The National Assembly has directed the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) to establish zonal offices in the six geopolitical zones of the federation with immediate effect.
The chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Sen. Uche Ekwunife, gave the directive during an oversight visit of the committee to the agency’s headquarters today (October 6), in Abuja.
The senator, who led other members of the committee on the visit, also directed the agency to assemble a legal team to study its establishing act with a view to increase its revenue generation ability.
“We want you to establish six zonal offices immediately because you need to put your act together and start implementation of the provision of your Act, ensuring that you have liaison offices in every state.
“I need you to put a legal team immediately together to go through your Act and advice you on ways to ensure full implementation of the Act establishing your agency and the committee will like to have the report in the next one week, to get us acquainted with the implementation of your act and establish your office in six geo-political zones to immediately go to work.
“You need to be in charge of laboratories, hospitals, food and beverages, factories, importers, schools…they are so many. Every technology imported into this country is under your care. This is the surest way of increasing your revenue profile. So, we want you to give us your working paper in the next one week. That is the mandate we are giving to you,” she said.
Ekwunife maintained that the familiarisation tour, which would have happened in 2020 but was shelved because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was to understand the functions of the office, interact with the staff with a view to understand the working environment of the agency.
She further said the visit will guide the committee on how best to assist the agency to achieve its mandate.
“Looking at the Act establishing NOTAP and looking at the core mandate of this establishment, you see that NOTAP is supposed to be one of the highest revenue-generating agencies of the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
“Your agency is saddled with the responsibility of not just overseeing but certifying all technology-based institutions. Whether public or private sector, it is your duty and, in doing that, the law cannot be specific on everything. Once you have the law establishing you, you go through that, know what your mandate is and how to apply the sections of the Act.
“This country needs to raise its revenue genuinely, diversify its economy genuinely and legally and there is no way we can do this without looking into technology, information, innovation and all of that. This is where the world is going,” she added.
Speaking to journalists after the tour of its facility, the NOTAP director-general, Dr. DanAzumi Ibrahim, lamented that one of the biggest challenges of the agency was lack of adequate personnel.
“We foresaw this a long time ago; we had got approval to establish six zonal offices but, before you do that, you need to have the personnel on ground and, for the last five years, we have been battling to employ but we have not been given the financial provision to do that.
“The current staff strength is 138. We are understaffed at the headquarters and going ahead to establish offices without personnel occupy them is another challenge. We have the approval. We went ahead to propose the establishment of two zonal offices (one in the southeast and the other one in northeast). Having already worked with the Enugu State University, they provided us with an office. We were thinking that by the end of 2020 we would be able to employ staff. Unfortunately, that was suspended because of COVID-19.
“Also, we worked with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi and have deployed three staff who started operations there last month.
“If we are able to get financial provision to employ talented and hardworking Nigerians, we can boost the personnel base of the office before we begin to populate the liaison offices,” he said.
Commenting on the agency’s revenue generation, the NOTAP boss said the agency has increased its revenue by over 60 per cent, since he assumed leadership.
“When we took over, the revenue generation of the office was below N300m but we have moved it close to N500m. We also realized that our biggest challenge remained poor staff strength. So, we feel the only way for us to survive is to bring automation into the process. We require a smaller number of people to register the process and if there is any inquiry on any process it’ll be sent within a minute or two. This has reached about 98 per cent and, hopefully, before the end of this year we will be fully automated. Once this is done, we will be able to handle more applications and more revenue will come to the system,” he assured.