REVEALED: How FG Spent Over Two Trillion On Research And Development In Four Years With Little To Show

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Not less than two trillion Naira has been allocated in the last four years by the federal government to fund research and development in the country with little or nothing to show for it Sunday Tribune can report.

Between 2019 and 2022, a total sum of N2,009,844,525,918 has been budgeted for Research and Development across the ministries department and agencies (MDAs) of government. But some of the end users of the allocations, who spoke to Sunday Tribune, claimed the so-called government spending only existed in the imagination of those who prepared the budgets.

Each year, the budget for research and development with the budget code 23050101 recorded 271 hits in 2022, 365 hits in 2021 and 327 hits in 2020 appropriations for each fiscal year.

Already, another budgetary cycle has begun, following the presentation of the 2023 budget by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National assembly legislators. Expectedly, MDAs would appear before the legislators to defend the 2023 budget amongst which would be the budget code “23050101” across the MDAs allocated various sums for “research and development”.

Sunday Tribune can also report that the term ‘Research and Development’ which carries various codes outside the unified code of 23050101 in the Nigerian budget, recorded 447 hits in 2022, 514 hits in 2021 and 431 hits in the fiscal year of 2020 appropriations of the federal government of Nigeria.

Further analysis of the three years budget by the Sunday Tribune showed that each year, the federal government had invested N1,136,181,768,239.

In the extant year of 2022, over 40 per cent lesser in the previous year of 2021 which amounted to N665,232,590,106 and N208,430,167,573 in the compressed budget of 2020 where Nigeria joined the world to battle the virulent COVID- 19 virus that shut down global economies.

Sunday Tribune further checks revealed that cumulative allocations to research and development in public universities and colleges of education in Nigeria stood over N200bn for the years 2022, 2021 and 2020.

According to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, the 2021 budget performed by 89 per cent, while the 2021 budget performance was 83 per cent and the 2019 budget performed at 86 per cent.

Faced with globalization and the Nigerian economy has largely been exploited by the innovations and inventions from other climes in Medicine, agriculture, environment and information communication technology (ICT) and other areas including social sciences.

The 2022 appropriation to 47 federal universities and colleges of education had a cumulative of N109,949,732,229. The allocation for 2021 stood at N54,639,780,593 and the sum of N36,205,730,807 was budgeted cumulatively for the federal universities and colleges in each appropriation document accessed by Sunday Tribune.

‘They are just paper allocations’

Describing the budgetary allocation to the research and development in Nigeria over the years, Prof Taofiq Adesina Azeez, of the Department of English, University of Abuja, who spoke to Sunday Tribune through WhatsApp, said the budgetary allocation has only been on paper, stressing that Nigeria has not done well in the area of research.

Professor Azeez said the combination of corruption and poor remuneration for the researchers who are burdened with lecture workloads has derailed research for solution to the myriad of challenges it would have solved for the country.

He called on the federal government to undertake a restructuring of the educational sector to prioritize research minded individuals to take be admitted into the university and boost the culture of research for development.

According to Prof Azeez: “Nigeria has not done well in the area of harnessing her internal research and development findings. Reasons are simple. Facilities for development (R&D) do either not exist or are inadequate in most Universities. This is one of the reasons for incessant strikes by university lecturers.

“Secondly, lecturers, who are supposed to carry out these researches are poorly remunerated and burdened with workloads that do not allow room for constructive research.

“Corruption that engulfs all — lecturers, the research institutions and the universities –kill all achievable outcomes in research in Nigerian universities. Only a few honest ones do research in which neither the Nigerian government nor serious entrepreneur is interested because research outcomes do not translate into immediate pecuniary gains for politicians and government officials that should be concerned with this business.

“Output cannot justify the “paper” investment in and political appropriation to this sector basically due to corruption. Those who did the appropriation are usually the first to take back a large percentage from the administrators/executors of the R&D projects.

“Everyone involved, down the line, also helps him/herself with what remains and the results are what we see. Sometimes, research results are cooked up and we can only do a little to save the situation.

“The following can be done as parts of the general restructuring of education as the main drive of/for development: Universities should be restructured to serve as research institutions only. All secondary school leavers do not have to go to the universities. Only those interested in Research and Teaching should.”

Speaking further, Professor Azeez, called for “Strengthening of Teacher Education to drive complete education from the grassroots. Only the best must read education. Their focus while in the University will, therefore, be Education Research for Development or Research on Education for Development.

“Technical Education should be restructured, strengthened and encouraged for Technology Development. Best brains from this level may now step up, free of charge, to the Universities to do research on Technology for Development.

