1 November 2006
In an era when national development is being measured by the level of development of science and technology, instead of doing everything necessary to develop its scientific base, the Obasanjo government is busy sacking workers from the Ministry of Science and Technology. This is a sorry development, especially because Nigeria is fabulously blessed with abundant human and natural resources, and remains a potential pool of the best of what humanity is blessed with if concerted effort is made to develop these huge resources.
According to the Minister of Science and Technology, Turner Isoun, 73 of the 346 members of staff of the Ministry of Science would be affected while 1,013 would be laid off from its 19 parastatals. He went on to reduce the structure of the ministry from 8 departments and 3 units to 6 departments and 6 units. All research establishments under the ministry are required to create positions of research directors and research professors, so as to facilitate research etc.
The minister confirmed that the research was to facilitate commercialization and adaptation of research findings and development in specific areas, with the specific aim of marketing Nigeria’s IT technology. In reality, that is the sole aim of this neo-liberal, anti-poor and pro-rich Obasanjo-led government. We are constantly faced with an insensitive government that will never invest even a fraction of the fabulous wealth of the country to develop science and technique in Nigeria.
The CDWR is of the opinion that to further reduce the strength of the research department by sacking workers on the basis of right sizing is simply unacceptable. Even the few available workers, if competent, are simply not even enough to carry out scientific research and development on a national scale. Of recent, Nigerian scientists abroad continue to excel and rank among the best in their various fields of specialization. But a combination of the entire scientists in the country amounts to a fraction or less of what obtains in developed nations where science is of essence and is given special priority.
No doubt, we want giant strides in the art of research and development in Nigeria, which we are confident that our scientists can deliver if given the needed training, quality equipments, research facilities, laboratories, motivation etc that will further create the right or enabling environment for them to operate from. To a very large extent, this will further enable Nigerian scientists to carry out qualitative research, experiments, discoveries etc that will further advance our scientific and technological base.
But the few available laboratories, research facilities etc are moribund and obsolete with little or no funding, where available. To worsen the already dire condition of our scientific base, the insensitive Obasanjo-led government has embarked on a sacking spree of the few available workers in the Science and Technology Ministry and its parastatals.
We welcome the supposed recruitment of 1,000 first class and second class upper graduates into the ministry if it is true that they will be employed and given adequate training. But the question remains: if the old hands are being sacked, who will help train the new recruits? On what basis are we laying the development of our science and technology if a whole generation of scientists will be laid off on the basis of right sizing?
What the ruling elite and their cronies know how to do best is to make profit without investing same to improve the quality goods, services, education, health care etc which will further improve the quality of life of Nigerians and humanity in general. These same thieving politicians pride themselves in jets, cars, and other scientific or technological innovations produced by scientists in other countries through constant research and development over time. But, the ruling elite will not touch, even with a six feet pole, anything that will replicate same in Nigeria, even when the expected funds for such projects are publicly owned.
There are various fields of science which are begging to be developed in Nigeria. These include agricultural science, biological science, meteorological science, astronomical science, medical science, food and nutritional science, petrochemical science, etc that need to be developed through constant research and projected plans of development over time. As such, government should halt the proposed sack of science workers, and make concerted efforts to further train and retrain the available scientists in all available specialized fields, and employ bright brains to sustain the future growth of our sciences. As a priority, government should build and equip more laboratories and upgrade the existing one. Improve the welfare and working conditions of scientists etc.
To build a proper foundation and improve the development of science and technology, efforts should be made by government to improve and sustain the learning of science and technique at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. If this is done on a sustainable basis over time, the inexhaustible potentials will be harnessed and used to further create wealth and development in general for Nigeria as well as for humanity.