Stakeholders in the Science and Technology sector have backed the National Assembly in its bid to increase the funding of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).
The stakeholders, who spoke at a public hearing on a Bill to Repeal and Re-enact the RMRDC Act, also supported the power of enforcement given to the Council in the proposed legislation.
The public hearing was organised by the Committee on Science and Technology.
Sponsored by the Chairman of the committee, Robert Boroffice, the bill seeks to increase the funding of the Council from 1 percent of raw materials import surcharge to two percent and grant the Council power to regulate imported and local raw materials.
In his submission, the Director General of the Council, Ibrahim Doko pointed out that the need to increase the funding of the Council became necessary following the demands of the Presidential Executive Order Number 5.
The Order signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in February this year, sought to improve local content in public procurement with science, engineering and technology components.
Doko explained that the Council was set up to handle the issues and challenges of local raw materials resources for industries.
He said: “The Council covers as an import substitution institution, as a research, development and innovation institution and as an economic impacting institution”.
“The Council encourages and promotes local contents, cluster development initiative, boosting agricultural raw materials, value addition and utilization of local raw materials”.
“Despite all these, the Council does not have any sources of empowerment to enable it checkmate violations in the utilization of raw materials”.
“It is in the face of the importation of both fake, poisonous and dangerous raw materials and even those available in the country, RMRDC is just helpless and at the mercy of those frustrating the efforts of government“.
“While SON is pre-occupied with standards for products, NAFDAC is dealing with food and drugs, efforts at checking standard of raw materials is left to no one and leaves a gap that must be filled by RMRDC. The need to ensure quality control in both imported and locally produced raw materials is important.”
He said that the Council had taken the right position to carry out responsibilities of enforcement and therefore urged lawmakers to accord it the required legal backing.
Obadiah Mailafia, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), also supported the bill to increase the funding of the council, saying that the RMRDC was very strategic to the economy of Nigeria.
While supporting the bill, he recommended that the Council be made a special agency and accorded special status.
He went on to recommend that the RMRDC be given the power to partner with governments of other nations on research and development as well as get funding from donor agencies.
Degun Agboade, president, Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), also backed the bill, saying that the responsibility of the Council had increased.
He said that if the Bill was passed, it would aid the Council in setting up of world-class research laboratories in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
He pointed out that the Council had been of great help to so many small enterprises as well as big industries. He therefore urged the National Assembly to pass the bill.
Two former Director Generals of the Council, Azubuike Onwualu and Abdullahi Aliyu, who also made submissions at the public hearing, also threw their weight behind the bill.
Earlier, declaring the event open, Senate President Bukola Saraki, acknowledged the role of the Council in growing industries and thereby growing the nation’s economy.
Represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Saraki said the Council possessed the potentials to save Nigeria huge sums of money, which would be lost through importation of raw materials.