The erstwhile secretary-general of the African Union (AU) and former Prime Minister of Tanzania, Dr. Salim A.Salim, once defined development as “a global undertaking with multiple dimensions – economic, social and cultural – that influence one another”. He said people do not commit themselves to a development undertaking unless that undertaking corresponds with their needs. To further affirm his stance, Salim presented a challenge for all new and emerging African leaders to deploy their ingenuities in establishing the synergistic development between science and technology and cultural values.
The above affirmations underscore the recent move by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as demonstrated in the amendment to the Nigeria Finance Act 2021, especially aspects concerning the implementation of payment of 0.25 per cent turnover 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). The special fund is also known as ‘NASENI Levy’ in the new Act.
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, mobile telecommunication, ICT, aviation, maritime, oil and gas sectors which shall be-(i) at the rate of 0.25%, (ii) collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and (iii) credited to the account of NASENI…” now passed into law by the National Assembly and also approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It is imperative, therefore, to embark on optimal public education and awareness creation on the benefits of NASENI programmes, research and development activities to stakeholders, firms and commercial companies whose cooperation and support are highly needed now by the agency, under its statutory function and activities geared towards the socio-economic growth and development of 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.
This move by the Federal Government is borne of the need to ensure better lives for the present and future generations of Nigerians, as well as ensure the nation is well-stacked in the areas of research and development.
In line with Dr. Salim’s observation above, people do not commit themselves to a development undertaking unless it corresponds to their deeply felts need. The reality of this is found in the current efforts by NASENI to deliberately find a synergy for development between the science and technology innovations activities of the agency to activate or stimulate the dignity, self-esteem, restoration of jobs, economic self-reliance and wealth creation for the betterment of lives of Nigerians. The NASENI was established 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, producing and manufacturing sector, and firms for them to make more profit, generate employment, create wealth and [improve the] general social and economic development of Nigeria.
NASENI’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 country’s National Science and Technology Policy. The agency was established to ensure that Nigeria’s research and development (R&D) system is managed effectively outside the civil service. It was set up, not only to enhance the development and entrenchment of the R&D tradition in Nigeria but, also, 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 the direct supervision of the serving President, who is the chairman of the governing board of NASENI.
How will the NASENI’s research and development programmes or activities benefit Nigerians, stakeholders, commercial companies and firms operating in the country and beyond? The answer is clear; The sustainable economic reforms and progress which occur often for any nation lie squarely in the discoveries of 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 the exploration of the benefits of such innovation from institutions like NASENI, 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 trajectories of R&D/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 are a sure-bet for sustainable development of Nigeria’s economy. NASENI has demonstrated undoubted capacities to domesticate foreign technologies through reverse engineering by requisition or through conception.
NASENI was founded in 1992 to kick-start a truly, home-grown industrial economy, create wealth and job opportunities based on Nigerians’ entrepreneurship capacity and drive, developed deliberately to use their own science, engineering and human ingenuities to develop the economy while utilising 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&D) 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 commercialisation or mass production of goods and services.
Inspite of the paucity of funds over the last 30 years, NASENI has made some remarkable achievements which include the design and ongoing manufacture of the first made-in-Nigeria helicopter and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) useful for agricultural purposes and security surveillance; the design and production of the first made-in-Nigeria tricycle (‘Keke’ NASENI – cargo and passenger types) motorcycle; setting up Africa’s first solar panel manufacturing plant in West Africa (located in Karshi, Abuja); ongoing, design, manufacture and distribution of mobile primary science kits (PSK) and Junior Science Kits (JSK).
To tackle the challenge of metering for the distribution of electricity in the power sector, the agency succeeded in the design and manufacturing of the made-in- Nigeria smart prepaid energy metre (SPEM). The technology is now being transferred to a Nigerian commercial firm towards full commercialisation and mass production; the design and manufacturing of propeller turbines, small hydropower (SHP) and installation of small hydro-kinetic turbines to generate electricity as part of interventions in power generation for the country. During the peak of COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 and 2020, NASENI was the first agency of the Federal Government to intervene in the early prevention of the virus’ spread through the design and production of 3-D masks and a range of disinfectant sprayers and manufacturing of ventilators in the country; the agency 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.
The executive vice chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna indicated his intention to meet with all NASENI Levy stakeholders in no distant future, signalling the agency’s intention to reach out to everyone concerned for appropriate interaction on the need to further present some of the benefits from the private sector’s active participation and support for its activities and programmes.
Haruna said the involvement of the commercial companies and firms – who the Finance Act 2021 expect to pay NASENI’s 0.25 per cent 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. He is a staunch believer in seeking out solutions within the country before reaching outside her shores.
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). Both the prospects of economic growth and development, posterity and the future of the next generation of Nigerians depend on the seed which is sown now and determines how well the nation will fare in a globally competitive world driven more and more by innovation, R&D and technology advancement amongst nations.
Funding NASENI today through the NASENI Levy is sign of great leadership commitment and a veritable way to show love for the future of our country; an accentuation of the hope that Nigeria can catch up with the rest of the technologically advanced nations soon.
Mr. Olusegun Ayeoyenikan, is the deputy director of information at the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure. He can be reached on email@example.com.