FROM all indications, Nigeria’s technological growth may soon experience a remarkable turnaround, judging from recent technological breakthroughs in the country.
For instance, two Nigerians, Mr Aghogho Ajiyen and Mr Ayoola Olaolu, recently constructed a mini-aeroplane and a drone respectively.
The two inventors received a formal Federal Government’s recognition when the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, received them in his office in Abuja.
The minister pledged the government’s support for the two innovators in their respective aims to undertake aircraft and drone manufacture.
“Our country is a great nation; we have very intelligent people in our country and today, we just listened to two Nigerian inventors who have worked very hard.
“The ministry will support you and all other Nigerians who have good ideas and make sure that such ideas become either products or services that will benefit our nation,’’ he said.
Onu stressed that the ministry had a mandate to ensure that Nigeria became a producing nation, instead of remaining a consumer nation, adding that the nation should be self-reliant to meet all its needs.
He underscored the need for Nigeria to produce a vast majority of its needs and even export products to other countries, adding that Nigeria should also create technologies which other countries would like to copy.
He assured the inventors that the ministry would provide funds for the organisation of the first-ever National Miniature Air Show Festival in December to enable Nigerian inventors to showcase their ideas and products.
The minister pledged that National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Projects Development Institute (PRODA) and National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) would work with the two inventors in efforts to develop the prototypes and patent their intellectual properties.
Earlier, Ajiyen had told the minister that he started work on the mini-aeroplane’s construction in 1992 but conceded that the initial prototype could not fly until improved efforts in 1999 made it to fly.
“Around 1992, I made a product which could not fly, but from 1999, I improved on the prototype and developed it into a sophisticated masterpiece.
“One of the major supports I need now is finance to further advance the project,’’ he said.
Ajiyen said that the mini-aircraft, which could be used for recreational activities for the time being, could fly within the radius of five to six kilometres and could attain an altitude of about 3,000 to 4,000 feet.
On the other hand, Olaolu said that his decision to invent a surveillance drone was aimed at generating technological solutions to some of the challenges facing Nigeria.
“We don’t have to wait for the white men always; they can only solve their problems but not ours,’’ he added.
Apart from the two inventors, the Federal Government has promised to provide all the necessary assistance to the Lady Mechanic Initiative to enable it to actualise its plans to build a car.
Onu made the promise in Abuja when a team of delegates from the Initiative, led by its Founder, Mrs Sandra Aguebor-Ekperuoh, paid him a courtesy call in February.
“This ministry is very interested because Sandra is doing what we want to be doing in the country, which is technology transfer. That is why we will support her.
“By supporting her; we will be encouraging other citizens who have a creativity that can grow the nation to come up, regardless of whether they have gone to the university or not.
“Sandra has a vision to build a car; we will also support her because the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is gender-sensitive,’’ he said.
Onu described Aguebor-Ekperuoh as a distinguished Nigerian who had made important contributions to nation-building efforts via her job creation activities, technological applications and great vision for Nigeria.
He noted that Aguebor-Ekperuoh started the journey from vehicle repairs before reaching a stage where she was now planning to go into full vehicle assembling in the country.
The minister pledged that NASENI, PRODA, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST) would work with the Lady Mechanic Initiative to fast track the process.
Earlier, Aguebor-Ekperuoh solicited the assistance of the ministry in actualising her plans to assemble a prototype car.
“I have been a mechanic for about 30 years, and I have been running my own business concerning Sandex Car Care for 21 years now.
“I strongly believe that I have what it takes to put together component parts that will become a moving car,’’ she added.
Aguebor-Ekperuoh, who was the first female mechanic in Nigeria, said that she had used the Lady Mechanic Initiative to show the outside world that Nigerian women were very resourceful.
“We have the confidence; we have the drive and the focus to do innovative things.
“As an experienced mechanic today, I believe that I know how component parts are being put together to form a moving car; we will produce a prototype vehicle,’’ she said.
Aguebor-Ekperuoh said that the Lady Mechanic Initiative had over 700 female mechanics in Lagos, Benin, Kaduna, Kano and Abuja.
Apart from the aviation and automobile sectors, Minister of Science and Technology has particularly charged the manufacturing sector to utilise more local raw materials and inputs in their production.
Onu made the call in March when some executives of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.
He said that increased use of local raw materials and inputs by Nigerian manufacturers would widen the scope of research and development in the country.
He said that the Federal Government would fast track Nigeria’s technological development by promoting increased use of local raw materials via appropriate policies.
“There will be a focussed development of local substitutes of industrial raw materials and inputs that are presently being imported.
“The nation, in no distance future, will be at the threshold of scientific and technological breakthrough with the involvement of state governments and the practical implementation of the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy,’’ he said.
Onu pledged that the ministry would work more closely with MAN in efforts to fast track the development of the manufacturing sector.
Earlier, the President of MAN, Dr Frank Jacob, commended Onu for the ministry’s drive to ensure pragmatic national development.
“For the country’s manufacturing to have deep root in the economy; there is need for a purposeful collaboration between the Ministry of Science and Technology, the various research institutions under its purview, and MAN.
“The same collaboration is being sought with the ministry and its research institutes for local raw materials’ development,’’ he said.
Jacob said that currently, the average percentage of foreign raw materials and inputs utilised by Nigerian industries was 54 per cent and stressed the need for a significant reduction of this in the shortest possible.
In an interview, Mrs Nnenna Okoronkwo, the Director, Chemical Technology Department, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, described the failure to promote science and technology in Nigeria as the bane of the country’s development.
She, therefore, urged the Federal Government to further strengthen efforts to use science and technology as a tool for sustainable national development.
She attributed the problems facing the nation to the failure to apply science and technology in national development endeavours.
“Instead of providing for man; science and technology have been used as an instrument of domination and exploitation.
“Science and technology can be a tool of national development in Nigeria if challenges such as paucity of funds, among others, are effectively tackled,’’ she said.
Okoronkwo emphasised that the allocation of sufficient material and human resources for research and development in science and technology will fast track development in the sector and nation.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has called on Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) to intensify efforts at boosting technological advancement by bringing researchers, industrialists and investors together.
The Minister of Science and Technology made the call when he received some delegates from the Chamber in Abuja recently.
Onu underscored the need for ECCIMA to make such a move, saying that it would fast track national development.
He pledged that the Federal Government would continue to discharge its obligation toward the hosting of the International Trade Fair in Enugu.
He urged the Chamber to ensure the success of the forthcoming 27th Enugu International Trade Fair.
Earlier, the President of ECCIMA, Mr Ugochukwu Chime, thanked Onu for the ministry’s contributions toward the organisation of the International Trade Fair in Enugu.
He appealed to the minister to direct the 17 parastatal agencies of the ministry to exhibit their products and prototypes at the fair, so as to attract potential investors for the products’ development and commercialisation.
“We are consolidating efforts toward improving the special designated area in the trade fair complex for the exhibition of new products, prototypes, innovations and research findings for commercialisation.
“The internal roads at the complex are receiving due attention and are being rehabilitated to provide a more enabling atmosphere for the success of the fair,’’ he said.
Chime, who was represented by the former Deputy President of ECCIMA, Mr Emeka Ndenze said that the coming edition of Enugu International Trade Fair would take place between March 25 and April 4.
He said that the theme of the 27th edition of the fair was: “Diversification of the Nation’s Economy: From Rhetoric to Coordinated Action’’. (NANFeatures)