The National Assembly has demonstrated, through legislation, its resolve to support all new socio-economic efforts in Nigeria based on continuous deployment and use of knowledge, research, science and technology innovation, to turn the nation’s economy around for the better. The latest act in this direction by the highest law-making body of the country was its recent move to restore all statutory funds due to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) as contained in the Nigeria Financial Act 2021 which was newly signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The new Financial Act 2021, as amended, was passed into law by the National Assembly recently wherein the lawmakers upheld the provision of 0.25 per cent levy on profit before tax of commercial companies to be credited to NASENI in support of its research and development mandate.
The executive vice chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, while thanking both President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly said: “This latest move by the Federal Government is an indication that Nigeria is now on the path to greatness and [will] soon be numbered amongst the comity of nations using investments in research and development, technology and innovation to transform their economies.”
Of note, this is not the first time the lawmakers had demonstrated patriotism and vision for the future of the nation. Recall in September 2020, through its Committee on Finance and Review of Public Expenditures, the Senate directed the Accountant General of the Federation and all other concerned agencies of government, including the FIRS, to release all statutory funds due to NASENI because of obvious values which the agency was already adding to the socio-economic transformation of the country with its world-class designs and fabrication of machines and equipment – including successful research and development activities of various technological devices to transform the nation’s industrial sector and competitiveness.
The committee’s chairman, Senator Solomon Adeola, said the committee was aware of huge potentials for financial returns on investments in technological innovations by NASENI and the ability of the agency to alleviate poverty and avert future economic challenges; hence the committee directed the AGF to release the 1 per cent Federation Account statutory fund to the agency.
Also, the committee observed that with the right support and proper funding of NASENI, several sectors of the Nigerian economy would benefit from many technology innovations emerging from the agency. The lawmakers in their submission at a public hearing affirmed that NASENI had the requisite human and material capacity to intervene and bridge all development gaps within the economy.
“NASENI has the requisite human and material capacity to intervene and bridge all development gaps in different sectors of the Nigerian economy through the core mandate given to it by extant laws to domesticate foreign technologies and innovate new indigenous ones, in line with its mission statement – which is to create enabling knowledge-driven environment for local mass production of standard parts, goods and services required for the advancement of technology in Nigeria.” This was the committee’s verdict in 2020.
Following the latest amendment of the Financial Law, public analysts are of the view that “it would have been a case of the National Assembly reversing its order and determination to deliberately fund research, science and technology innovation towards national development had the lawmakers acceded to recent concerted efforts to amend the NASENI Act 2004 seeking to expunge the provision that stipulates the agency’s funding mechanism include 0.25 per cent levy from turn-over of commercial companies above 100 million.”
As contained in the amendment sent to the National Assembly in the Financial Act Bill 2021, the prayers sought aspect of the NASENI Act to be removed, thereby narrowing down the agency’s funding to only 1 per cent of the Federation Account. However, during the lawmakers’ consideration of the Amendment Bill, they invited all stakeholders and the executive vice chairman/CE of NASENI and team of NASENI management were able to justify the continued remission of the 0.25 per cent levy.
The bill sought to amend section 20 of NASENI Act, as follows: “(a) Substituting for subsection (2) (a) and (b), that is, new subsection 2(a) and (b) (a) 1 per cent 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 per cent,(ii) collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and (iii) credited to the account of the Agency (NASENI) to be removed”. Hitherto, the amendment seeking to remove the 0.25 per cent levy as enshrined in the NASENI 2004 Act did not sail through the Legislative arm of government.
During the consideration of the bill, it was evident from the debates that the lawmakers were abreast with modern trends and had since come to an absolute understanding of the importance of science, engineering and Innovation technology development to achieve the desires of every well-meaning Nigerians to create jobs and wealth for the citizens through the sector.
Both NASENI’s Statutory Fund of 1 per cent of the Federation Account and 0.25 per cent levy on commercial companies, therefore, have been upheld by the National Assembly and the provisions subsist in the NASENI Act.
When the funds are received by the agency, it will go a long way in making it fully actualise its mandate and purpose, said Professor Haruna. He explained further that NASENI, through its numerous projects and programmes, has demonstrated that Nigeria can produce indigenous and home-grown technological machines and equipment for self-reliance.
President Buhari and the Legislature’s acts have become the new vista for assessing Nigeria’s development priority and investment windows, leading to the affirmation that a new Nigerian economy, supported by deliberate investments in science, engineering and technology innovation is emerging.
Remarkably, also, the latest effort is one of the outstanding achievements of the Prof. Mohammed Haruna-led NASENI board in his continued efforts to take the agency to greater heights in the development of science, technology and innovation sector to positively turn around the economy of Nigeria.
Ayeoyenikan is the deputy director, information at the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.