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Author Topic: Science agencies want more funding, more attention  (Read 2696 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
Expert in Bioscience Issues
Posts: 657

« on: June 04, 2011, 01:26:00 pm »

No nation aspiring to be industrialised will succeed without getting its science and technology policy right. This is because technology and innovation play a pivotal role in industrialisation and sustainable economic development of nations.
In Nigeria, the first national science and technology policy was formulated in 1986, immediately after the creation of the ministry of science and technology in 1985. The policy was reviewed in 1997 but with implementation time frame of 25 years, to be reviewed every five years.
A third policy document was drawn up in 2003, which was largely a collation of sectoral policies but stakeholders have picked holes in these policies saying a review is imminent.
Mohammed Abubakar, minister of science and technology, recently said from 1986 to date, a great deal of effort has been expended on science and technology policy in Nigeria with not much to show for it.
“The need to take care of new developments in the areas of science and technology compelled the ministry to come up with a revised policy in 1997. This revised policy gave prominent considerations to science policy, sectoral developments, coordination and management of science and technology system, collaboration as well as funding,” he said.
Detailed analysis of the 1997 policy however showed some shortcomings.
For instance, the policy is felt to have provided limited attention to the application of scientific knowledge to effectively address the nation’s developmental challenges.

“In the area of institutional framework, the 1997 policy did not address the issue of interaction among the research systems, government and the industry in achieving the science and technology goals of the nation. In addition, inter-agency interactions within and outside the federal ministry of science and technology was overlooked,” the minister said.
For instance, in the area of standardization, quality assurance and environmental protection, there was no synergy between the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, formally Federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Environmental Protection Agencies. Furthermore, there was no provision for real-time, accurate and comprehensive national information system for the management of science and technology.
The 2003 revised ‘policy’ document emphasized the need for a coherent, systematic and comprehensive approach to the determination of technological programmes. The implementation of these programmes took into account some sectors such as agriculture and rural development, energy and environment, health, food security and others.

However, the document is now seen as a mere compendium of science and technology sub-sectoral policies.
“It did not adequately promote science and technology culture and the harmonization of science and technology policy with other socioeconomic policies. More importantly, the document lacked the required institutional and legal frameworks which are an essential component of any policy,” Mr Mohammed said.

No science policy, no development
Dere Awosika, permanent secretary of the federal ministry of science and technology, also emphasized the importance of putting in place appropriate policy instruments to generate the desired momentum for development.
“There is a significant relationship between a country’s performance in science, technology and innovation and its economic wellness,” she said.
Raymond Tabares, Deputy Representative of UNIDO Regional Office in Nigeria also backed the call for a new science policy.
“We are doing many things in different fields, but having a policy document will help to integrate all our efforts,” he said.

To effectively draft a new national policy on science and technology, the minister said that National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM) was assigned to anchor the development of this revised policy.
Willy Siyanbola, director general of NACETEM said his group adopted a consultative approach to doing this.
“One notable inclusion in this revised policy is the emphasis on ‘innovation’, which has become a global tool for fast-tracking sustainable development and indeed the country’s renewed commitment to ensure that our R&D engagement in translated to goods and services in the market place,” he said.
Some of those who contributed to the discussion were lecturers of Science and Engineering, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, National Universities Commission, Committee of Vice-Chancellors, the military and development agencies.
The draft policy, a copy of which was made available to NEXT, was completed within 10 months and has the objective of developing, utilizing and maximizing national capability in science technology and innovation.
The new policy addressed issues regarding the effective administration of these activities for collaboration among research institutions, government and industry for national development.

Key issues of the policy, which been adopted by the national council on science and technology, include the proposal for renaming the federal ministry of science and technology to federal ministry of science, technology and innovations, as well as proposing an annual budgetary allocation of at least 2 percent of the GDP to the sector for the next 5 years in the first instance, followed by a gradual increase to 2.5 percent in the next 10 years.

Political will required
Umar Bindir director general, National Office for Technology Acquisition And Promotion however said Nigeria has the technological capacity to drive the new policy.
“With the landscape of science and innovation policy we have in this country, with the over 100 universities, over 100 polytechnic, over 300 research institutes and 100 colleges of education, we have this technical capacity,” he said. “All we require is synergy. But if we continue the way we are doing things now, with institutions working in silos, being individualistic, not sharing resources, I can tell you the policy will not make meaning.”
With the approval by the National Council on Science and Technology, the minister said the next step is to get the federal executive council to approve it, after which it will be presented to National Economic Council to ensure that states are brought on board.
But Mr Siyanbola believes that a policy is only a prescription.
“When it is approved, it becomes a law. But that depends on how far we can take it. We have so many policies all over the place. All of these things will have no value unless there is a political will and commitment on all the key actors.”
Olusegun Adewoye, director general of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure said Mr Jonathan will write his name in gold if he approves the new policy, that requires him to chair the National Research and Development Coordination Council.
“He should fulfil his promise of job creation for Nigerians. This can only be done through science and technology. Science has been the lever that most governments used to create jobs. If he does that, his tenure will be different and Nigerians will be happy. If he does not, then his tenure will be like any other one in the past,” he said.

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