• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Proper understanding of mandate of our ministry has changed the narrative in Plateau – Nanjul

Proper understanding of mandate of our ministry has changed the narrative in Plateau – Nanjul

Goselle Obed Nanjul, commissioner for Science, Technology and Innovation in Plateau State, in this interview with Iniobong Iwok, spoke on a range of issues bordering on his work, the new things happening in the ministry, relevance of his ministry to the economy of the state, the commitment of the state government towards promoting science, technology and innovation, and how the people are responding to the new initiatives. Excerpts:

How does it feel to be Commissioner for Science and Technology in Plateau State at this time?

I feel highly elated because when I was finally settled on and to be appointed as the Honourable Commissioner for Science and Technology, it was a thing of joy and I believe it is an opportunity for me to serve the people of Plateau State in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

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What is your idea of development of science and technology in Plateau and in the country generally?

Well, in Plateau State just like any other state in Nigeria, I think the pace and understanding of the development of science and technology has been on the low ebb for a lot of reasons, and in Plateau State in particular. The Ministry was created as far back as 1999 based on the mandate of the Constitution that the Ministry of Science and technology should be created in order to advance science and technology to encourage productivity or production of indigenous goods and services. And, it was later merged due to a lot of reasons one of which was that the level of production, engagement and understanding of the mandate was on the low ebb. And in 2016, it was separated from the Ministry of Education and up till the time we came in I think I will tell you confidently that low revenue generation is coming in to the Ministry and also that the Ministry is viewed more as a punishment centre. Anytime a civil servant is posted to the Ministry of Science and Technology and all you hear is lamentation of why should I be punished? I think we are here or have come to change the narrative.

What do you think you can do differently to improve the growth of science and technology in Plateau State?

My brief will not only be in Plateau State, we are looking beyond Plateau State and link to the international community. And by the grace of God, I am a scientist; so, it is not out of place because the question I always ask myself is to change the narrative, because in the past the people that had been appointed into that ministry were always people with the background of social sciences which has not fully helped to improve that particular ministry. I think as a scientist, it is time for me to deploy all the intellect that I have to ensure that people get to feel the difference, feel the impact that for the first time you have a grounded scientist come into a position, especially the Ministry of Science and Technology. So, we are making a head way, making great strides.

What are the major challenges facing you since you assumed office?

A lot of challenges; the indolence you will see in all the Ministries across the country (Nigeria), especially within the civil servants and lack of coordination in the execution of programmes and like I said before, the understanding of what the mandate of the Ministry was will be a serious setback and hopefully, we are getting to come out of it.

Are you likely to copy any role model or do you have any role model in the development of science and technology within and outside the country, as well in the discharge of your duties as a commissioner in that ministry?

Well, like I told you I am a scientist and I have worked with a lot of scientists in a commercial setting. So, within Nigeria I wouldn’t tell you that I have particular role model in terms of running the Ministry of Science and Technology. And if it is a personal development within the University system because I am coming from the academia, of course. I have personal role models that I have worked with. But if you are talking of the Ministry of Science and Technology in Nigeria, I think I will not tell you there is a role model. I will not. But one is doing one’s best to put things in order.

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What is your advice to stakeholders in the development of science and technology in Plateau in particular and the country as a whole?

Well, the advice is that all hands must be on deck to ensure that what is being carried out by other countries should be replicated here especially where the enabling environment is created by each state to ensure that the stakeholders work in synergy to utilise that opportunity and utilise the raw materials available within that particular community to change the thoughts about science and technology generally.

Can you give an overview of the performance of the Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang in the last one year in office?

I will tell you generally that Barrister Caleb Mutfwang has performed exceedingly and wonderfully well within the last one year in office. If you are in Plateau State, it’s not a hidden fact, you could see the enthusiasm and the joy on the faces of many Plateau people. Before he came into office, he did mention certain things he would do so that people would feel the impact. And I think he has been able to do a lot in regards to those areas particularly in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and with the enabling environment the governor was able to create, first of all we have now revisited the issue of natural medicine because it was one of those things we looked at and we discovered that if we are able to harness the issue of natural medicine we are bound to generate revenue for the state and also we will be able to regulate the activities of herbal medicine practitioners in Plateau State like it is done in other places through the creation of Plateau State Natural Medicine Regulatory Agency. And the first thing we did was to host the Natural Medicine Bill which was stopped as far back as 10 years ago and the topic was ‘Exploring the Potentials of Natural Medicine’ so that we will be able to look at what has been done in the past and what is being done by other countries especially like the Japanese and Chinese, and what can be done in Plateau State because with the records we have indicated that about seventy percent of the herbal healing plants in Nigeria are embedded in Plateau State. So, based on that information, we quickly put in place motions to ensure that we invite across the state those who profess to be herbal medicine practitioners. And I think that stakeholders’ meeting exposed a lot of hidden things and by the grace of God, I will tell you that we have been able to draft a bill in regards to that agency in anticipation that in no distant time we will be able to have a bill passed and the issue of creation of jobs for our teeming youths and regulation of activities of herbal medicine practitioners will be put in place.

I think that due to the numerous inventors and innovators available in Plateau State- we talk about the technology, in terms of ICT, you talk about fabricators and a lot of other things- we thought that addressing the problems of these individuals, science should be more of a problem-solver for us. So, the best bet is to ensure that one, we will be able to create an avenue that could become a revenue point and fund, and that necessitated the initiation of the creation of a draft of three bills that effect. The first was to draft a bill for Plateau State Research Innovation Council which has the governor as the Chairman of the council and the Commissioner for Science and Technology and Innovation as the secretary of the council. With a lot of stakeholders coming in from the academia. Secondly, is the Plateau State Research Innovation Foundation and that Foundation in particular is a place where money drops in. Somebody addresses the problem of individuals who might come to the state government to demand for funding and in that way to identify those that have invented one thing or the other and with the money in the Foundation, such individuals can be sponsored. And thirdly, the Plateau State Technical Committee Advisory Council which takes a look at what needs to be done by the Foundation, and what needs to be expended on.

Caleb Mutfwang was magnanimous enough to have approved for the first-time, 50 percent retainership for the Board so that the board becomes more functional because since the creation of that particular board, nothing has happened there; it became a sorry sight. But I am happy to tell you that the retainership and the approval of five million Naira for upswinging of setting up of the machine to modern day machine was done by the governor.

And then we have been able to set-up Plateau State technical working group and this group is expected to work with the Ministry to ensure that once the fibre optics are put in place e-governance becomes much easier and aside that the encouragement of people to participate in e-commerce will also become much easier. And hopefully, at the national level that will also be launched.

Finally, how do you want to harness revenue generation through science, technology and innovation in Plateau State?

Like I said earlier, if you are able to create a particular business, the expectation is that the business should be able to sustain you and from there the government will tax you and create revenue from there. So, practically, all we have put in place is to ensure and enhance the revenue base of the state and the Ministry. The opportunity has been created for revenue growth of the state and the Ministry.