development undertaking unless that undertaking corresponds to their deeply felts need.
The elder statesman’s affirmation is therefore a challenge to emerging African leaders to deploy their ingenuities in establishing the synergistic development between Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and their inherent cultural values and natural endowment.
Salim’s development thrust evokes the recent President Muhammadu Buhari’s technological sagacity as demonstrated in the amendment to the Nigeria Finance Act 2021, otherwise known as the Special Fund or aptly called the NASENI levy in the new Finance Act 2021.
The Act which can be described as revolutionary in the annals of Nigeria’s development trajectory concerns the implementation of payment of 0.25% turn-over of commercial companies and firms operating in Nigeria to fund Research and Development (R&Ds) activities of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI).
Recall that the Part XI (37) Section 20 of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure Act was amended in Nigeria Finance Act 2021 by (a) substituting for subsection (2) (a) and (b), 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 N100,000,000 and above covering the banking, telecommunication companies, ICT, aviation, maritime, oil and gas sectors which shall be-(i) at the rate of 0.25%, (ii) collected by the FIRS, and (iii) credited to the account of NASENI now passed into law by the National Assembly and also approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, it is therefore becoming increasingly imperative to embark on optimal public education and awareness creation on the benefits of NASENI programmes, research & development activities to stakeholders, firms and commercial companies whose buy-in, cooperation and support are highly needed now by NASENI pursuant to its statutory function and activities geared wholly toward the socio-economic growth and development of the country, Nigeria.
To begin with, the ultimate beneficiaries of NASENI’s research and development (R&Ds) activities and programmes in the areas of capital goods, machinery and equipment including reverse-engineered spare parts and components are the commercial companies and firms operating within Nigeria themselves, in the first instance.
Altogether, the good thoughts by the Federal Government toward improving the private sector operations, the people of Nigeria both present and future generations underlined the intent of the government which is spearheading the need for special fund and investment for research, science and technology innovations knowing fully well the overall positive effects and prospects of such endeavours on the socio-economic lives of the people articulated as reason for NASENI Levy passed into law in the 2021 Financial Act.
Again this falls in line with Dr. Salim’s general’s observation as aforementioned that a people do not commit themselves to development undertaking unless that undertaking corresponds to their deeply felts need.
The reality of the above challenge by Salim, one of the finest Africa’s sons is found in the current efforts by NASENI to deliberately find a synergistic development links between science and technology innovations activities of the agency to activate or stimulate the dignity, self-esteem, restoration of jobs, economic self-reliant and wealth creation geared toward the betterment of lives of Nigerians.
NASENI abinitio was established and amongst other things to create jobs for Nigerians, tackle unemployment, achieve industrialisation and also create wealth while deploying research and development activities which are the domains of the agency in terms of innovation and value additions to the purpose of all commercial companies, productive and manufacturing sector, and firms for them to make more profit, generate employment and wealth creation and general social and economic development of the Nigeria State.
The agency’s mandate, vision and mission as encapsulated in its establishment Act, ACT,2004 CAP N3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria was set up to serve as Nigeria’s only purpose-built agency whose programmes and activities are geared towards the practical implementation of the National Science and Technology Policy of the country.
It is also worthwhile to take cognizance of the fact that the agency was established to ensure that Nigeria’s R and Ds system is managed effectively outside the civil service system. It was set up not only to enhance the development and entrenchment of R&Ds tradition in Nigeria but also it is expected to establish and practice an open, consistent, equitable and corporate research management system for the country.
The organisational structure according to provisions of the law puts the agency under direct supervision of any serving President, who is the Chairman of the Governing Board of NASENI, a role currently being performed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
What is more, and or how would the benefits of NASENI R&Ds, programmes or activities accrue to Nigerian people, stakeholders, commercial companies and firms operating in the country and beyond? The answer is unambiguously clear.
The sustainable economic reforms and progress which occur often for any nation lie squarely in the discoveries of new trends called innovation, resulting from intensive research and development endeavours by the citizens of that country or the continuous implementation of economic development plans hinged on modern technological advancement.
As new trends continue to evolve, the nation’s firms, companies and or entrepreneurs are expected to key into exploration of the benefits of such innovation from institutions like NASENI, in order to achieve economic growth and general development of the economy. These evolutions are expected to be supported by abundant evidence from many different fields of scientific investigations.
It is rather regrettable but also worthy of note to state that other areas such as crude oil and natural explorations are not sustainable except when combined with other trajectory of R&Ds/innovation leading to economic development frontiers both for national and international prosperity.
With NASENI’s renewed pledge, vigour and current commitment to evolve new and prosperous Nigeria, present and more efforts in agricultural research machines and production currently is sure belt for sustainable development of Nigeria’s economy now going forward. NASENI has demonstrated undoubted capacities to domesticate foreign technologies through reverse engineering either by requisition or through own conception.
