By Akon Etumukwa
Efforts by Nigerian academics to conduct cutting-edge research has received a boost as President Muhammadu Buhari has raised the National Research Fund, NRF, from N3 billion to N5 billion.
The NRF, which was set up in 2009, is aimed at reinvigorating research activities in Nigerian tertiary institutions and addressing the paucity of funds required to conduct high quality research for national development.
Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Prof Suleiman Bogoro, said the N5 billion approval was the highest single allocation for research under the scheme since it began in 2009.
Bogoro, who spoke at the Inauguration of the National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee in Abuja, said the fund was to enable scholars in the country to conduct cutting-edge research.
The TETFund boss noted that President Buhari had at various fora expressed concern over the low level of research funding in the country with a commitment to reverse the trend.
“These funds are intended to catalyze cutting-edge research in three thematic areas of science, technology, and innovation; humanities and social sciences; and cross cutting discipline. This is geared towards contributing to the national development efforts of the Federal Government,” he said.
Bogoro however expressed concern over the slow pace that research activities have progressed in the past, adding that the failure of researchers to substantially access N4 billion between 2012 and 2018 was not cheering to the fund.
“It is worthy of note that so far, TETFund through the NRF has allocated N2.6billion to 113 research projects from 2011-2019 in five batches, out of which N1.5b has been disbursed to researchers,” he said.
He said the committee, which is made up of academics with diverse expertise, will among other things, pre-qualify applications for research grants from academics in beneficiary institutions to ensure that they comply with the approved template for accessing the grant.
He added that they will identify fundable proposals through the various mechanisms of the committee for sponsorship and monitor and report on the progress of research work.
While delivering his acceptance speech, the Chairman of the National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring Committee, Prof Olufemi Bamiro, noted that research and development were the bedrock of any nation in a knowledge-driven global economy and its attendant competitions.
Bamiro expressed hope that with the commitment demonstrated by the leadership of TETFund, the committee would deliver on its mandate.
He however appealed to the management of the fund to ensure funding is released to researchers on the basis of the quality of their concept notes as it is the practice with other research funding agencies.