The Ministry of Science and Technology is the government civil service arm primarily in charge of fostering government policy on science and technology in the bid to drive socio-economic national growth. It is one of Nigeria’s 42 ministerial portfolios as presently constituted. It is headed by Ogbonnaya Onu of Ebonyi State who has been the minister since November 2015. The permanent secretary is Amina Bello Mohammed Shamaki.
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Its mandate includes:
- Formulating national policy on science and technology. It has a working relationship with the education ministry in this regard for obvious reasons.
- Contributing to agriculture through innovative use of science and technology.
- Promoting wealth creation through innovation in key industry and manufacturing sector.
- Acquiring space tech for the purpose of economic growth and upliftment.
- Enhancing the health sector via science and tech. Also applying traditional, as well as, conventional means for that purpose.
Now the above described should not be taken for granted in a country that is targeting to be a top 20 economy of the world in no time. On the contrary, it should be a first-rate one and be given more priority in most regards as tech is the new oil and the more tech patents a country can own or produce, the more likely it is to be relevant in the world system. In Nigeria’s case, the ministry is really an afterthought.
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As at 2017, BudgIT put the entire budgetary allocation for that ministry to be about 65 billion. For context that is well under 1 percent of the total budget for the FG’s budget for that year. In fact, looking at the budget, one would get the feeling that Nigeria does not take tech seriously. But in fairness, there is not a lot of sectors that this government or any other one in the past has taken very seriously as to run efficiently. Not even petroleum. It says a lot that much of the innovation which Nigeria is being praised for in tech is being accomplished despite the ministry and its agencies and other parastatals.
Quite curiously, all the agencies that operate through or under the ministry now have or will soon have tech start-ups fulfilling its mandate through venture capital. The innovations we have seen Nigerians bring into different essential sectors such as health (online consultation and medicine delivery), energy (solar power) transport (logistics) and agriculture (agritech) have been happening in spite of the ministry and not because of it. It is my opinion that the ministry may not be living up to its mandate in the real sense and it impacts badly on everyone concerned.
A great example of this is the spate of scams that have happened with agritech firms that solicit investment from private citizens and then fail to deliver on the proposed returns. Tech can do with a good amount of regulation but it is hard to see that happen as the policymakers seem none too given to do their jobs, asides getting paid.
No matter our reservations of how much this ministry has underperformed, I daresay tech has not slowed down for anyone much less the ministry and its policymakers. The truth is that for all the success, it is not a good look that government has little impact in that growth and frankly regulation would do everyone some good. The whole idea of government in scenarios like this is to ensure compliance for the sake of the public good.
Featured Image Source: Quartz
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