NASENI’s mandate & the development of Nigeria’s endogenous industrial economy confers on it the responsibility of establishing and nurturing appropriate and dynamic science and engineering infrastructure base for achieving home initiated and home sustained (endogenous) industrialization of Nigeria through the development of relevant processes, capital goods and equipment necessary for job creation, national economic well-being and progress.
NASENI was founded in 1992 to kick start a truly home-grown industrial economy, creation of wealth and job opportunities based on Nigerians own entrepreneurship capacity and drive, developed deliberately to use own science, engineering and human ingenuities to develop the Nigeria economy while utilizing local materials. Because of its strategic roles in Nigeria’s industrial economic development, NASENI is the only purpose-built Agency established by the Federal Government to conduct Research and Development (R&Ds) work in the area of engineering and manufacturing equipment, as such, the Agency is capable of co-coordinating the proliferation of technologies developed either within or outside the country.
Such technologies are in the areas of spare parts, components, process and system engineering which are to be transferred to industries for onward commercialization or mass production of goods and services.
Some of the remarkable achievements of NASENI despite its lean resources for about 30 years and nonetheless with a renewed pledge and vigour to do more on receipt of its NASENI Levy include the followings:
Amidst paucity of funds, the agency’s previous R&Ds efforts and scientific cum technological breakthroughs had led to the design and on-going manufacturing of Ist Made-in-Nigeria helicopter, Ist Made-in-Nigeria Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), useful for Agricultural purpose and also applicable for security surveillance. NASENI designed and produced 1st Made-in-Nigeria Tricycle called (KEKE NASENI-Cargo & Passenger types) and the 1st Made-in-Nigeria Motorcycle. The Agency through its R&Ds activities set up the 1st Solar Panel Manufacturing Plant in West Africa, located in Karshi, FCT Abuja and still operating at full capacity. The mobile primary science kits (PSK) and Junior Science Kits (JSK) were designed and manufactured for distribution to primary and secondary schools nationwide (an on-going exercise).
Also, in order to intervene in tackling the challenge of metering for the distribution of electricity in the power sector, the agency succeeded in the design and manufacturing of 1st Made-in- Nigeria-Smart Prepaid Energy Metre (SPEM), the technology is now being transferred to a Nigeria commercial firm toward full commercialization and mass production.
Other technological innovations by the agency include the design and manufacturing of Propeller Turbine, Small Hydro Power (SHP) and installation of Small Hydro Kinetic turbines to generate electricity as part of interventions in power generation for the country.
At the peak of During the COVID-19 pandemic, NASENI was the first agency of the Federal Government to intervene in aspect of early prevention of spread of the virus through design and production of 3-D masks and several range of disinfectant sprayers and manufacturing of ventilators in the country.
It is noteworthy that the agency had designed and successfully manufactured a cloud computing electronic voting solution (NASENI e-voting) and currently working on locally produced jet engines and the production of passenger and military helicopters and many more. The need for affordable, high quality technological equipment, products in Nigeria cannot be overstated and NASENI has the human and material capacity to achieve that for the nation.
Moving forward, the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna had indicated his intention to meet with all NASENI-Levy stakeholders in no distant future which signalled the agency’s intention to reach out to everyone concerned, in due course, for appropriate interaction cum the need to further present some of the benefits accruing from private sector’s active participation hand support for activities and programmes of NASENI.
Haruna’s unrivalled passion and commitment to see a new industrialised Nigeria would not allow him leave any stone unturned in harnessing all efforts toward streamlining the agency’s corporate goals.
He is always ready to explain to everyone the need to achieve NASENI’s optimum impacts on the socio-economic lives of the country.
According to him, the involvement of the commercial companies and firms whom the Finance Act 2021 expected would pay NASENI’s 0.25% levy will not only build and sustain a home-grown technology advancement of the country but also prevent avoidable capital flights and expensive foreign exchange used in search of machines and equipment to sustain production and manufacturing endeavours by the companies locally.
When it comes to technology equipment and machines, NASENI’s slogan is ‘’ASK US First” before looking beyond the borders of Nigeria, he said.
In conclusion, the optimum cooperation and support from the commercial companies and firms are now being sought by NASENI for the business concerns to comply with the obligations as stipulated in the Finance Act 2021(as amended), more so, it is clear that with the activities and programmes of NASENI enumerated above, both the prospects of economic growth and development, posterity and the future of the next generation of Nigerians depend in the seed which is sown now in a globally competitive world driven more and more by innovation, R&Ds and technology advancement amongst nations.
The funding of NASENI today through a special arrangement, in this case, NASENI-Levy is a leadership commitment and it is one veritable way to say we love the future of our country and to accentuate the hope that Nigeria truly could catch up with the rest of the world very soon-a world driven by technology and advancements in innovation.
Mr. Olusegun Ayeoyenikan, is the Deputy Director, Information, NASENI, sent in the piece from the Agency’s Headquarters, FCT, Abuja.