From Angela Nkwo-Akpolu, Owerri
The Federal Government has said the Research and Design Extension Centre of Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST) at Okwudor, Njaba in Imo State will soon become the hub of wealth creation in the South East.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu made the disclosure at the foundation stone laying ceremony of NILEST in Okwudor at the weekend.
According to him, the centre which will also house the Bio-Resource Development Centre of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) said the centres will assist the people in agricultural production and boost other economic activities.
He stated that the centres will train and equip millions of women and youths on skills and how to access funds for business, noting that skills induced by technology are more durable, cost-effective and beneficial to the society.
Dr Onu disclosed that NILEST is the only institute licensed to train people in leather up to Higher National Diploma (HND), adding that it will help to reduce reliance on oil.
The Minister disclosed that leather ranks second income provider for Nigeria, after oil even as he maintained that almost every machinery uses leather including airplanes, and cars.
Further, he said the Bio-Resource Development Centre of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) will provide skills on how people can become millionaires through snail farming, noting that it is in high demand in Europe.
Dr Onu said “The centre will give all necessary training needed for business growth and will boost Nigeria’s export and ensure less reliance on oil and gas, if we improve on our productivity we would become more versatile, thus creating more international demand for our products”.
According to him, the centre will serve as a regional-bloc project for the South-East even as he assured that similar centres will be replicated in other geo-political zones of the country.
The Minister who was accompanied by his wife, Dr Chiyere Onu, charged the host community, Okwudor to ensure proper protection of properties at the centre, noting that the Odi centre in Bayelsa State has already turned around the fortunes of the host community people.
Meanwhile, the beneficiaries of the centres, according to Dr. Onu will be encouraged to access credit facilities from the Bank of Industry pending the creation of a Science and Technology bank that would assist scientists, inventors and innovators to access credit at low interest rates.
On her part, the Acting Director General of NILEST, Dr. Eucharia Oparah, said the NILEST centre will bring the enormous benefits of leather to the South-East region and Nigeria at large, and appealed to all stakeholders to ensure the success of the project.
On his part, the Acting Director General of (NABDA), Prof. Alex Akpa disclosed that the NABDA resource centre will help in protecting the environment and curtail erosion while improving economically important bio-resources.
The Bio-resource centre, he added, will empower youths and women in skills acquisition and bio-resources wealth creation.
Earlier, the traditional ruler of Okwudor, Eze Anayo Durueburuo thanked the federal government for the project and assured the safety of lives and properties in their community.