The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has affirmed that Nigeria has the capacity to produce industrial machine spare parts including those of aircraft through Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu. Onu made this assertion during the inauguration of some projects at the institute. The minister said: “I have seen the progress so far made in this institute but we want them to do more. We want PRODA to be a centre of excellence.”
Dr Onu further expressed happiness with the induction furnace project of the institute which has the capacity to produce industrial machines and aircraft spare parts. He said with the two furnaces, the institute could produce non-ferrous materials including aluminium and stainless steel. He also challenged the institute to continue its research on the production of lithium batteries with a view to commercializing the findings.
On the pencil production project of the institute, Onu said he was satisfied that production had finally started on the project. “We have all seen pencils produced by PRODA and this effort is quite commendable,” he said. The minister challenged PRODA to research into the production of all forms of pencils, including beautification pencils. Onu, however, said the government was not interested in the institute producing pencils in commercial quantities, but in them transfering their research findings to Nigerians.
The minister’s position, which dissuades the institute from engaging in the production of pencils in commercial quantities is apt. With its huge infrastructural deficit amidst an economy that is growing at snail speed, it would amount to a waste of time and resources for PRODA to prioritize pencil production. A country that has the potential to catch up with the fast growing world of science and technology has more serious things than pencil to research and produce. PRODA will, for instance, do better by researching and marketing its findings to interested companies for the production in commercial quantities of rechargeable lamps and household utensils that are every now and then flooding Nigerian markets from China.
Before we discuss the production of aircraft spare parts, Let us first talk about Dr Ogbonnaya Onu as Nigeria’s Minister of Science and Technology. Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as minister to take charge of science and technology, he has proved Nigerians who considered his appointment as a square peg in a square hole, right. His words were always matched with corresponding actions in managing and achieving the mandate of a federal ministry, which leadership requires being innovative and academic in thinking. Besides knowing what his job requires of him, he inspires, supports, coordinate and tracks the programmes of the various agencies under his ministry. In the conservative reasoning of this writer, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu is one of the few members of President Buhari’s cabinet that deserved and truly earned re-appointment as minister in the latter’s second term in office.
For the first time, one finds Dr Onu’s idea for PRODA to produce aircraft spare parts as one proposal too ambitious. We are aware that some indigenous companies such as Innoson motors in Anambra State that manufacture vehicles have gone beyond being assembly plants. Although they design and fabricate vehicle body parts, they do not make vehicle engines. It would be more reasonable to strive to have vehicles that are 100 percent made-in-Nigeria including their engines. It would be most wise if PRODA attempts to produce motorcycles that are 100 percent Nigerian-made. The country loses so much of its earnings to extensive importation of motorcycles from China, which for now, provide livelihood for Nigeria’s swarming population of unskilled youth. It would be to the country’s pride and huge economic advantage if those JINCHENG, BOXER and BAJAJ motorcycles are 100 percent produced, not assembled, in Nigeria. Even in the case of vehicle and motorcycle spare parts produced in Nigeria, there’s still room for greater improvement because there exists much difference between made-in-Nigeria spare parts and those imported from Japan.
When you go to buy motor spare parts from any Nigerian market, dealers will hurriedly ‘preach’ to you that motor spare parts are of two types; original (genuine) and Nigerian-made. Of course, the life-span and price of made-in-Nigeria spare parts are lower because of their low quality. Owing to their inferior quality, China and made-in-Nigeria spare parts have virtually become the same. Because we are yet to perfect the spare parts we produce for vehicles and motorcycles, it goes without saying that made-in-Nigeria spare parts that would be produced for aircraft shall not be anything better than those produced for vehicles and motorcycles. Besides, we need to understand that in automobile engineering, aircraft technology does not compare with that of motor vehicle or motorcycle. If our technology can only carry us as far as producing aircraft spare parts and not as manufacturers of aircraft, what are the assurances that our own kind of low-quality spare parts would be patronized for maintenance either by aircraft manufacturers or other technical companies in the aviation industry?
This reminds me of a joke. It was said that a group of engineering professors were invited to fly in an aircraft. After they were all seated, they were informed that the aircraft was built by Nigerian students. All except one of them got off from their seats and headed in panic to the exit door. The only professor that stayed back was asked to explain why he was not scared. He said based on his knowledge of Nigerian students, he was sure that the aircraft will not even start. In the same vein, if we are known to be producers of sub-standard motor spare parts, those who know us very well will extremely be sure to shun our made-in-Nigeria aircraft spare parts.
With the recent launch by the Nigerian Army of Mine-Resistant Anti-Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, I believe it is time for our minister to synergize between relevant bodies and agencies within and outside of his ministry for the production of Nigerian cars that are 100 percent Nigeria-made. The completion and efficient operations of the Ajaokuta steel complex may be strategic for revolutionizing Nigeria’s automobile manufacturing industry. To sufficiently stimulate and sustain the production of 100 percent made-in-Nigeria cars, it would be in our collective national interest if Dr Onu could advise government to ensure that official vehicles for all public officers and political office holders in the country should, as a matter of policy, be made-in-Nigeria cars. From 1970s up to1990s, Peugeot was the official car in Nigeria but this changed to SUVs about two decades ago. This policy can be carried further by allowing importation of foreign-made cars to attract as high as 200 percent tax. May Allah (SWT) guide all the ‘Dr Ogbonnaya Onus’ to take Nigeria to join other nations that have scientifically and technologically arrived. Amin.