The inaugural speech by Professor Kalu Mosto Onuoha, FAS as the Academy’s 18th President

Professor K. Mosto Onuoha, FAS
Distinguished Fellows of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Ladies and Gentlemen!!
Let me start by thanking you all for making it possible for me to stand before you here today to give my inaugural and acceptance speech as President of this august body of experts in science, technology and innovation in Nigeria. I was very humbled to read in the minutes of our January 2016 AGM what the Panel charged at that time with the responsibility of choosing a President-Elect for NAS said about me in connection with their choice and recommendation. I promise with the help of you all to discharge my duties with passion, sincerity and integrity.
Inaugurated in 1977 with 42 Foundation Fellows, NAS has since grown to a body with 221 Fellows (43 of which are deceased while one resigned). Additionally, there are three Foreign Fellows (i.e. non-Nigerians) that were inducted between 2010 and 2012. The Academy exists to promote the growth, acquisition and dissemination of scientific knowledge, and to facilitate the use of science, technology and innovation in the solution of problems of national interest. It is expected to be a dynamic body capable of responding to changes in society and modifying and reorganizing its structure as conditions in the society demand.
I have been privileged to serve NAS in various capacities in the last eighteen years and in the most recent times as Treasurer for three years and Vice-President for four years. I can therefore claim a fairly good knowledge of some of the most intricate problems facing us as a body. NAS has been successfully executing some of the functions expected of it, e.g. organizing conferences/workshops and lectures periodically, publishing its journals and meeting/forum reports, and offering advice and assistance to some ministries and organisations. We are now ready to award prizes and gold medals to Nigerian scientists and engineers who make outstanding contributions to science and technology, etc. I will like to use this opportunity to salute all the Past Presidents of NAS, especially those who served in the last fourteen years (Ogunmola, Okali, Ibidapo-Obe, and Tomori). I worked very closely with each of them and learnt a lot from them. These together with other Past Presidents (and there are still many of them that thankfully are still alive and strong today) should for me constitute a veritable resource base for knowledge and ready advice.
Despite the gains made by NAS in recent times we are yet to make much progress on some of the other functions of this body as originally envisioned by our founding fathers, e.g.

  • Involvement in manpower training;
  • Establishing a fellowship programme for postdoctoral research;
  • Playing an active role in the selection of candidates for government postgraduate scholarships
    and Fellowships in the Sciences.
  • Assisting universities, and other similar institutionsin R & D matters;
  • Compiling and publishing a Directory or National Register of Scientific and Technological

As your new President, my attention would be primarily drawn towards tackling the following main
issues, some of which are simply being brought forward from the last administration:

  1. Meeting our vision and maintaining societal relevance.
  2. Increasing the visibility of NAS in the nation space.
  3. Getting more and more Fellows involved in the activities of the Academy.
  4. Going ahead with plans for the establishment of a permanent headquarters for NAS at the
    nation’s capital (i.e. getting the C of O for the land already allocated to us, and getting some work
    started at the site).
  5. Moving forward with the NAS Bill before the National Assembly.
  6. Reviewing our expired Strategic Plan (2012-2016) and putting in place a new one for the period
  7. Continuing the dialogue on Research Funding in Nigeria and Re-building the foundation for
  8. Collaborating with the Science Association of Nigeria and other scientific societies.
  9. Sustaining our relationship with the Nigerian Young Academy.
  10. Addressing the imbalance in the distribution of specialties in the Academy.
  11. Successfully celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of NAS and hosting of the 13th
    Annual Meeting of African Science Academies (AMASA-13) in Abuja in November, 2017. The
    core of the Local Organising Committee for these events is already at work.
    As stated earlier, my immediate predecessor in office with the out-going Council was already dealing
    with some of these issues, so all we need to do is to roll up our sleeves and continue with the work. The
    40th Council will soon get into action and work out how these things would be done. Our collective efforts
    are necessary for success to be achieved.

Let me now end this short address by quickly referring to some very important issues:
a) The Proposed NAS Bill
Over the years little progress has been made so far with the actualisation of the Academy’s recognition
through legislative charter, which hopefully should position the Academy as an official advisory body to
the government in areas of science and technology, as well as providing a stable funding base via a yearly
government budgetary allocation. Highlights of efforts made so far include the following milestones: –

  • Draft bill finally prepared in April 2009
  • Lead paper prepared in May 2009
  • 1st reading of bill took place on 20th May 2009
  • 2nd reading was scheduled for September 2009
  • The Senator that was then presenting the bill was Senator T.U Wada from Gombe State, (a
    lawyer) previously involved with the administration of the Ministry of Science and Technology
    The Senator died and for a long time action on the draft bill got stalled.
  • We made more efforts with the next National Assembly, this time starting with the House of
    Reps; Members of Council were on one occasion even received by the then Speaker of the House,
    Hon. Tambuwal. Hopes were high and on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 the House concluded its
    debate on the general principles of the bill and referred it for further legislative action to the
    appropriate House Committee.
  • Even though we worked closely with a Consultant appointed by the House to prepare for the
    public hearing of the bill, nothing much happened until the life of that National Assembly ended
    in 2015.

The new Council will within the year decide on what next to do or how best to proceed with this
assignment of getting a charter for NAS.
b) On the Issue of Offering Evidence-Based Scientific Advice: –

  • NAS should be more proactive and use its sectional committees
  • NAS should try to be aware of advisory needs in the country for both the government and the
    organized private sector and offer solicited and unsolicited advice
  • Provide information about NAS and its capabilities and services to selected ministries,
    government agencies, and the private sector
  • Cultivate relationships with targeted government advisers by inviting them to some NAS
  • Try to use the prestige of NAS Fellows as entry point to the private sector
  • Identify key players by name and hold informal meetings with them

    c) Funding of NAS
    NAS needs adequate, sustainable and diversified funding for its activities. To do this: –

    • We will keep working to obtain a Charter status as soon as possible.
    • Launch Science& Technology Endowment Drive and make all efforts to raise money for
      the 40thAnniversary Celebrations of NAS and the hosting of the AMASA-13 in
      November 2017.
    • We will continue to make efforts to raise funds by competing for funded projects, and
      collaborating with funding agencies to organize workshops and carry out projects. We
      will ensure that NAS achieves some fully-funded projects every year.
    • Provide scientific and evidence-based services to government, the private sector, and the
      community and intensify efforts to raise funds through philanthropic foundations and

    Getting support for funding will require inputs from all Fellows of NAS.
    d) On NAS Membership:
    We will do everything possible to improve the profile of the Academy in terms of members’ commitment,
    participation, and age brackets. This would involve: –

    • Encouraging more Fellows to attend NAS meetings and events and having them respond
      to correspondences from the Secretariat.
    • Widely publicizing the Academy and its procedures for membership in order to attract
      members from diverse institutions and locations in the country.
    • Achieving a mean age of between 50 and 60 years of new Fellows.

    Finally, I would like to remind all of us that the Academy belongs to all of us and needs the intellectual,
    professional, moral, and financial contribution of every Fellow. The nation needs NAS even if the powers
    that be do not always recognize this. Things will get better with time, even if the road ahead for now
    appears hazy because of the economic climate. We must remain optimistic and work hard to achieve our
    vision and mission. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you as President. It is an awesome
    responsibility, and by God’s grace, I will not fail those who have confidence in my ability to lead this
    organization at a time like this.
    God bless you all!
    K. Mosto Onuoha, FAS, FNMGS, fnape
    PTDF Professor of Petroleum Geology
    University of Nigeria, Nsukka
    Enugu State, Nigeria