By Ehiedu E.G.Iweriebor
The story of the third agency example is no different. The Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) by name and mandate should be assumed to be in the vanguard of national technological capacitation. It has not done anything revolutionary or decisive or noteworthy in that area. FMST also has one of the largest concentration science and technology research and development institutes, centres, agencies and parastatals.
In terms of revolutionary potential, the most important, promising and ultimately disappointing agency is the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI).
Established in 1992 as the comprehensive public sector technology development agency, its primary mandate was to promote and foster the development and emergence of a vast, diverse, vigorous and viable capital goods industry or national engineering sector for the various sub-sectors of the capitals goods industry such as: Mechanical engineering including machine and engineering tools and engineering accessories; and Industrial machinery; Electrical and power engineering /machinery and equipment manufacturing industry; Electronic technologies and Scientific equipment and tools; Engineering materials and Hydraulic and water equipment, Engineering Design etc
But right from its inception, NASENI faced powerful internal opposition from forces which felt that because of its location in the Presidency and its proposed funding directly with 2% of Federation Account that it was going to be a supra-Ministerial behemoth that would substantially affect other ministries funding because of the source of its allocations. Outlandish, unpatriotic and baseless as these claims were, they won the day and NASENI became financially still-born.
In the event, these unhappy and disruptive experiences stymied its envisaged rapid growth and development. Still the early motivated leadership of NASENI which had been involved in its conception and formation clearly understood that it was to establish on a new development model to function as a national technology creator and disseminator and, not just another agency for the purchase and operation of foreign technology assembly plants as it has now become.
NASENI in its original development programme was supposed to establish in its first phase 30 capital goods complexes in the major fields of activities. However the militant and unpatriotic opposition led to the non-release of its legally approved allocation of 2 % of the Federation Account. Consequently, its plans for large-scale technology development centers were scale down drastically. However, through the committed and creative efforts of its early leaders NASENI established several medium-scale technology development centres/institutes. These are Science Equipment Development Institutes (SEDI) in Enugu and Minna; Hydraulic Equipment Development Institute, (HEDI) Kano; Electronic Development Institute, (ELDI), Awka; Engineering Materials Development Institute, (EMDI) Akure; Prototype Development Institute,(PEDI) Ilesha; Power Equipment and Electrical Machines Development Institute, (PEEMADI), Okene; Advanced Manufacturing Technology-Project, (AMP), Jalingo and National Engineering Design and Development Institute, (NEDDI) Nnewi.
However without the required substantial engineering manufacturing capacities to design, manufacture and transfer production technologies to its satellite technology dissemination centres and the private sector engineering enterprises, NASENI has not made the requisite revolutionary impact of creating a national capital goods sector or vigorous national engineering sector. Consequently, more than 26 years after its formation NASENI has been reduced to a non-manufacturer of Nigerian engineering products to an agency involved in the failed strategy of establishing technology equipment ASSEMBLY PLANTS as for example its plans to establish various electrical products assembly plants with Chinese companies.
To the extent that NASENI has to not catalyzed the emergence of an expansive, vigorous and viable national capital goods sector or the machinery and equipment manufacturing industry, to that extent it can be said that the Agency is a useless and failed MDA.
This then is the summary story of the failure of some of Nigeria’s potentially transformational technical MDA’s to develop and equip Nigeria with the autonomous technological capacity for its self-actuated development. But these and the other technical MDA’s are redeemable and can become agencies of national technological capacitation on four conditions.
First, is the Federal government’s retrieval and re-assertion of its primary responsibility for national development including technological capacitation independent of all external diktats, pressures and blandishments from pretentious know-it-all multilateral imperialist agencies led by the World Bank. A sovereign state cannot cede its primary responsibility to its people to any foreign agencies or their dogmas. It should be re-affirmed that in all countries and especially developing ones, patriotic interventionist governments invest in catalytic industries are a sine qua non of development take-off, prosperity generation and empowerment. That is the evidence and verdict of history.
Second, is the Federal government’s systematic expurgation of the cancerous and asphyxiating policy, ideological, programmatic presence of the World Bank in Nigerian affairs and all state institutions. Similarly the corrosive dogma and disempowering strategy of FDI propagated as the indispensable agency of national development should be overthrown. Without the systemic elimination of these pathologies, Nigeria cannot develop.
Third is for the Federal government to direct all technical MDA’s to design robust and comprehensive practical and rapidly implementable technology development blueprints and roadmaps for the key catalytic heavy industry sectors as follows: Mechanical engineering; Transport equipment and machinery; Electrical and Power engineering industry; Electronic, Communication and Scientific engineering industries; Steel and metal industries.
Fourth, is its creation of an autonomous institutional mechanism/agency for the guaranteed, sustained and generous funding of these technical agencies to implement their robust development programmes to convert the nation into one of the pre-eminent global Industrial Manufacturing Workshops and Technology Creation Centres of the world within 15 years.
The technology development history of other post-independence countries makes it quite clear that fulsome, unblinkered patriotic and even a militant mission-driven approach was central to their self-equipment. For example the self-transformational success stories of India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, Pakistan, South Korea, China, Taiwan demonstrate conclusively that confident, self-regarding elites and patriotic leaderships and anti-imperialist and radical nationalist states are indispensable for national technological capacitation, mass industrial production, mass employment, mass prosperity generation, national power and dignity. Nigeria cannot be different.
Ehiedu E.G.Iweriebor (Ph.D, Columbia) is a Professor,
Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino
Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, USA.
Economy September 23, 2020