Stakeholders in the Science and Technology sector as well as the business sector, have backed the National Assembly in its bid to increase the funding of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) as well as its power of enforcement.
The stakeholders who contributed during the public hearing on the Bill to Repeal and Re-enact the RMRDC Act, all spoke in the affirmative for the council to get more funding for its activities.
The Bill was sponsored by Sen. Robert Ajayi Boroffice who also doubles as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, the committee conducting the public hearing
The bill seeks to among others, increase the funding of the council from one per cent of raw materials import surcharge to two per cent and grant the council power to regulate imported and local raw materials..
According to them, the council held the key to the industrial growth of the nation through the provision of research that will bring about local production and sourcing of raw materials required for the industries.
The President of the Senate Dr. Bukola Saraki who declared the Public Hearing open, acknowledged the prime role of the council in growing industries and SMEs in Nigeria and thereby growing the nation’s economy.
Saraki was represented at the hearing by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Sen. Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
For him, all the economic Powers in the World attained their feat through research and development, stressing that RMRDC has the power to save Nigeria huge sums which would be lost through importation of raw materials.
The DG of the Council, Dr Ibrahim Hussaini Doko explained that the need to increase the funding of the Council became necessary following the demands of the Presidential Executive Order Number 5.
He explained that the Council was set up to handle the issues and challenges of local raw materials resources for industries.
“The Council covers as an import substitution institution, as a research, development and innovation institution and as an economic impacting institution.
“The Council encourages and promotes local contents, cluster development initiative, boosting agricultural raw materials, value addition and utilization of local raw materials.
“Despite all these, the council does not have any sources of empowerment to enable it checkmate violations in the utilization f raw materials.
It is in the face of the importation of both fake, poisonous and dangerous raw materials and even those available in the country, RMRDC is just helpless and at the mercy of those frustrating the efforts of government.
“While SON is pre-occupied with standards for products, NAFDAC is dealing with food and drugs, efforts at checking standard of raw materials is left to no one and leaves a gap that must be filled by RMRDC.
“The need to ensure quality control in both imported and locally produced raw materials is Important, we must avoid the grave implications in health to Nigerians.
He said that the council had taken the right position to carry out responsibilities of enforcement and therefore urged the lawmakers to accord the council the required legal backing.
Dr Mailafiya Obadia, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria also supported the bill to increase the funding of the council saying that the RMRDC was very strategic to the economy of Nigeria.
While supporting the bill, he recommended that the council be made a special agency and be accorded special status.
He went on to recommend that the RMRDC be given the power to partner with governments of other nations on research and development as well as get funding from donor agencies.
Mr Degun Agboade, President, Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), also backed the bill, saying that the responsibility of the council had increased.
According to him, the role of the council was now far greater that what was contained in its Establishment Act which explains why it required more fund to meet its madate.
He said that if the Bill is passed, it would aid the council in setting of World class research laboratories in the 6 geo political zones of Nigeria.
He said that as the President of NASME, he know that the RMRDC had been of great help to so many small enterprises as well as big industries. He therefore urged the National Assembly to favour the bill and pass it.
Two passed Director Generals of the Council, Prof. Azubuike Peter Onwualu and Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu, who also made contribution to the public hearing, supported the bill totally and urged the law makers to do same.
The committee is expected to report back to the Senate at plenary in the next couple of week.