Monday, June 25, 2018 11.00AM / Audu Ochuwa
So, what is the need of engaging in research and indeed, lobby for a Nigeria customs duty waiver or concession, in the case of research-related goods? Can we put checks in place to ensure “research items” are indeed used for what they purport that they will be used for, if and when such a customs duty waiver is put in place? After all, this is Nigeria….and anything can happen!
A quick internet-based search about the function of research gives a rather simple answer: research provides information, facts and solutions. It provides knowledge and understanding to aid problem-solving in every sphere of human endeavour. Research can improve knowledge by debunking earlier held views, re-establishing them or adding to what we already know.
Research outcomes, when applied to real life situations, provide the bedrock of scientific evidence and knowledge that is required to push the envelope. Simply put, cutting-edge research will eventually translate into cutting-edge development in every society. Last but not least, the monitoring and evaluation of a nation’s development efforts can only be achieved through further research.
Many of the raw and finished materials which are required for clinical research are not available in Nigeria. Some research items and specimens require export from the country for further processing, while several more need to be imported. Going through the list of items that were recently approved by the Nigerian Federal Government for a reduction or outright exemption from import duty payment, “research materials” are clearly missing. This is simply not right.
Making research materials duty free should be a foregone conclusion as it will help accelerate research and development, by making it less financially burdensome.
In this era of globalization, being a third world country is simply no longer enough excuse for falling behind, especially as it relates to research and innovation. However, inasmuch as Nigerian researchers want to be contemporary, they mostly come to the realization that a true support system for them is lacking. High-quality research does not come cheap. Under-funding, under-appreciated and under-utilization are some constant brutal realities Nigerian researchers grapple with. The Nigerian federal government can and must do more to assist research effort in Nigeria.
Indeed, there have been outcries about discrepancies and outright contradiction in the allotment of Nigerian custom duty waivers and concessions by the federal government of Nigeria. So much so that some players in the import and export industry have called for a total scrapping of duty waivers and concessions, to create a semblance of balance and fairness.
Nevertheless, appropriate checks and balances to any proposed custom duty waivers on research items can be put in place to prevent abuse or misuse of such governmental policies. Properly documented procedures for liaising with the ethics and research departments of originating or approving research institutions will be paramount, in this regard. Clear verification procedures of accompanying research paperwork to prove the authenticity of “research items” claims must also be in place to prevent a subversion of the potentially lofty objective of a duty waiver for research-related goods. The policy must not lead to capital flight for the federal government of Nigeria, but rather be a way to ensure human and material development gains for our country on the long run.
In truth, we need all hands on deck to help create a more research-focused future for the next generation. On the part of the government, issuance of custom duty waivers for research materials will demonstrate a commitment which can engender and encourage future research endeavours.
Hence, a transparent and unambiguous federal government policy which is aimed a easing or eliminating the restrictions imposed by customs tariffs on research efforts will go a long way towards achieving this objectives. Eventually, this reduction or total elimination of the logistical restrictions imposed by customs duties on research will help improve and broaden the spectrum of research efforts, eventually translating into accelerated national development.