Saturday, September 18, 2021

NASENI Special Levy as A National Interest Issue

Segun Ayeoyenikan
Segun Ayeoyenikan

The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure’s (NASENI’s) special statutory levy of ¼ per cent on income or turn-over of commercial companies and firms as stipulated in its establishment Act is an imperative requiring urgent implementation as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari. This is because NASENI and all other research activities nationwide, today, hold the key to national development, employment and wealth creation for the country. 

Nigeria is in dire need of new strategic thinking to pull her out of all economic woods.

Rather than any individual, organization or institutions seeing NASENI levy as a burden, rather, it should be perceived as an urgent national issue and or obligation that required all hands-on deck to ensure that it is implemented immediately as directed by Mr. President. 

This   decision portends positive impacts on the nation’s socio- economic growth and nation building.

 In economics, it is widely accepted that technology is the key driver of economic growth of countries, regions and cities. Technological progress allows for the more efficient production of more and better goods and services, which is what prosperity depends on – Prof. Ricardo Hausmann (Director, Center for International Development and professor of the practice of economic development, Harvard Kennedy School of Government). “No one can ignore the vital role of science, technology and innovation for sustainable development” – Marie Chatardova, president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

“These two quotations are from two of the world’s renowned economists. The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari who doubles as the chairman NASENI governing board, in his wisdom has corrected the misdeed and injustice of 29 years to the agency by giving the directive to the appropriate body to ensure that all NASENI’s statutory funds are released to enable it implement its mandate.

NASENI’s Establishment Act of 1992, which was reconfirmed as the NASENI Establishment Act 2004 CAP N3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, provides for the NASENI Statutory Fund in Part VI, Section 20, Sub-sections (1), (2a), & (2b) of the Act and it states as follows:

(1)        The agency shall establish a fund from which shall be defrayed all expenditure incurred by the agency for the purpose of this Act.

(2)        There shall be paid and credited to the fund –

(a)        1 per cent of the Federation Account in the first instance, to be increased to 2 per cent by the year 2000.

(b)        Levy on income or turn-over of commercial companies and firms with turn-over of N4 million and above, which shall be –

(i)         At the rate of ¼ per cent in the first instance;

(ii)        Collected by the Federal Board of Inland Revenue or by any other suitable means as may be specified by the agency; and

(iii)       Credited to the account of the agency.

This provision of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria has been flouted for years and yet to be implemented after 29 years of the establishment of NASENI. This maladministration, which Mr. President seeks to correct, through his directive, on January 26, 2021, to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and other relevant agencies of government, including FIRS, for the immediate implementation of NASENI Statutory Fund, should be seen as a national priority and a task that must be accomplished.

Also, the president’s directive curiously was preceded by a similar directive of the National Assembly in 2020 which also directed the agencies of government concerned to commence the implementation of the NASENI statutory fund. These directives have proved that the Federal Government and the National Assembly have realized that without science, technology and innovation, Nigeria will remain undeveloped as its over dependence on oil will soon constitute a big challenge, hence the demand for diversification of the economy which NASENI is positioned to actualise if properly funded. 

Both the Federal and States are today making concerted efforts to come out of its present economic woods occasioned by long years of absence of such critical productive economic catalysts like science, technology, and innovation, a factor which every developed economy had deployed to get themselves ahead of others in the comity of nations. The engineering, research, science and technology innovations and the positive impacts of such investments on modern economies cannot be overemphasised except those who want our dear nation Nigeria to remain a perpetual consumer of foreign products, goods and services, making the economy of our country to depend on other nations forever.

NASENI by its mandate is the sole agency of government with the mandate to conduct developmental work in the manufacturing of capital goods, equipment and machines thereby preventing the influx of foreign goods into Nigeria which causes capital flights. That way the agency is capable of coordinating the proliferation of technologies developed either within or outside of its development institutes for the much-needed industrialization of the nation.

 Moreso, President Buhari in his wisdom, decided that the time was ripe to take Nigeria out of poverty and unemployment, through investment in engineering, science and technology, knowing that NASENI has all it takes to ensure that its agenda and promise to provide 10 million jobs to the Nigerian youths succeed.

 I am of the opinion that Mr. President’s directive to FIRS and the Federal Ministry of Finance to implement the agency’s Act in terms of funding to enable it function optimally should be obeyed to take Nigerian teaming youths out of the street and to achieve poverty reduction and provide jobs for the teaming Nigerian youths.

