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C’River State Science And Tech Ministry: Putting State In Global Tech Map

Seven months ago, when Gov. Bassey Edet Otu of Cross River State inaugurated his cabinet, not so many people envisaged that the newly created Ministry of Science and Technology would become the beacon of light for his administration nationally and globally like it is fast becoming.

Dr. Justin Beshel receiving the NiRA award on behalf of the Cross River State government

The Cross River State Ministry of Science and Technology, when compared to related federal ministries, is a combination of two stand-alone ministries —Ministries of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy, and Innovation, Science and Technology. This means that the scope of the ministry covers digital economy, communication and information technology, science, technology, and innovation.

Dr. Justin Beshel, Honourable Commissioner for Science and Technology, Cross River State, presenting the NiRA award to Gov. Bassey Edet Otu

Ostensibly, at the time, the governor created the ministry and deployed Dr. Justin Beshel as Commissioner, there was no befitting office for him to start up from even though the scope was so broad. But the governor had a clear vision, which he sold to Beshel and encouraged him to do his best. His best, with what the Ministry has achieved in such a short time, has been nothing short of amazing.

Seven months down the line, Cross Riverians have every reason to commend the Governor for first, deciding to create such an important Ministry with the mandate to drive the state’s digital economy, technology and innovation for economic prosperity, and secondly, handing it to a young man who doesn’t see his job as politics but an opportunity to help the government create a remarkable impact in science and technology.

Perhaps it is safe to say that Dr. Beshel has not only justified his appointment but has also validated the reason why Gov. Otu created the ministry by putting the state on the national and global map in science and technology discourse.

For instance, just a few months into his reign as Commissioner, Beshel led his ministry to Lagos to conquer other states at the 6th edition of the Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NiRA) award, having emerged as the best state in the country in the area of Digital Innovation in government. This was not a coincidence but an award in recognition of the far-reaching innovations the Otu administration brought on board, some of which include the digitalisation of the budget process, revenue generation, etc.

Similarly, at the just concluded 8th edition of the National Technology and Innovation Exhibition, an event organised by the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology for state government and private individuals to showcase talents and innovations, Cross River, led by the Ministry of Science and Technology emerged best in the country by showcasing three technologies with far-reaching implications on the State, national and global economy.

One of the technologies showcased at the exhibition is the one hundred per cent locally developed application, the Central Authentication Payment System App. This app, invented to monitor and sum up in real-time, revenue generation from all revenue sources of government, has helped in bringing discipline, accountability, and transparency to revenue generation in the state.

As rumoured, the federal government and other federating units including the Federal Capital Territory are interested in this technology and the state is preparing to market it to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for adoption as a quasi-regulator of revenue generation across the states of the the federation. If this goes as planned, it’ll improve the influx of resources to the state for Gov. Otu to implement his brilliant ‘People’s First’ Agenda’.

Dr. Beshel with the Honourable Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Chief Uche Godfrey Nnaji at the Technology and Innovation Exhibition held in Abuja, last week

In the same vein, the state also showcased the Fibre Extractor at the exhibition. The technology that is used to extract fibre from plantain and banana stems, as well as from pineapple, is the first of its kind in West Africa.

With the recent ban on polythene materials in some states in Nigeria, the importance of fibre technology can not be overstressed. Besides, fibre technologies are getting so much attention in the West now as some are deployed to fight environmental degradation. With this technology, Cross River is already putting itself on the global map in the biodegradable discourse.

Furthermore, another innovation displayed at the exhibition is the locally-made Stem Slicer. This first-of-its-kind machine, designed to enhance productivity and reduce time cost, is structured to neatly slice banana and plantain stems into sizes that can easily be taken up by the Fibre Threshing and Extracting Machine.

Bananas and Plantain stems have huge economic potential. The Philippines is generating huge resources from the conversion of banana stems into products like rugs, leather fabrics, and even hair extensions. According to reports, Italian shoemakers are importing a lot of made-with-banana-stem leathers from the Philippines. Even the Indians are now making huge fortunes from banana leather.

With the new Cross River Stem Slicer technology, with proper investment, Cross River State can partner with some of these countries and attract a lot of investment in this area to the state. To attain this, however, the government needs to be deliberate in marketing these technologies within and outside the country.

Undoubtedly, the vision of the governor for creating the new Ministry of Science and Technology and handing it over to a competent young hand to run is paying off. Hence, there’s a need for continued investment in the Ministry as well as collaboration with relevant federal authorities to effectively harness the potential in the technologies developed so far and many that are to come.

By Inyali Peter, Ph.D, SentryTimes