The manufacturing sector in Nigeria has had its fair share of the challenges bedevilling the country but one issue which seems to be insidiously affecting the growth of the sector is its inability to fully apply scientific and technological methods to its production processes.
Research and Development (R&D) constitute an indispensable aspect of any industrial activity. But this has often eluded the Nigerian manufacturing sector as most research works for the development of varied products are done overseas, ranging from paint, to plastics, to drugs, to cement, to mention a few.
This unpleasant situation many say has been the sector’s major drawback.
Manufacturing thrives on sustainable plan of action, good infrastructure, favour- able policy framework and effective research and development; all of which com- bine to form the enabling environment for the sector’s efficient performance. But currently, these attributes seem far fetched, with respect to Nigeria’s manufacturing sector. Ironically, Nigeria is replete with varied research centres, including an industrial research institute. Yet, there has not been any notable transformation in managing production activities within the industrial sector. No new ground shaking in- novation has been recorded in the manufacturing sector, neither has there been any landmark achievement in the other sectors of the economy. The first major attempt at coordinating scientific re- search in Nigeria was in 1970 with the establishment of the Nigerian Council for Science and Technology (NCST),
charged with the responsibility of ordering national priorities in scientific research and coordinating and supervising both basic and applied research activities in the country.
The Agricultural Research Council and the Industrial Research Council were established in 1971, while the Medical Research Council and the Natural Science Research Council of Nigeria were established in 1972 and 1973 respectively to assist the NCST in specific areas. But owing to the long- drawn complaints bordering on NCST’s relevance to the country’s economic development, in 1973, virtually all the research departments in the various ministries were constituted into independent research centres dot- ting the Nigerian landscape today, and they include:
The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan; Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), Lagos; The Forestry
Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Ibadan; Hydraulic Equipment Research Institute (HERI), Kano; Institute for Agriculture Research (IAR), Zaria; Institute for Agricultural Research and Training IAR&T, Ibadan; Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Maiduguri; National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Service (NAERLS), Zaria; National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Zaria; National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Lagos; Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), Lagos; National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State; National Centre for Genetic Research and Biotechnology (NCGRB); National Institute for Freshwaters Fisheries Re- search (NIFFR), New Bussa.
Others are: Institute for Agriculture Research (IAR), Zaria; Institute for Agricultural Research and Train- ing (IAR&T), Ibadan; Lake
Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Maiduguri; National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Service (NAERLS), Zaria; National Animal Production Re- search Institute (NAPRI), Zaria. National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Lagos; Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), Lagos; National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State; National Centre for Genetic Research and Biotechnology (NCGRB); National Institute for Freshwaters Fisher- ies Research (NIFFR), New Bussa; Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), Benin City; National Horticulture Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan; National Institute for Medical Re- search NIMR), Yaba; Nigeria Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NI- OMR), Lagos; National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja; National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI),Umudike, Abia state; National Re- search Institute for Chemical Technology (NRICT), Zaria; Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Yaba; National Veterinary Research Institute (NEVRI).
Despite the plethora of research centres, there has not been much connection with business and industry for collaborative work. This has led to most industries pushing their R&D activities, especially in product development, outside the country, spending fortunes to fund such research and developmental projects in the process. Experts say absence of funding has been a major challenge facing research in Nigeria.
“As a result of lack of funds, many have been discouraged from carrying out research work, from government departments to private organisations, even up to individual persons, which perhaps, could have helped proffer solutions to Nigeria’s socio-economic problems,” a research expert told business a.m.
Paucity of information has also been another impediment to research and development in the sector.
Facts and figures necessary for flawless conclusion on relevant subject areas are hardly garnered in the country due to the poor or near absence of technology required for this undertaking.
“No researcher can actually succeed with research findings when the information available is scanty. It all boils down to quality information availability, since much finding cannot be done at the event of inadequate information,” he said.
Many in industry and manufacturing, in spite of the prevailing conditions and operational costs endeavour to brave the odds and surmount the challenges. In the chemical and pharmaceutical subsector, for instance, various research activities are done outside the country. Recently, Juhel Pharmaceutical Ltd, however, locally developed the product, oxytocin injection.
But for subsectors of the economy, such as paint manufacturing group, research and development projects still remain a venture suited for advanced countries of the world, no thanks to absence of advanced technology in Nigeria.
One notable fact, however, is that research and development represent an invaluable growth factor for any business.
“The funding of research work will encourage many to engage in research inquiry to better society. This is one of the most important aspects that will help throw door of research inquiry open both in private and public sectors of the economy,” an industry analyst told business a.m.
The manufacturing sector requires government’s support in developing a technology roadmap which will go a long way to reduce the country’s dependence on other economies in the area of research and development (R&D). If government can make giant strides in effective policy initiation and implementation, the sector will efficiently play its role towards revamping the nation’s economy, experts say.
Experts have also advocated that the Raw Materials Research and Development Council [RMRDC] should strengthen its capabilities for tracking data from various research institutes. They note that the present arrangement for data collection from the available research institutes in the country is not comprehensive enough to achieve satisfactory results.
According to them, if coordinating agencies work closely with the various re- search centres, all policy decisions concerning the sector and by extension the Nigerian economy, will be hinged on adequate data. They also said that if effective strategies are adopted by the relevant co-ordinating agencies, working in close collaboration with various research centres, this will assist in generating adequate data at different intervals for the country’s economic growth and development.
It therefore behoves the government to look inwards with an intention to fund research activities in Nigeria’s manufacturing sector. This would would undoubtedly go a long way in bringing about remarkable improvement in both quality and volume of products and in turn, improve the sector’s performance analysts say.