NASENI has over the years achieved much in the science and technology development of the country through its local production of industrial tools and equipment which has 100 per cent local content that meets international standards. The agency has successfully intervened in key sectors of the economy. It established and operates a 7.5 megawatts solar panel manufacturing company, it developed the first made-in-Nigeria motorcycle and KEKE NASENI,  first made-in Nigeria helicopter, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and for agricultural purposes, namely agricultural processing tools such as integrated cassava plant, oil expeller, coconut oil expeller, rice thresher, power transformers, primary and secondary schools science equipment and tertiary laboratory equipment, made-in-Nigeria cargo tricycle, small hydropower turbines, to mention a few.

Facts abound globally, that economies founded on knowledge and driven by innovation are the frontline economies investing substantially and sustainably in technology and innovation. The NASENI Act, stipulates that the agency established in 1992 “shall establish a fund from which shall be defrayed all expenditure incurred by the agency for the purpose of this Act. Regrettably, the agency has never received such remittance from the Federation Account as provided for by the Act since its inception.  But President Buhari would have none of such disconnects or disregard for the provision of the law anymore hence his directives to Finance Ministry and FIRS to release the allocations and necessary dues to the agency to enable it to function optimally so that the country could benefit from its research innovations for improvement on the nation’s economy, job and wealth creation including industrialisation.

The trend of non-release of NASENI’s statutory fund and dues, to a great extent, had hindered the agency from optimally fulfilling its mandate of establishing science and engineering infrastructure and development institutes in various fields and sectors of the economy aimed at empowering small and medium scale industries through reverse engineering, appropriate technologies and advanced manufacturing techniques to keep the nation abreast and at par with other technologically advanced nations of the world.

President Buhari said the promise by his administration to create over 10 million jobs for Nigerians was not a mere statement of intention but an order that must be carried out by NASENI and all other concerned agencies of the government. Any visionary leader would put resources and funds where his words and thoughts are. This was the case with the president during the NASENI governing board’s meeting held on the January 26, 2021 at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) chaired by Mr. President himself.  Apart from the directives given to the executive vice chairman/chief executive of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna and the entire management of NASENI, the president further directed the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and FIRS to release all statutory funds due to NASENI.

The vision and mission of the president, as the father of the nation, is to bequeath a new knowledge-driven Nigerian economy to the next generation, a new economy thriving on innovation, research and technology development.

NASENI levy is tax-deductible, that is, it is not a new tax burden, it is rather a levy which is a euphemism to companies, that is, lessening their tax burden. Also, NASENI, if properly funded, will foster on Nigeria a 100 per cent local content capacity for the emergence of a new Nigerian economy, the research and development of capital goods’ production, and reverse engineering to enhance local mass production of standard parts, goods and services required for the nation’s technological advancement.

Therefore, the need for the Federal Government to shift the paradigms of Nigeria’s dependence on commodity economy to a knowledge-based economy rooted in research, science and technological innovation, artificial intelligence, high power computation and massive deployment of advanced manufacturing technologies, the practice which had become household names in NASENI is long overdue. All that the agency is asking for is to derive its funding mechanism as contained in its establishment Act in order to popularize the aforementioned technologies in Nigeria to affect positively lives and the Nigerian economy, making it become more productive. 

Therefore, all hands, either corporate or individual ought to be on deck today to support President Buhari’s good intentions as he finds the best way to pull Nigeria out of its economic difficulties through the ongoing resolve to invest and fund the development of science, technology and innovation via the provision of special funding for R&Ds. When a nation invests in science and technology it is investing in its people and a country based on science and technology for its development is more profitable and sustainable.

Mr. President in his wisdom realized that science and technology is the only weapon that should be used to address the challenges of unemployment, poverty and industrial revolution and gave directive to the appropriate authorities to release the funds including the special levy.  Let it be told that no number of campaigns of calumny will hinder the promise of Mr. President and the ongoing paradigm shift by the administration towards the use of science and technology innovation to change the political and economic landscapes of the country. A new Nigeria is emerging and NASENI, the research, technology and innovation paradigms are the keys to achieving it.

Let’s all rally around NASENI and give our supports for Mr. President’s vision.

Mr. Segun Ayeoyenikan, is the deputy director of information at the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure. He can be reached on yenikanus@gmail.com.

Segun Ayeoyenikan
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