Nigeria needs to move away from a resource-based economy to a knowledge based, and innovation driven economy in a sustainable manner and also be competitive in the global economic arena, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonaya Onu has said.
Dr Onu who stated this in his lecture titled: “The Role of Science and Technology in National Development” to the participating students of senior course 39 at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, said, it is the only way that the country will be able to withstand any shock whenever there is a sharp decline in the price of commodities in the international market.
Towards this end, he said ,”We will need the efficient and effective deployment of science, technology and innovation to achieve this so that never and never again shall our country feel the effect of the shock in the sharp decline in commodity prices as we now feel it.
“It has become clear that nations that truly desire to develop, modernize her economy and remain competitive must embrace knowledge, especially scientific and technological knowledge. Indeed, scholars of various schools of thought agree with several political leaders in the recognition of knowledge as an important instrument necessary to unlock the doors of underdevelopment.”
He further maintained that the need to move from resource based economy to knowledge based economy is necessary more than ever before especially considering the recent near collapse in crude oil prices that exposed the vulnerability of our economy and occasioned the important and urgent need for Nigeria to diversify her economy in order to help her withstand any future shocks arising from the decline of commodity prices in the international market.
“It is instructive that by the year 2099, by the end of this century, Nigeria’s population is expected to be as high as one billion people. With a growing population, I envisage a future when we will consume internally much, if not all of the crude oil we produce, leaving virtually nothing for export. The prospects of such a future for Nigeria demands careful planning if we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow, especially in a fast changing world.
“The position that we now find ourselves as a nation is precarious. We must change the situation. We do not have the luxury of time.”
We must act immediately. It is important that I mention that since independence in 1960, up to today in 2016, some 56 years after independence, our economy has been characterized as a mono-product, resource based economy.
“At independence, we exported commodities namely groundnuts, cocoa and palm oil. We did not add any value to these commodities. That explained why we exported cocoa but imported chocolate into the country. In 2016, we still export commodities namely crude oil and natural gas,” the minister said.
We do not add any value such that we export crude oil only to import refined petroleum products. We continue to flare our natural gas, one of the few countries that do so.
“The sad thing with these commodities is that we do not even determine the price of what we produce. Others determine the price for us. The recent sharp drop in the price of crude oil as well as the shrinkage in the volume of the crude oil which we can export due to the militancy in the Niger Delta Region of the country have helped reduce the revenue available to government.
“Today we are in an economic recession. Though this has introduced a lot of hardship for all Nigerians but at the same time, it provides for us an opportunity to start doing things differently for the good of all.
“It has become important that I state clearly that no single nation in either ancient or modern times, has ever become great without science and technology. A nation can be rich but certainly not great by the mere possession of abundant natural resources. Egypt, surrounded by deserts, was able to use the River Nile, the longest river in the world, to irrigate her land and grow sufficient food which made it possible for the people to settle in one place resulting in a large population. Nigeria as a nation must work hard to feed her citizens. Science and technology play a vital role in the farming chain. It is only by employing science and technology in agriculture that any achievement recorded can be both competitive and sustaining.