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[ABUJA] The Nigerian government is pushing its national academies to re-align their priorities following criticisms of their perceived lack of contribution to sustainable development.

The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology met with the representatives of the five national academies — the Nigerian Academy of Science, Nigerian Academy of Engineering, Social Sciences Academy of Nigeria, Nigerian Academy of Education and Nigerian Academy of Letters — earlier this month (1 March) to address the situation.

Then science and technology minister, Alhassan Zaku, said that the academies' impact had not been felt so far in the efforts to accelerate the country's development.

"It is on record that your organisations have existed over a decade in this country, yet your impacts are not felt in [Nigeria's] quest to attain sustainable development," Zaku said.

He added that the time had come for Nigeria's academies to collaborate more closely with the government and play a more critical role in advising on how sustainable development .

"In most countries, national academies serves as the engine room for development but the situation in Nigeria is different. Here the academies are reluctant to take up challenges with all the knowledge and experience that abound within them," he said.

The meeting fashioned out strategies that would enable national academies formally to contribute to national development.

The president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Oye Ibidapo-Obe, told SciDev.Net that the meeting was timely and would compel the national intellectual powerhouses to become major players in Nigeria's development agenda.

Ibidapo-Obe also said that Nigeria Vision 2020, Nigeria's development agenda, would benefit immensely from the contribution of these academies — especially in the areas of research and human capacity development.

He added that the meeting formally opened the avenue for the academies to make presentations to the government.

A subcommittee made up of members of the different Nigerian academies has been set up to structure the new partnership and draw up activities that would involve both the government and its academies.