Labour Matters

Research, innovation regression: Back your words with action, ASURI to Buhari, SGF, Minister

…Urge National Assembly To Re-enact NRIC Bill

By Appolos Christian

The Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, and the Minster of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, to back their words on research and innovation being a tool to moving Nigeria forward with action.

ASURI also urged the National Assembly to re-enact the National Research and Innovation Council Bill, and ensure it become legally operational in order to increase research and technology innovations in the country.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, Secretary General of ASURI, Dr Theophilous Ndubuaku said it is sad that at a time  countries around the world are making advances in research around Covid-19 vaccines, Nigerian researchers are watching on the sidelines because the research institutions in Nigeria have been abandoned by government.

While pleading with President Buhari and his entire cabinet to give research and technological institutions in the country the required attention, he noted that government’s lukewarm attitude towards funding research institutions is tremendously undermining their ability to work as catalyst to solving unemployment, security, technological innovation backwardness and many other developmental problems that puts Nigeria behind countries it should be leading.

Furthermore, Dr. Ndubuaku reminded President Buhari his words during the first meeting of NRIC on January 7, 2016, where he said: “It is my fervent hope that our research and Innovation output should be measured by the number of intellectual property such as patents granted and not only by the number of articles published in scholarly journals. By the action, Nigeria will become a Centre of discoveries, inventions and innovation in all fields of science and technology. Before long, we should be in a position to produce Nobel Laureates.”

He also said that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, when he was represented by Mr Gabriel Aduda, Permanent Secretary (Political and Economic Matters) at the Roundtable on Research Funding, at AICC Abuja, on the issue of the sorry state of research in Nigeria said; “Without research you can multiply in quantity but you cannot multiply in quality. Without research you can maintain what you have but you cannot move forward.”

In the same vein, he quoted Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, saying that “We need to build the capacity of self-reliance in Nigeria. We are tired of copying others and importing all sorts of things….No country funds Science and Technology from budgetary allocations alone”.

Furthermore, Ndubuaku explained that the 8th Assembly had passed the National Research and Innovation Council Bill,
and sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent, but the President returned it citing some grey areas. And till date, nobody has heard anything about that bill anymore.

“We have chosen this time to go back to the National Assembly, the 9th Assembly to present a request and the request is for the 9th Assembly to re-enact the National Research and Innovation Council Bill. The NRICB, is a pullout from the National Policy on Science and Technology. The NPST was initiated in the 60s and it was at that time that international agencies also sponsored the science and technology policy for so many Asia countries we here about today.

“In those days, Nigeria was far much better economically than the Asia tigers of today. In fact, in the 60s we used to have the Indian s and Pakistanis coming to nigeria to seek for job. In the 60s this NPST was initiated in Nigeria but nothing was done. The main issue with the policy was funding and co-ordination of research. Nothing was done from the 60s until 2016. Within that period the policy was reviewed 13th times without putting in place the mechanism for the funding and coordination of research which is contained in the policy.

“It was in 2016 that President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the National Research and Innovation Council and after that he held two more meeting. The council is supposed to chaired by him and that supervises research. There are about 12 ministries that supervises research in Nigeria. And all the ministers in those 12 ministries are suppose to be members of the council. This council is suppose to make available funding and coordination of research institutes in Nigeria.

“Now after President Buhari inaugurated the council, the Academic Staff Union moved and we got Senator David Umaru, to sponsor a bill to give legal backing to the council president Buhari had already inaugurated. The National Assembly has enacted the bill and sent to the presidency for assent.

“Presidency returned the bill with a few comments on some gray areas but those gray areas we were surprise because one of those gray areas was spelling mistakes. And we felt that since the President is the chairman the council, he could have as well appointed the officers to run the council and directed them to go the National Assembly and correct the gray areas since they are so few. Anyways we went to the National Assembly and they corrected the mistakes and send it back to the president.

“Remember that the President initiated this council. I fact when he was inaugurating the council, he stated that with the inauguration of the council Nigeria would now produce Nobel Laureates. And he was very clear if the important of this council. Unfortunately till date, nobody have heard anything about that bill anymore.

“Nigeria as we know it is suppose to be the most endowed country in the world in terms of the quality of natural resource but unfortunately we have found ourselves today as the poverty capital of the world. And the only reason this country is failing is because there is no adequate mechanism to fund and coordinate research in Nigeria.

“We are convinced that once the necessary mechanisms to fund and coordinate research are put in place in Nigeria, the results with started showing within months. No body will doubt the fact that Nigeria has the best brains that can turn the fortune of the nation around within a short period of time if the necessary mechanisms are provided for the growth.

“Research in research institutions are research that are targeted at solving specific problems of the society. So if you don’t fund and coordinate research in the research institutions, you will not be able solve your problems. Problems of unemployment, problems associated with medical and health just like Covid-19 of today.” He added.

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