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Scientists advocates via economic diversification via renewable resources

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• Akintayo delivers first FUOYE inaugural lecture
A PROFESSOR of Industrial Chemistry, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Cecilia Olufunke Akintayo, has advocated industrial utilization of renewable natural resources by creating bio-based chemical plants and massive investments in research activities. The academic made the call while delivering the first inaugural lecture of the university entitled, ‘The Place of Plant Oil Derived Products as Sustainable Replacement for Petrochemical Products in Industries’ in Oye Ekiti, Ekiti State, recently. She said Nigeria, being a tropical country, is blessed with wide varieties of plants that produce oil-bearing seeds, and because of the abundance of these oils, they are the ideal alternative chemical feedstock for industries.

“We, therefore, need to elevate Nigeria from the present low-level mono-product economy based on a non-renewable natural resource (crude oil) to a highly reliable and more desirable level of a diversified economy based on systematic utilisation of renewable natural resources, which include our local plant resources,” she advocated. Akintayo argued in the lecture that if Nigeria would give priority of reserving some oil earnings to the development of a bio-based chemical plant instead of “prestige” projects that are without adequate social benefits to the common man, the necessary finance could be raised.

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“I venture to say that a large bio-based chemical plant satisfying most of the local chemical needs is an urgent requirement which is good for national prestige and is, therefore, worth making sacrifices for, even if it is only making modest profits,” she added, Such bio-based chemical plants would reduce unemployment and stabilise the economic recessions and meet the increased demands in the chemical industry of the developed world, she said. Akintayo also advised the government to invest more in its universities, especially in the area of research, saying, for example, that “chemical research is a major factor on which chemical industrialisation of the country would depend.” Given the high level of unemployment in Nigeria today, the inaugural lecturer said, the industrial development “should be tailored to be labour-intensive, classically low technology industries like bulk chemicals, iron, steel and other metal fabrication, cotton and leather, power generation and value addition industries like soap, paint, sugar, etc. Later, after overcoming the unemployment challenge, then labour saving, high technologically oriented chemical industries may be focused on.”

She equally advocated a paradigm shift in life in university curricula to enable universities to produce graduates who could find places of relevance in today’s world of realities. She said: “To emphasize the theory and practical works as related to industrial products, the Chemistry curricula in the universities would have to be drastically modified to emphasise industrial products and processes, industrial economics and more industrial visits and attachments to fit our graduates more into what new job opportunities would become available to them.” She appealed to leaders in the developing nations to see science and technology as their responsibility and realise scientists are precious assets. “Prize them; give them opportunities, responsibilities for scientific and technological development of their own countries.

At present, even the small numbers that we have are under-utilised. “However, the goal must be to increase their number tenfold, to increase the amount spent internally on science and technology tenfold. Science is not cheap and we must not also forget that technology in the conditions of today cannot, in the long run, flourish without science flourishing at the same time,” Akintayo said.


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