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As a prominent country in a highly competitive world in which advances and application of Science and Technology Innovation (STI) determine national wealth and affect the livelihood of citizens, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, stated yesterday.

The minister who spoke at a keynote address he delivered during the 15th meeting of the National Council on Science and Technology, held in Benin City, capital of Edo State, stressed that the national goal of moving to a status of the top economies in the world was a only achievable through the use of STI to modern facilities, production, systems and services.

He lamented that since independence, Nigeria had been confronted with multifarious socio-economic challenges raging from high level of unemployment to acute hunger and abject poverty because the country is yet to optimise the use of STI tolls in exploitation of her huge talent bank and material resources for nation building.

According to him, “This is so because it has continuously relied on export of natural resources and commodities such as fossil fuel, cash crops, unprocessed solid minerals, among others as a means of sustaining her economy.

As a result of this, Dr. Onu disclosed that the Nigeria industrial sector contributes only three per cent of its export revenue but gulps over 50 per cent of imports which has ravaged the country’s balance of payments which in turn exposed the country to economic instability occasioned by the vagaries of international commodity markets and foreign exchange that have resulted to gross unemployment, poverty, hunger, poor healthcare services, high rate of illiteracy among others.”

Continued Onu, “It is disheartening to note that all these are happening in the midst of huge human and material resources which if effectively harnessed will trigger economic development,” adding however, that these challenges offer the country the opportunity to begin again to rebuilt the country of its dream and move in the direction of self a sufficiency.

He therefore posited that the theme of the meeting: “Nigerian Economy Driven By Science Technology and Innovation” is apt as it captures the new direction which the country has resolved to follow in its quest to revive and strengthen the economy.

“It is derived from our determination to lead a new initiative that will help strengthen and diversify the economy in a sustainable manner by encouraging the harnessing and application of STI apparatus in our development process. It also entails increased investment in STI to generate new ideas, processes, systems and products that can compete favourably both domestically and in global market”, he said.

The minister disclosed further that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), 2017 – 2020 recently launched by the present administration focuses on macroeconomic policy improvement, economic diversification, competitiveness improvement, social inclusion and jobs creation.

In a welcome address, the host governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, said his administration had set the stage for an envisioned strategic direction by formulating policies and programmes with timelines to stimulate sustainable development and economic growth, adding that he deployed technology to governance to minimise leakages and strengthening the integrity of the process.

Obaseki who was represented by the state Commissioner to Science and Technology, Emmanuel Agbale, said Edo State was committed to addressing the challenges and providing solutions to governance through the application of science and technology.

In his Goodwill message, a former Minister of Science and Technology and an indigene of Edo State, Prof. Emmanuel Emovon, noted that science and technology have a role to play in defining the nature of any society.

According to him, “Through science and technology you are assured of a society in which no citizen goes hungry, where the citizens’ life and properties are secured and where the country can take a pride of place in the comity of nations”, Prof. Emovon stated.

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