“As the 2012 needs assessment of the Nigerian university system shows, only a few universities have state-of-the-art laboratories and workshops for conducting good quality research especially in the sciences, engineering, medicine and technology. In most cases, the research laboratories are sprinkled with outdated equipment some of which are broken down owing to lack of maintenance.”
Those were the words of former Executive Secretary of the National University Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola. He spoke on Wednesday at the third University of Ibadan Research and Development Fair held at the International Conference Centre ,University of Ibadan.
The fair, themed: “University of Ibadan at 70: Celebrating Excellence in Research, Innovation and Societal Impact” was organised in conjunction with the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission.
In his paper presentation titled, “The academic as Public Intellectual: 70 years of traversing Gown and Town”, Prof. Okebukola lamented that across the 166 universities in the country, three major impediments to quality and useful research were common. According to him, they are inadequate research facilities, weak research capacity of staff and lack of enough research grants.
He said: “On the human resource angle, the research landscape is populated by few scholars who have had the benefit of training overseas under world-renowned researchers and have used new technologies in their research. Most others have received local training using equipment that are not up to date and hence deficient in their research skills. The third challenge is non-availability of sizeable research grants to scholars. At the university level, paucity of recurrent grant limits the funds that are available as research grant to a token that can only purchase few reams of paper and a handful of reagents. At the national level, the establishment of a national research fund is yet to gather momentum.
“A typical researcher in the Faculty of Science that applies for a grant of about N5 million to conduct a study on a pressing national problem may receive about 0.2% of this amount. Add the inability of the researcher to write grant-winning proposals, you end up with a frustrated scholar and a national problem unsolved. Other challenges include low level of multi-authorship and interdisciplinarity and tendency to be academically dishonest in data collection, analysis and reporting.”
Okebukola who is also the president of Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI-Africa), stated that “in another 20 years if the state of laboratories in Nigerian universities is improved, incentive system for good quality research established and the National Research Fund in place with generous grants to scholars for research, the Nigerian university system will be on a steady march to contributing to national and global development more than ever imagined today.”
In his remarks, the Director General of DAWN Commission, Mr Oluseye Oyeleye said Nigeria’s future depends on the investment it makes in research and innovation.
His words: “Nigeria has no future if all we do is buy, buy, buy from abroad. With high numbers of containers coming to Nigeria daily and leaving empty, why wont they leave empty when we are not doing anything.”
He however pointed out that the universities were doing their best but was being hampered by lack of opportunities to showcase their products.
“The business community out there is not connecting to the university to know what they can take away that will have commercial value for whatever they are doing,” he said.
The DAWN boss commended UI for the research fair, which according to the Deputy Vice- Chancellor, Research Innovation and Strategic Partnership, Prof. Olanipekun, was meant to showcase the university’s research efforts, innovations, policy briefs and community outreaches in the past 70 years.
“We are excited that University of Ibadan is persistent in showcasing what is available here, what the business community can take away and turned into commercial value, Oyeleye said.
“We don’t have to rely on imported innovations and products. We have brilliant people here in Nigeria. People say that research and innovative works starts and ends in University community, but for the first time, UI is breaking that trend by doing this consistently.”
The DG urged researchers to put the event in their yearly academic calendar, saying that DAWN Commission was proud to be associated with the University.
“We cant wait on government alone. We all know government. If this is a vote winning event, you will see more politicians. This is the bedrock of development in any nation. A nation that fails to innovate will eventually die because this is what you need to communicate with other nations,” he posited.
Earlier in his opening address, the university’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, appreciated Okebukola’s presence at the event. He also expressed delight at the partnership between the university and DAWN Commission.
He advocated for more collaborations between the academia, universities and private organisations.