Wednesday, November 24, 2021

TETFund RDSC’s one eventful year, by Muktar Tahir

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Unarguably, research is the bedrock of any progressive and developed economy, just as development is hinged upon the cultivation of a consistent culture of research. Thus, no meaningful country or economy should choose to gloss over this phenomenon, in as much as it wants to remain at the forefront of progressive nations.

Little wonder, when the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, under the leadership of Prof Suleiman Bogoro mulled the idea of making a historic move at shifting the paradigm of Nigeria’s economy, the whole country and its progressives rose in support of this mind-boggling initiative.

This TETFund’s initiative was brought to fruition on September 24, 2020, with the formation and inauguration of ‘Research and Development Standing Committee (RDSC), comprising members drawn from the country’s best researchers and innovators; representatives of relevant MDAs and the private sector.

This committee was conferred with the responsibility of looking inward in order to come up with deliberate policies that would, at the end, institutionalise Research and Development in the country; establish the National Research and Development Foundation; create a new knowledge-based economy; and catapult Nigeria, Nigerians and their products into global competitiveness, which will in turn arrest the ugly brain drain in the country.

One year down the line, this committee could be said to have performed wonders as the committee, headed by Prof. Emeritus M. N Gadzama, galvanised support; mobilised resources and traversed all the nooks and crannies of the country, including physical and virtual engagement with the international community which enabled them offer constructive recommendations for possible remediation of the country’s research and development strength. These recommendations are contained in about 32 reports these subcommittees turned in.

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In carrying out their mandate, the committee members distributed themselves into thematic groups cutting across all facets of human endeavour. Worthy of commendation, at this point, is the Technical Coordination Team (TCT) under the leadership of Prof. Mustapha Popoola for steering the affairs of these Thematic Groups in such a manner that leaves no one in doubt for seamless results.

Peeping to these thematic groups, one would be awed to see that no fewer than 13 areas were captured and justice was evenly done to these themes. These themes included Agriculture which looked into ways of aggregating research and innovations in Agriculture for enhancement of value addition and agribusiness for the sustenance of livelihood, assurance of food security and improvement of the national economy.

Similarly, the Environment & Bioresources group looked at the possibilities of using research and case studies in mitigating the effects of climate change, ensuring environmental sustainability and protecting the national eco-system and biodiversity.

In the area of human and animal medicine, this group bothered itself with fashioning out ways of applying knowledge gained from years of research and clinical trials to improve healthcare delivery, mitigate disease spread, produce vaccines and halt medical tourism and capital flight from the country.

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The Pharmaceuticals group also looked into the possibility of employing outcomes of research and coordinated field/ clinical trials, to make pharmaceutical breakthroughs including the production of vaccines, while the ICT/Digital Economy group were out to develop Nigeria into digital economy and position the nation for cybersecurity and 21st Century technological competences.

The Petroleum/ Fossil Resources, Solid Minerals & Mining group is another strategic group that encompasses developing cutting-edge research and development in geophysical investigations, sub-sea/geological engineering to improve drilling and mineral extraction techniques so as to increase revenue generation, improve livelihood whilst protecting the environment.

The Industrialization group sought to promote industrialisation, investment and manufacturing with the objective of creating the enabling environment for doing business and ensuring economic growth resulting in employment creation and improved quality of life.

Engineering, Technology and Material Science Development group also looked at ways of employing research outcomes and global technological breakthroughs and innovations to evolve sustainable technologies and develop a comprehensive roadmap for engineering practice in the country.

Infrastructure Development group sought ways of using the outcomes of research and technological innovations, evolve a sound and solid national infrastructure base resulting in a coordinated sustainable development that is cost-effective, safe and reliable.

Education group sought ways of improving quality of teaching, learning and developing qualitative and quantitative curricular as well as ensuring effective partnership between tertiary institutions and industry.

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The Energy group worked on how Nigeria could use research-based knowledge, develop technologies to enhance exploration of renewable energy while preserving the environment as well as creating employment in the sector.

Governance, Social Development & Internal Security group was out to employ research/ research findings to enhance good governance, social development and internal security especially appropriate policies and their implementation.

While the Defence & Security group bothered itself with how to use research, source intelligence and advanced technology to ensure the effective defense of our national territorial integrity as well as internal security.

Remarkably, all the efforts of these sub committees and their recommendations have been injected into an executive bill for the establishment of the National Research and Development Foundation, which is in the pipeline. When this foundation comes into being, a foundation has literally been laid for the building of a new Nigeria.

At the height of all these, President Muhammadu Buhari approved an increment into the research allocation of the TETFund. This lends credence to the confidence President Buhari and the education minister Adamu Adamu reposed in the leadership qualities of Prof. Bogoro. It is our hope that by the end this year, the foundation would become a reality and a vigorous pursuit of its objectives would begin.

Mr Tahir wrote from Abuja.

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