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Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology, says science and technology is the key that will enable Nigerians to become the true masters of their own destinies.
Onu said this on Tuesday during the inauguration of the Technology Orientation Centre (TOC) built by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) in Abuja.
He said that “no country has ever become truly great without science and technology”.
He said the building of the centre showed that science, technology and innovation could drive Nigeria’s search for a new beginning.
“It shows that when challenged, Nigerians can break new frontiers and create new opportunities that will move Nigeria away from a resource-based to a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy,” he said.
“I believe that if we pay greater attention to innovation and vigorously pursue the conversion of research findings into viable goods and services, we can recreate the middle class, strengthen the Naira and secure a better future for ourselves and generations yet unborn,” he said.
The minister said the centre would help the entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators gain greater access to the necessary processes that would fast track the commercialisation of inventions using indigenous technologies.
“This will help create jobs, create wealth, reduce poverty and stimulate growth in the economy.
“This will enable us develop the skilled human resources that will stimulate research and development as well as drive the new National Science, Technology and Innovation Roadmap (2017 to 2030) necessary to help diversify the Nigerian economy for sustainable growth,” he added.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, said that the centre, which was conceived in 2013, was built at with over N354 million.
According to him, the TOC houses 700 collapsible seat capacity multipurpose auditorium, multimedia facility, exhibition hall, virtual reality workstation, offices, car park, among others.
He described the centre as a national resource to serve as a hub for gathering, displaying and assessment of the brightest of minds, innovation and products specifically from new and emerging technologies.
Haruna said it would also determine their relevance to the economy and design a path to adopt and infuse them into the economy.
He said the centre was dedicated to providing budding entrepreneurs, academics, researchers and investors with enabling environment for interactions, design, application and exhibition of advanced manufacturing technologies with their accompanying products and services.
“To us, it is a meeting point between arts, creativity, science, engineering, technology, innovation and prosperity,” Haruna said.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Sen. Robert Boroffice, commended NASENI for the feat.
Boroffice, who assured the agency of the National Assembly’s support, said if the country failed to fund science, technology and innovation adequately, “we are going nowhere”.
“We are good at consuming and not producing. Therefore, it is high time we put in place both intellectual and physical infrastructure to produce locally,” Boroffice said.
The Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu, described science, technology and communications as Siamese twins that rely on each other.
Shittu said though NASENI had remained relatively silence on its achievements over the years, he was impressed by the quality of its products.
He urged the agency to ensure that it integrated local innovators and inventors in its system toward adding values to the laudable effort.
“I also want to challenge you because during the civil war, we had so many innovators in the east and it looks like after the war they were forgotten.
“I think NASENI needs to look for these great minds that can add values to what the agency is doing,” Shittu charged.
The minister, who expressed regrets that common tooth picks were still being imported into the country, said: “these are things that ordinarily should be produced locally”.
“Mr President has given charge that we should produce whatever we consume.
“I commend the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for drastically reducing the percentage of rice and fertilisers imported into the country to just 10 per cent,” he said.
He, however, urged NASENI to ensure that basic items consumed in the country were produced locally.