I have had the privilege of engaging in Science and Technology system in three capacities in which I have served the Nation. Firstly I was a University teacher charged with the responsibilities of capacity building in Science and Technology at the tertiary level of education and conducting research in Science and technology thus contributing to the extension of frontiers of knowledge.
Secondly, I had the privilege of being the Coordinating Director of Science in the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) for eight years and then the pioneer Director-General of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) from 1999-2008.
I played a major role in developing our National programmes in Information and Communication technology (ICT) with the establishment of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Biotechnology for National development with the establishment of the National Biotechnology development Agency (NABDA) and Space Research and Development for National development with the establishment of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA).
Thirdly, I am currently serving as Chairman of Senate Committee on Science and Technology and its parastatals. Again, I must emphasize that my involvement in Science and Technology as a Technocrat in government afforded me the opportunity of serving on some Science and Technology related United Nation Organizations. These include: the United Nations science and Technology for sustainable Development (UNSTD), a Division of United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
In my experience, I have seen how Science and Technology has been used by many countries to develop their economies, and drive National development. I observed a positive correlation between industrial developments, percentation of GDP invested in Research and Development and income per capita.
Today United States of America, Japan and the European Union are leading in Research and Development (RandD) related to economic development while Russia and United States are leading in military related to Research and Development in Science and Technology. Other countries are migrating from the status of developing countries to new emerging economies because they have employed and adequately utilised Science and Technology as a tool for development. Examples are South Korea, Brazil, Malaysia, India and China which is the second largest economy in the world.
In Nigeria, the development of Science and Technology institutional framework started in 1966 at post-independence. Since then the framework has experienced pathetic checked history of nothing less than 13 changes in the last 26 years.
y decree No 83 of 1966, the Nigerian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was established. In 1970 the Nigerian Council for Science and Technology was established by Decree No 6 while Decree No 83 of 1966 was repealed. Under the Nigeria Council for Science and Technology many Research Councils were created by various Decrees to drive Research and Development in specialised areas of natural and applied Science and Technology. These Councils include:
Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria by Decree No 25 of 1971
Industrial Research Council of Nigeria by Decree No 33 of 1971
Medical Research Council of Nigeria by Decree No 1 of 1972
Natural Sciences Research Council of Nigeria by Decree No 35 of 1973.
In 1977 the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) was established by Decree No 5 dissolving all preceding structures. The National Council on Science and Technology Development Agency (NCSTDA) was headed by a Chairman who is a Commissioner. By 1979 under a new democratic dispensation the Chairman of NCSTDA was replaced by an Honourable Minister by Decree No 55.
However, In 1980, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was established by parliamentary Act No 1 and thus dissolved NCSTDA and in 1984, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was merged with the Federal Ministry of Education to form the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
In 1992, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was once more dissolved and replaced with the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure by Decree No 53 of 1992. In 1995, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was re-established as it exits till date.
These changes are not evolutionary changes that were targeted at producing a robust Science and Technology Institutional Framework. They were carried by the whims and caprices of those in charge. Those changes destabilised the system and often left it battered and fractured to the extent that the sector was seriously incapacitated from being a strategic tool for National Development. If the Government is serious about transforming our economy from an agrarian economy to an industrialised one and diversifying our economy from a monolithic economy which is dependent on Crude oil, it must address Science and Technology as a critical factor in National Development programme. Science and Technology must be situated in the mainstream of our National economic policy.
There is need therefore to review previous efforts to re-engineer our Science and Technology Institutional Framework and reposition it as an engine of growth and development. One of such efforts is the international review of Nigerian Science and Technology Policy and performance which was designed by UNESCO. The programme for reform of Nigerian Science and Technology and Innovation system was put in place by the Federal Government in collaboration with UNESCO. It was a programme developed for the reform of national Science and Technology systems of developing countries and economies in transition by UNESCO.
The methodology used in the review was first developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the review of Science and Technology policies in the industrialised countries and which has been used in many other countries.
The National Coordinating Body for the review is the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology while the International Advisory Board for the reform was set up. It was presided over by Jo Ritzen, president of the University of Maaschicht, former Science Minister of the Government of the Netherlands and former Vice President of the World Bank.
On May 23,, 2006, President Olusegun Obasanjo announced a $5 billion endowment fund for the establishment of a National Science Foundation of Nigeria. The announcement was made during a briefing of the President by the International Advisory Board for the reform. On that occasion, J. Ritzen made a presentation to President Obasanjo on the theme ‘NIGERIA EMBRACES SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR GROWTH: SCENARIO 2020’. Citing World Bank figures, Mr Ritzen made a forecast that the reform would translate into economic growth of 8-10% per annum and that the number of those living on less than $1 per day would drop from 71% to 20%.
The advantage of the Science and Technology Fund which will be raised by the Federal Government and Donors is that it will help Nigeria to break away from the tradition of spending large sum of public money on Research and Development. It is estimated that a 10% return on the Fund would give the country $500 million to spend on Science and Technology every year. South Africa which is the continent’s leading Science and Technology spender has an annual budget of around $200 million per annum for Science and Technology. The total allocation to Science and Technology in National budget is around $10 million per annum.
The Federal Government which is now faced with dwindling resources from oil exports must re-tool its development kit and make Science, Technology and Innovation central in it. The reform will be instrumental to diversification of Nigeria’s economy and reduce the country’s dependence on fluctuating oil prices. Now that crude oil sells for about $55 per barrel it is timely to focus on Science and situate it in the mainstream of our National economic policy.
I am aware of the fact that a new Science and Technology Policy has been approved by the Federal Executive Council. This policy must be backed up by law. The National Assembly will be eager to work with the Executive in subjecting the policy to public hearing of experts and come up with a law that will be clear and implementable and will catalyse growth and National development.
Senator Boroffice is chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology.

News Reporter