The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, has described science and technology as the requisite tonic needed to turn the fortunes of Nigeria, diversify the economy and bring the nation out of poverty.
He made this assertion when a top management delegation of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) led by its chairman, Kyari Bukar paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Abuja.
Addressing the delegation, Onu decried the nation’s massive import dependence, saying the era of sole dependence on importation to drive the nation’s economy must stop.
“We are tired of Nigeria producing crude oil, being the eighth largest exporter of crude oil, and then we keep importing refined products, there is no explanation for that. We’re also tired of having forest everywhere and yet we import tooth picks, this is wrong.
“It is also very embarrassing to hear that we don’t even have one plant producing pencils in Nigeria, which is the basic writing material that children use to write in primary schools, secondary schools and even architects and engineers. This is not right for us as a nation, and the goals of this administration is very clear, we are interested in securing our nation, we want to control, and if possible prevent crime; grow our economy; create jobs; fight and reduce corruption; poverty, and we cannot achieve all these without technology,” he stated.
He said science and technology was the future of Nigeria, emphasising the present administration’s determination to turn the nation’s fortunes around using science and technology.
He said: “We are determined to make sure that we use technology to diversify our economy, create jobs for our people and grow our economy. This administration will work very hard to make sure the sector is given adequate attention because science and technology is the future of our country. It has helped other countries move away from poverty so it will also help us to move away from poverty because with the enormity of resources we have in the country Nigeria should not be poor.”
The minister also made a case for import substitution, pleading for local production of technologies to run the nation’s economy just as he restated the ministry’s commitment to come up with new technologies to drive the economy.
He expressed the ministry’s willingness to partner the NESG in its drive to develop science and technology in the nation.
He said: “We’re conscious of the problems we have in our economy; we are conscious of the fact that there is so much pressure on the naira because continuously we have to import virtually everything we need.
“We know you’re the gateway to the private sector and what has been lacking for so much in our private sector and what has been lacking for so long in our country is that the government, research institutes, the universities and the private sector have not been working together the way they should; the level of cooperation and collaboration coming together that is needed so that ideas from the various stakeholders become a product or service that will help our economy to grow. We are very conscious of this challenge and we are working very hard to make sure that this is achieved in our country.”
Earlier in his remarks, Bukar said the essence of the group’s visit was to seek a closer working relationship with the ministry and all associated parastatals with the aim of creating public-private synergies required to make science and technology the driver for achieving competitiveness, inclusive growth and sustainability in Nigeria.
“Indeed, there will be the need to sit with the private sector and industries to identify the skills required in science-based sectors in the next 5, 10 and 15 years and to map out the kind of skills’ development to be undertaken,” he added.