From Felix Ikem, Nsukka, and Jude Chinedu, Enugu

The Managing Director of the Nigerian Satellite Communications Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Mrs. Jane  Egerton-Idehen has said that over-reliance on the oil sector has created a vulnerable economy in Nigeria.

Egerton-Idehen said this in Nsukka on Saturday while delivering the 20th Herbert Macaulay Memorial Lecture themed, “Harnessing Practical Engineering Solutions for Sustainable Economic Development” held at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium Hall, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN).

Egerton-Idehen who spoke on the topic “Championing Innovation: Digital Transformation and Economic Diversification in Nigeria,” said that Nigeria has heavily relied on oil production for many years which has not augured well for the country’s economy.

She said that digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies like Robotics, Mobile Internet, Artificial Internet, to radically transform existing traditional and non-digital business processes and services.

According to her “The largest contributor to the nation’s GDP post-1970s was crude oil.  With the oil boom in 1973-74,  it was in the double digits at its highest; it was 40% of GDP until  post-2010 when sectors like Agriculture and ICT started to redistribute that balance.

“Currently, oil contribution to GDP has returned to a single digit — pre-1970 figures, it sits at 6% of GDP today. The oil sector still provides for 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and 80% of its budgetary revenues.

“Nigeria, as we know, is a nation brimming with talent and potential, stands at a crossroads. While blessed with abundant natural resources, particularly oil, our economy remained heavily reliant on a single sector for over five decades.

“The price per barrel of oil needed for Nigeria to balance our budgets is– $139, Saudi Arabia $83.8, and UAE $67 (Kullab & Abdul-Zahra, 2020). Current global conditions make this untenable. Oil prices have crashed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other reasons (Alia Alzubair, 2021),” she said.

NIGCOMSAT Boss said further that the vulnerability to fluctuating oil prices exposes Nigeria to external shocks and hinders sustainable growth.

She noted that the time has come to unlock Nigeria’s true potential, by embracing digital transformation and fostering a culture of innovation as a way to further enhance other sectors like Financial and Insurance (Financial Institutions); Trade; Agriculture (Crop production); Manufacturing (Food, Beverage & Tobacco); Construction; and Real Estate, among others.

“There are many ways we can frame our road to diversification and non-dependence in the oil sector.

“With our experience with ICT, we can safely assume we could reform, and impact various sectors driving economic growth through digital transformation.

“This could be done by addressing the challenges and harnessing the opportunities, Nigeria can leverage digital transformation as a powerful tool for economic diversification, job creation, and shared prosperity.

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In a remark, Prof Charles Igwe, the Vice-chancellor of UNN said that was one of the first Nigerian nationalists and his opposition to many colonial policies paved the way for the Independence of Nigeria

“Together with Nnamdi Azikiwe he co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon (NCNC) and became its president.

“He died in 1946 at the age of 82 years, and the University of Nigeria has always recognized the great contributions of this great person,” he said.

The VC noted that the Faculty of Engineering initiated the biennial lecture series in order to achieve the following goals; Highlight the faces of a man who has been described as the father of Nigerian Nationalism, Encourage present da engineers, surveyors, architects, and other professional to learn from his professional lifestyles and make every effort to leave good footprints on the sand of time.

Other targets of the HMML series are; To map out strategies and mobilize resources to improve the teaching, learning, and research environment within the Faculty of Engineering and the university at large,, and to identify major National issues of engineering importance, and through the learned discourse proffer engineering solutions to them.

“The theme of this HMML, ‘ Harnessing Practical Engineering Solutions doe Sustainable Economic Development’ is very apt for Nigeria and the world over where sustainability is the current jingle for every developmental solution, and I am happy that very distinguished professionals have gathered here for the discourse,” he said.

Igwe challenged the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and other staff of the faculty to proffer immediate solutions to the energy crisis in the University and its environs.

Also in a remark, Prof. Emenike Ejiogu, the Dean , Faculty of Engineering, UNN said that the HMML series is one of the longest-running academic lecture series in any Nigeria university, noting that the faculty had instituted the lecture series in honour of Herbert Heelas Macaulay.

“The Faculty of Engineering Board resolved on October 5, 1978, to establish a Memorial Lecture series to be known as HMML, to honour Macaulay; the father of Nigerian nationalism, who trained and practiced as an engineer, architect, and surveyor.

“The first lecture was held in 1980 and has since continued every two years with many distinguished lecturers doing justice to the selected theme that the faculty board carefully selected according to the needs of time.

“This year’s (20th edition) HMML lecturer, Mrs. Egerton-Idehen is the first ever female to feature as an HMML lecturer, and she has chosen a very timely and appealing title for her lecture,” he said.

Ejiogu, who is also the Director, Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Power and Energy Development (ACE-SPED) UNN, commended Prof. Igwe, UNN- VC and his management team for their support and encouragement in all the endeavours of the faculty.

He also commended other lead paper presenters, relevant stakeholders and the general public who attended and contributed the the success of the 20th HMML.

The occasion was chaired by Prof. Paul Eke, a professor of Digital Technology and System Engineering, Royal Academy of Engineering, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.

The highlights of the 20th HMML include; Gown Meets Town, a Technical Exhibition of practical projects of staff and students of the faculty of Engineering and interested private and public sector companies and organizations, with products and services relevant to sustainable economic growth, Technical Symposium and Panel Discussion, Alumni Homecoming Events, Unveiling and Handover of Agbebi Alumni Class of ’85 Building, among others.