From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to remit all funds due to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) as statutorily provided in the constitution.
This is even as it has also directed the agency to fast-track industrial development across the country, setting a target for the manufacturing of a made in Nigeria helicopters.
President Buhari gave the directives at the opening of the meeting of the governing board of NASENI in Abuja, where he urged the governing board to work towards repositioning the agency in order to achieve its mandate.
Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the governing board of NASENI, Buhari, on the need for prompt release of funds meant for the agency said: “In order to realise its full potential, NASENI must be empowered through the provision of adequate financial, human and material resources and be given the autonomy and independence to forge international partnerships to acquire the relevant technologies for socio-economic and industrial advancement of the country.
“In this regard, I have directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning as well as the Federal Inland Revenue Services to commence remittances of funds approved by law to the agency,” he said.
The President noted that NASENI is a mechanism for stimulating linkages between science and technology academics and the industrial sector on one hand and the country’s economic and structural transformation on the other.
He said: “Under the Act establishing the agency, NASENI is to operate as an extra-ministerial department with its mono mandate institutes across the country. It is my desire that this meeting of the governing council will reposition NASENI for the realisation of its mandate as envisioned by its founders.”
Buhari in his opening remarks before the board went into closed door meeting encouraged NASENI to develop local capacity in machine building and fabrication for industrial development in the country.
He also said the agency can help Nigeria develop homegrown technology that can lead to economic development and post-covid sustainability, as nations of the world battle to survive the COVID-19 era.
Speaking earlier, the Vice Chairman of the agency, Mohammed Haruna, thanked President Buhari for his support to NASENI.
President Buhari said the agency is poised to carry out its mandate of improving science and engineering innovations that would enhance development in the country.
He stressed that his administration has a primium and importance attached to home grown technology, science and engineering infrastructure towards the social economic and technological development of respective countries.
He said: “The uniqueness of the mandate of NASENI as enshrined in the enabling law towards actualization and realization of our development Programme such as creating 10 million jobs, economic recovery and growth Programme and post coronavirus sustainability plan, it’s the only deliberate deployment of engineering, science, technology and innovation using technology domestication and reversed engineering of capital goods, making them available in Nigeria that can fast-track the realization of our collective will to build the capacity and reduce poverty of our teeming populace.
“The countries that are at the forefront of economic recovery, have only one thing in common, investment and sustained research and development work in the knowledge economy.
“Coronavirus pandemic has exposed the technology and innovation gap between us and the developed world which NASENI is strategically positioned to fill.
“It is my desire that this meeting of the governing council will reposition NASENI for the realization of its mandate as envisioned of its founders.”
Vice Chairman and CEO of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, who spoke to State House Correspondents after the meeting, disclosed that the agency has been given the marching order to produce a made-in-Nigeria helicopter.
He said a lot of progress has been made in developing the helicopter, whose components, he said must be approved internationally because of the precision required.
According to him, “about the helicopter, if you have been following, NASENI has demonstrated what it’s been able to achieve so far and to go further because of the security and high precision required in the aerospace industry. Because someone said it’s better to be on the ground and wish that you were flying.
“So, every component produced is required to be certified before we can deploy. So, to fast track these important things, that is the beginning. There is a matching order to have a made in Nigeria helicopter.”
The NASENI vice chairman also said the board has approved the use of local materials to produce solar cells, saying that the agency already has the capacity to produce 7.5 megawatts of solar panels in its assembly plant in Karshi, Abuja with imported cells.
He explained: “Solar energy is very expensive to produce. So, the board has approved that we use locally available raw material, that is silica. And silica is from sand and sand is free of charge. So, if we begin to produce solar cell in Nigeria, it means the price per wattage of solar energy will be cheaper and affordable for everybody.
“If we can produce solar cells, then we have the technology to venture into production of electronics, communication technology and competition equipment.
“In short, it was solar cell production that gave America the popular Silicon Valley. Once we can do that, we do a lot of things.
“What is limiting Nigeria’s creativity in the area of communication devices because whatever you design you have to look for its components, glasses etch. And these things are in abundant almost in every part of Nigeria. This has been approved.”
On the President’s order to commence remittances of funds due to NASENI, Haruna said: “This is another turning point, another achievement of President Muhammadu Buhari. The agency established in 1992 has statutory provision on how the agency would be funded. No government has ever attempted to provide these funds over the years. Of course the agency has not been sleeping, it has been going to seek and apply for release but such decision is required at the highest level of the land. Mr. President did not hesitate to approve this. The law has been there since 1992 and there has been talked about this statutory NASENI fund. The fund is in two forms, one is that from the first instance, from 1992 to the year 2000, one percent of whatever is due for the federation account is remitted to NASENI. The law stated that that should be increased from the year 2000 by three per cent of whatever is accrued to the federation account. That is the directive that Mr. President has given. The other component of the law is to be taken from the industrial levy that the federal inland revenue service is collecting. Is not a new tax but some components, a quarter per cent out of what is being collected. Because there is a law that the government doesn’t want further taxation on manufacturers even when things were normal.”