“Education at the lower level should be functionalized to compulsorily include skills acquisition in such a way that job and wealth creation can become possible for school leavers instead of them struggling to go to the universities to qualify for job scouting while the jobs are not there for take or purchase,” he stated.

‘Government should encourage researchers’

Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics, Sokoto State University, Professor Mohammed Bello Yerima, blamed the challenge of poor outcome of researches in the country on incessant strike by the Ivory tower over infidelity of government to funding research and even promoting research findings in Nigeria.

He noted that the resources already invested in research are huge while advocating an alignment of the universities and the industries for tailored researches for the benefit of end users.

According to him, those research findings like the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) should be promoted by the government to encourage researchers.

His words: “Like the ASUU/ federal government IPPIS and the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) that is a home grown technology developed by ASUU, they are not even trying it.

“When you say something has problem, how would you know the essence of the problem, if you do not put it to use? And it was a task given to ASUU to develop by the federal government. Why don’t you, at least, put this software into use. By the time you put it to use, a lot of things can come up and these would be sorted out”.

He pointed out that one example that exposed the unserious disposition of the political class to the issue of research was the ban on Twitter. He said that “If we were serious, actually during the Twitter ban, Nigerian experts should have used the opportunity to come with something that can substitute Twitter or other thing to make it a home-grown technology. That is what usually leads to innovations.”

He recalled a visit to China, when the country was having a technological problem with the United States. “I was in China few years back and bought a phone. Not conscious of the fact that, that was the time China and the US we’re having issues on this technology thing. I got to my hotel trying to install WhatsApp, it never took up Google; it never took up WhatsApp. In the morning I got back to the person and asked why sold such a phone to me. When I told him, he replied that they have a home-grown technology that does not allow WhatsApp and Google to work. They have developed their own and they call it Wechat.

“It means they are very serious, there are the people that use technological knowledge thy have into innovations and you can imagine how that is helping the economy. They have the market, they have the technology. They are innovative. China is solving her economic problem. That is what we should do in Nigeria. Take advantage of our peculiarity. Develop appropriate technology and, of course, we have the human resources, intelligent people. NITDA personnel are well trained abroad and we expect that during that Twitter ban, they should have come up with a home-grown technology.”

‘Research allocations should be investigated’

Dr. Arthur-Martins Aginam of the Faculty of Management and Social Sciences, Baze University, Abuja said the budgetary allocations assigned for researchers and development, should be investigated as well as the researchers.

He said the dearth of research findings in the market was not justifiable in the face of the huge resources already allocated for the purpose. He said the issues around the huge resource allocation must be investigated to ascertain outputs and outcome of the research findings and align the researchers, their outcomes and the industries for end users’ benefits.

He demurred the trend of senior lecturers in Nigerian universities fighting to become heads of departments or deans of faculties when their counterpart in other climes are rejecting such offers for research works that have attracted grants from governments and the industries for tailored research works.

His words: “If we have committed that massive amount of money, how come that research outcomes have not reflected in Nigeria developmental programmes and progress?

“As I said, these are issues for investigative journalists. So, it is not just to talk about the amount of money that has been committed. Assuming the researches were conducted, what were the outcomes? How much of them were successful? Where was the money submitted to? Who were the researchers? What was the success rate and what the rate of failure was?” the university teacher queried.

“That takes us to the dimension and findings of the researches. It is harnessing of the findings – research because we should be able to establish clearly what the findings are, the successful rate and the rest of them that is when you can say okay. These scientific discoveries have been made, as a result of the research.

“How are we harnessing them because what is the relationship between the gown and the town; between the universities and industries?

Aginam expressed worry over the quality of tertiary education lecturers in Nigeria and the huge funds they deny themselves and the system by their distractions to lead departments rather than to impact on humanity with their solution driven researches.

According to him: “In developed countries (I had the privilege of studying abroad both in Britain and Canada), I can tell you that most of the senior top professors, researchers are not ready to do administrative jobs. It is forced on them. Reason being that they have got so much research grants from government and so much research grants from private sector. They want to bring in the best graduate students of Master’s and PhD from India, China Europe and every part of the world to come and work in their labs.

“They are interested in having the next cutting edge research findings and things like that.

“Here in Nigeria, how much money is the government giving to researchers in the universities. How much money is the private sector giving to universities to be able to have them do cutting edge research which cost a lot of money and which ultimately may not even result or lead to any other discovery?

“Again, there is no guarantee that because you are doing research, you are going to get the outcome you desire. Sometimes you fail completely; sometimes you get a different kind of result. It is almost like you are going to Lokoja from Abuja and you end up in Jos, but at least you ended up somewhere, Aginam stated

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