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Nigeria must prioritize science and research

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By Usman Oladimeji

Allocation to the ministry remained low at 0.14 percent of GDP in 2022.

The Nigerian Academy of Science, an organization made up of the country’s top scientists, has proposed that the country prioritize the promotion of science and the injection of increased investments in research in order to accelerate national development. Science and technology have been severely neglected and underutilized in recent years, according to the group. Research and scientific financing in Nigeria has been inconsistent since the country’s first genuine effort at public research funding in 2006, which was marred by a lack of commitment to funding.

There has been no significant increase in research funding despite assurances from the previous government and the current administration of President Muhammed Buhari. The budgetary allocation to the relevant ministry remained appallingly low at 0.14 percent of GDP in 2022, despite the pledge made by the Buhari-led government to dedicate 0.5 percent of GDP to research and innovation in 2021. This was on par with the prior years, with 2020 and 2021 coming in at 0.13 and 0.14 percent, respectively.

Nigeria needs to allocate at least 1% of its GDP per year to science.

According to the group, Nigeria would need to increase budgetary allocation to the area of research and science in order to gain from science and research and harness technology and innovation to improve the economy and boost citizens’ social well-being. In addition, it urges the next administration to use scientific research and technological innovation to improve the country in critical sectors. For instance, solar energy development could help to enhance and regulate the country’s irregular electricity supply.

Also, the country could enhance its health sector by developing new therapeutics and vaccines through genomic studies as well as increased animal production. Regarding budgetary allocation, Nigeria needs to allocate at least 1% of GDP per year to science and research by the end of the next four years, up from the present 0.14%. The Tertiary Education Trust Fund’s (TEFT) financing capacity must increase in order to sustainably finance long-term multidisciplinary research aimed at tackling Nigeria’s health, environment, and other developmental concerns.

It’s necessary to maintain a congenial atmosphere for scientific study.

The group also charged the new administration with completing the establishment of the Nigeria National Research and Development Foundation within the first year of his administration. He must also acknowledge the significance of capacity retention above capacity building. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to establish and maintain a congenial atmosphere for scientific study, one that encourages the application of the expertise of a well-trained workforce. The country’s scientific workforce is rapidly dwindling due to a combination of factors, including a dearth of institutional support, sociocultural barriers, and unfulfilled career potential.

Reports indicated that by the end of 2022, nine out of ten medical and dental consultants with less than five years of experience planned to or have already left Nigeria. Between 2017 and 2022, 57,000 nurses left the nation, leaving a population-based ratio of one nurse to 1,660 patients. Access to foreign currency and decreased import fees for imported research equipment, supplies, and reagents are critical for revitalizing the research environment. It has been said that software developers are joining the exodus, seeking better working conditions elsewhere.

Development and use of locally produced vaccines must be prioritized.

Lastly, the scientists’ group says the new president should appoint a Chief Scientific Advisor who would be in charge of coordinating all scientific and research efforts for the country’s economic growth and people’s social well-being. Additionally, during the first two years in office, Nigeria has to prioritize the development and use of locally produced vaccines. This would improve the health of the population and lessen reliance on other countries to provide the vaccines that Nigeria needs. Vaccines are not currently manufactured in Nigeria, although a manufacturing unit is planned for operation in the country in 2024.

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