Reps mull budget increase for science and technology to transform economy

The House of Representatives has indicated the willingness to increase budgetary allocations to the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to fund ongoing research to transform the economy of Nigeria, particularly in the post-COVID-19 period.

Chairman of the House Committee on Science Technology, Beni Lar (PDP, Plateau) who stated this when she led members of the Committee on oversight to the Ministry in Abuja on Monday decried the mere 0.2 % of the budget usually allocated to the Ministry.

Lar said this despite that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology has many agencies that have been established to move the country forward in terms of bringing about technological advancement in manufacturing, space technology, medicine, entrepreneurship, agriculture, and security.

She noted that in developed countries, one of the key reasons for their technological advancement is the huge amount spent on funding science, technology, and innovation strategic industries to improve the socioeconomic growth of their individual countries which Nigeria was yet to apply in its budgeting process.

The lawmaker commended the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu for his role in getting the Ministry increased budgetary allocation, adding that more needed to be done as Nigeria was underutilizing the Ministry and its agencies.

“It is very worrisome to also note that the COVID-19 intervention that was done across the nation excluded the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. So all our researchers and technologists are today under this Ministry redundant. It is a great omission by the government but we in the Parliament are determined to correct that mistake and we will review the budget accordingly.

“Nigeria must learn to focus its energies, resources in growing the sector of science and technology. The agencies we have here, for instance, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure can manufacture aircraft in Nigeria. They have prototypes of Tractors, Tricycles (Keke Napep) we don’t need to import Keke Napep from any country. We can make it right here in this country and so on.

“We have agencies like NBTI, the National Board for Technology Incubation that brings young entrepreneurs and businessmen who have ideas, trains them in bringing the ideas into realities and giving them commercial value. Nigerians can be self-sufficient if we invest inadequately into this sector”, she noted.

Responding, the Minister disclosed that the six standard model laboratories which the Federal government had announced plans to build in each geo-political zones of the country would be ready by 2022.

Onu said since the inception of the present administration, there had been increased funding and attention to the science and technology sector, insisting that despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 which led to decreased budgetary allocation, the Ministry had done its best in promoting research and innovation.

He informed the Committee that: “For 2020, the capital budget for the headquarters here was put at N1.3 billion, a reduction from N 2. 4 billion when the budget was initially passed. Also, the reduction affected the overhead cost, this was reduced from N205 million to N96 million”.

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