By Gidado Ibrahim
The recent decision of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to start funding Defense Security Research and Development (R&D) activities in the Nigerian defense and security sub-sector is a soothing relief. The disclosure by the TETfund Executive Secretary, Prof Suleiman Elias Bogoro, couldn’t have come at a better time, especially as Nigeria continues to suffer huge capital flights as a result of arms importation.
The move will certainly make Nigeria self-sufficient in locally produced technology for the nation’s armed forces and other security agencies. Nigeria is endowed with brilliant scholars of international repute but have continued to lag being due to absence of consistent and committed investments in defense technology scientific research. This has brought untold shame and contempt to Nigeria as we go around the world to beg for arms to buy to prosecute the war against insurgency.
Science, technology and innovation are major drivers of development in this modern world, hence Nigeria cannot attain development without deploying research for growth and development. It is incontestable that the history of societal development has always been powered by scientific research. The breakthrough achieved by most of the so called advanced societies happened through emphasis on scientific research.
In the slave era in Europe, slave labour was needed for farm and industrial labour. However, huge investments and consistent push in scientific research led to industrial revolution in Europe, which made nonsense of excessive demand for human labour in farms and industries as one machine could now perform the work of 500 people.
Also, the quest by Britain to conquer and colonise the world was hampered until it recorded breakthrough in scientific research into discovery of steam engine for boats. This enabled Britain to navigate the large body of waters that transverse the world in its expedition.
The foregoing underscores why any country that is desirous and desperate for sustainable development must prioritise scientific research by deploying huge resources to the sector.
Before Nigeria’s recent history, scientific research was not given the attention it deserves, compelling the country to spend huge resources to buy or import what, ordinarily, our scientists would have researched into and produced.
For instance, Nigeria spends billions of dollars on a yearly basis to import military arms and hardwares from countries that didn’t do anything spectacular other than prioritising scientific research. However, since the establishment of TETfund and the subsequent emergence of Prof Bogoro as its executive secretary, the scientific research efforts in Nigeria is beginning to witness a lifeline.
The latest move to financially intervene in R&D so that the Nigerian armed forces will have the capacity to produce adequate weapons and other equipment that can be deployed in the fight against terrorism and other security challenges is a welcome development.
Where a leader is visionary and proactive, what you get is accelerated development. The executive secretary, in September 2020, inaugurated a 165-member TETFund R&D Standing Committee. The committee’s reports, so far, indicate that the triple helix model, which brings academia and industry on the same platform, holds the key to a brighter future for Nigeria. The fruits of innovative and targeted leadership is beginning to unfold.
Now that the academia – the drivers of research and industry- are on the same page, no more will research outcomes be gathering dust on the shelves of our universities. That is the result-oriented leadership Prof Bogoro has unleashed in TETFUND. Bogoro has never hidden his intention for a research that is aimed at solving the country’s challenges and facilitating the development of the country.
It is also gratifying to note that the TETfund under Bogoro has swung into action following President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on COVID-19 threat. The president had ordered TETFund to launch ground-breaking research for phyto-medical drugs, prophylactics, PPE and eventually vaccines for COVID-19.
Prof Bogoro is better described as a man of too many ideas. He has muted the idea of establishing a National R&D Foundation (NRDF) for Nigeria which stems from a recognition of the vital role such an institution would play in the realisation of our national development objectives.
In driving home his idea, Bogoro said establishing a foundation backed by law, with a policy instrument and clear mandate to coordinate, oversee and, most importantly, secure funding for R&D and Innovation activities in the country would lay the foundation, as well as define the trajectory, not just for the transformation of our beleaguered tertiary education institutions from mere ‘citadels of learning’ where inputs and outputs have left much to be desired for far too long, but crucially to the springboard of Nigeria’s leap into the knowledge economy paradigm.
Without a doubt, the private universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the country are integral part of our development, hence it is plausible that Prof Bogoro has opened the chance for private institutions to access the N7.5 billion National Rese Fund (NRF) for the purpose of bolstering the conduct of cutting-edge research.
Bogoro is a result-oriented leader, hence will not embark on any initiative that will not bear fruits. That is why his efforts to transform research and development in Nigeria have started yielding the desired results with many industries and states governors buying into the idea. For instance, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) and Innoson Motors, recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the utilisation of locally produced goods, signalling a step forward.
That is why President Buhari must be commended for his determination to encourage science, technology and innovation as bedrock of development. He has demonstrated this by increasing research grants from N3billion to N7.5billion as contained in the 2020 Budget.
Even in pursuit of food sufficiency for our population, our farmers have not been able to gain maximally from their sweat because of absence of storage facilities. We need to deploy research to add value in the preservation and storage capacity of our nation’s yams.
It is because of our lack of deploying research to solving our problems that we find it easier to get yams produced in Ghana on the streets of London than yams produced in Nigeria.
However, government alone cannot bear the burden of providing funds for research. The private sector must provide funding for research. Good enough that TETFund is collaborating with industrialists, including public and private universities, to work towards providing a platform for critical stakeholders in realising the dream of developing our country.
Ibrahim is director, Communications and Strategic Planning, Presidential Support Committee (PSC).
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily