In what is seen as a deserved recognition of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in national reckoning, President Muhammadu Buhari has enlisted the Minister, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu among others to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigeria economy functioning with covid-19”.
In his highly acclaimed nation-wide broadcast on Monday, April 13, 2020, President Buhair said the covid 19 has really greatly changed the world in so many ways. “The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different”.
The President further said: “To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for Nigeria economy functioning with Covid- 19”.
The enlistment of the Honourable Minister to this high profile Committee did not come as a surprise to experts in the Science and Technology sector.
Following the outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and the Minister of State, Barrister Mohammed Abdullahi were quite proactive in rising up to the challenge.
A Ministerial Committee headed by the Permanent Secretary, Dr Muhanmmadu Bello Umar was quickly constituted by the Minister. Needless to say, the Ministry had all along been working behind the scene, even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, through intensive research to find solution to numerous challenges confronting the country.
The Ministry’s intervention was through effective mobilisation of scientists in its 17 agencies across the country.
Though the report of the Committee as submitted to the Presidential Committee on Covid-19 is still not available to the public, feelers from the grapevine is quite revealing.
From the facility visit by the Ministers to its headquarters, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), has a lot to offer to curtail the spread of Corona Virus in the country through the safety tunnel and simple chambers made from home-grown technology. The technology is designed for installation at public places such as offices, big supermarkets, churches, mosques, banks and hotels.
Others by NASENI are environmental disinfectant delivery devices meant to disinfect streets, feeder roads and major roads.Furthermore, the electromechanical ventilator and advance ventilator enusaged by NASENI will go a long way in feeling the gap in this medical technology.
The National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA), a flagship agency of the Ministry has developed a mobile clinic buses equipped with necessary gadgets for diagnosis in both urban and rural areas.
Likewise, the National Board for Technology Incubation (INTI) has trained many entrepreneurs on the production of hand sanitizers in its incubation centres spread across the country. It has also designed mechanical chambers for disinfection,
Similarly, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) is into production of bio-ethanol hand sanitizers.
In addition, its two existing molecular biology laboratories in Odi, Bayelsa state and in the agency’s headquarters could be made available as testing centres for Covid-19
The Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), based in Abuja also has the capacity to produce hand sanitizer of high quality.
The Biotechnology Advanced Research Centre of the complex can also be used as National Testing Centre for Covid-19 pandemic.
The complex can also produce rapid diagnostic kits to achieve below 30-minute test, in line with World Health Organization assured procedure.
The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) can also help in the production of pharmaceutical grade starch used in industries. This will go long away in saving Nigeria a lot in import reduction
The RMRDC had, in 2017 and 2018 saved the country 1 trillion naira through reduction of import of raw materials while creating over 900,000 jobs in the country.
The National Research Institution for Chemical Technology based in Zaria is also into the productionof environmental foam spray formula, metal nanomaterials and others.
Aside from the foregoing, with the various policy initiative of the Ministry like Executive Order 05, the National Strategy for Competitive in Raw Materials and Products Development, the National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan and the recently launched National Policy on Methanol Fuel Technology, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is poised to change the narrative of economic blueprint of the country.
(Mr. Aminu is the Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Abuja)