Defence Industrial Base (DIB), has been
defined by several experts as that section of a country’s industry, which
supplies equipment for the state armed forces. According to the
erstwhile British Secretary of State for Defence, George Younger,
DIB consists of a wide range of firms, which supply the Ministry
of Defence with the equipment and services it requires. Though,
this definition is quite succinct, it cannot be adopted holistically
for the developing nations with limited production capacity.
In most of these nations, the suppliers of the equipment are
not usually the producers and therefore cannot be an element
of the nation’s DIB.
It is therefore probably most appropriate
in the context of nations with limited production capacity
to redefine the concept of DIB. It can be summed up as an aggregate
of firms, which produce military hardware, components, or provide
services in support of a nation’s defence capability.
For many reasons, the strength of a nation’s
DIB is a measure of her military power. Firstly, it is a guarantee
for supply in times of hostility with other nations. Secondly,
it gives a sense of political autonomy and thirdly it is a
guarantee for extra supply of foreign exchange into the economy
Nigeria , since independence has been involved in a number
of conflicts both within and without, to a varied degree of successes.
For instance, the Nigerian Civil War was prosecuted from 1967-1970
with success. Similarly, the nation has intervened in Liberia
and Sierra Leon crises with moderately sophisticated weapons
and systems. One wonders then how it had been possible to execute
these wars without a vibrant Industrial Base. This paper is therefore
set out to examine and appraise the Nigeria DIB. In this fairly
short article however, the specific details of all the Nigerian
Defence Industries will not be considered. The paper will start
with the concept of a DIB, examine a few specific Industries
and their problems and finally proffer the way forward.
The aim of this paper is to appraise the Nigerian Defence Industrial
Base with a view of proffering solutions to the associated problems.
CONCEPT OF A NATION’S DEFENCE
It has been severally debated within the military circle whether
or not Nigeria actually has a DIB. This may sound very interesting
given that the bulk of the Defence equipment and systems are
produced abroad and even the maintenance spare-parts are almost
entirely sourced from abroad. However, it is safe to assume that
her DIB is fairly weak rather than being non-existent. This assertion
presumes that DIB transcends only those industries that produce
weapons. Indeed, even within that category, the country is able
to boast of a low capacity.
Accordingly to Professor Trevor Tailor
in his book, ‘UK
Defence Industrial Base, Development and Future Policy Options’,
DIB can be classified into groups. The first are those whose
products are clearly aimed at killing or destroying people and
properties. In this category of products are tanks, warships,
combat aircraft and the associated missiles, bombs and projectiles.
This range of products could either be used to destroy or deter
adversaries. The second group consists of those products which
are non lethal yet concerned with specific military activities.
These include air defence radars, communication accessories,
bridge laying equipment etc. Also include in this group are military
trucks, transport aircraft, helicopters, civil boats etc. These
are dual-purpose equipment with military and civil applications.
Such was the case during the Falkland crises when Britain had
to adapt ferries and liners for military purposes. The third
group consists of products used by the military but produced
en-masse for the civilian populace as well. Such goods include
staff cars, IT products, diesel oil, medicines, food, boots,
uniform material, accouterment, etc. In general, the military
market for these goods is much smaller than the civil one. These
are not strictly military goods but can substantially diminish
the fighting capabilities of an army. Thus, they are as central
to war efforts as ammunition.
Tailor’s analysis is quite comprehensive
but says very little about the factories that give rise to
these products. Hence, in a related argument, they can also
be categorized along the line of industrial complexity. In
this regard, we have the high-tech defence industries which
essentially produce missiles, combat aircraft, ships, weapon
systems, semi conductors etc. The second category in this grouping
is the medium tech, which produces traditional mechanical equipment
such as machine tools, cars, computer assembly plant, rifles
etc. The third grouping is the low tech, labour intensive industries
which produce textiles, accouterments, , boots, food items,
drinks etc. In both classifications, Nigeria obviously has
most of its defence related industries within the second and
third categories. These include Defence Industries Corporation
of Nigeria (DICON), Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), Anambra
Motor Company (ANAMCO) and a cluster of small and medium scale
industries located in various parts of the country, particularly
Lagos , Kano and Nnewi. Most of the industries categorized
as medium tech are licensed producers and are therefore at
the whims and caprices of their mother companies abroad. Others
which fall within the low tech category can be classified as
indigenous producers but are overwhelmed by a range of problems
ranging from lack of capital, instability due to government
policy summersault, lack of patronage, among others. It is
therefore imperative to highlight in specific terms the general
problems of these industries and proffer solutions to them
if the nation is to move forward in this regard.
CASE STUDIES OF SELECTED INDUSTRIES
It is important at this point to evaluate the performance and
problems of specific Defene or Defene related industries, though
the operational details will not be considered. It is also not
possible to consider all the companies hence, in some cases only
representative companies will be used to identify the problems
of the industries.
The Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria
(DICON) was established in 1964 with a mandate to develop the
capacity for local arms production in support of the Nigerian
Armed Forces. In line with the mandate, it achieved limited
licensed production of small arms, ammunition and hand grenades
until poor funding, dilapidated facilities and lack of patronage
compelled it to retrench its staff and close several of its
factories and workshops. Until very recently, DICON had become
a shadow of itself operating at less than 20% capacity and
producing essentially, products it was not designed for. It
is presumably sufficient to mention here that DICON could probably
have been transformed to a more vibrant and more productive
industry today it the stakeholders had exploited the gains
of the civil war technology breakthrough. This position was
aptly reechoed by Akinjide. According to him, “ When
Biafra was conquered, we should not have demolished all the great
things they achieved. We should have build on them and continue
to develop from there. But due to our tribal structure, everything
about Biafra was destroyed. It was Nigeria that lost.” Akinjide
may have been filled with emotion in his reaction but he could
not have been wrong. All the same, all hope is not lost as DICON
is presently being reengineered for better productivity. It is
even being argued in several quarters that DICON rather than
being run like a cottage industry should assume the role of a
regulator in the industry in which case, it will be mandated
to identify and coordinate the activities of all the Defence
The Government owed strategic industries are also important
players in this category. Essentially, they are those industries,
which provide raw materials, machinery and equipment to service
the Defence Industrial Base. Here we have the Ajaokuta Steel
Company Limited (ASCL), Nigeria Machine Tools Limited (NMTL)
Oshogbo, Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria and so on. Generally,
these industries are characterized by similar problems. Most
of them have hardly ever produced up to 20 percent capacity since
establishment. The reasons revolve around insufficient government
commitment, poor project conception, poor funding, poor staff
training, poor management and international conspiracy among
others. Gracefully, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has
recently indicated commitment towards ASCL. It is only hoped
that this commitment will be sustained so that the company may
start production as soon as possible. Undoubtedly, this will
go a long way in strengthening the DIB capacity in Nigeria .
Other Defence related industries like the Nigerian Navy Dockyard
(NND) Lagos, Naval Shipyard PH, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Technical
Training Group (TTG) Kaduna , NAF/ AIEP Joint Ventures, Steyr
Project, Bauchi and Nigerian Army Central Workshop Kaduna are
potentially strong players in the Nigerian DIB.
The NND, since its partial commissioning in 1990 has undergone
a lot of trying periods. Though it was able to refit some NN
ships sometime ago, its operations have been anything but efficient.
Its problems generally stem from lack of autonomy, lack of fund
to replace the dilapidated facilities, poor human capital and
poor management. It would seem that the utmost solution to these
problems is Public-Private partnership arrangement along the
line of Devonport Dockyard in UK . The same panacea will seem
workable for the Naval Shipyard PH.
The multinational firm Aeronautical Industrial Engineering
Project (AIEP) has been credited with the production of light
trainer Aircraft (Air Beetle) which was produced under license.
Beyond that however, its backward integration effort is yet to
yield any appreciable result. Because of its inability to operate
at any meaningful capacity for various reasons, it has had to
loose most of its skilled manpower.
- Aircraft Maintenance Depot (ACM) .
The ACM was set up to conduct depot level maintenance of aircraft
but is constrained by inadequate skilled manpower, lack of spares
and specialized tools. It has however carried out a few maintenance
in the past, relying on parts cannibalized from other aircraft.
It is enough to conclude that a lot of potential lie ahead of
this company in future.
- The Army Central Workshop (ACW)Steyr Project.
The ACW was intended to rebuild major engine accessories but
has not received enough attention in recent time. In a similar
vein, the Steyr Project was down for long but has recently been
resuscitated to rebuild Scorpion Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV)
and Steyr APCs. Undoubtedly, if these projects are well funded,
they have the potential for tremendous achievement in the near
future particularly if the primary industries are able to supply
them with spare parts.
The Nnewi Industrial Clusters (NIC) is also a phenomenon that
cannot be overlooked in the next few decades. These industrial
clusters are simply groups of small and medium scale enterprises
(SME), which emerged in the 1980 and are engaged in fabrication
of machineries and spare parts. This is akin to the Prato Clusters
in Italy , Wartenburg in Germany and West Jutland in Denmark
. Presently, most of them are engaged in fabrication of automotive
parts, cables, hoses, generator parts and exhaust systems but
with a huge potential for a variety of products. One unique characteristic
of these industries is that they are really indigenous in the
true sense of it because they source most of their inputs locally.
Unfortunately, they have not been sufficiently challenged towards
the production of Defence utilities. Perhaps, a Defence exhibition,
which is overdue, will take this group of cottage industries
into consideration. Precisely, their major problems include lack
of sufficient capital, lack of patronage and recognition and
lack of access to research findings. No doubt, if these industries
are taken seriously, they could be the springboard for virile
Defence production in Nigeria .
Finally, there are other prominent industries in this category,
whose products Tailor refers to as being used by the military
but produced en-masse for the civilian populace. These include
producers of textiles, accoutrement, food, drinks etc. Most of
the industries involved are small scale with relatively low capacity.
There are several of them in the country and can be counted upon
in times of crises. However, these companies need to be sufficiently
recognized and patronized by the Armed Forces.
PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF THE NIGERIAN
The problems of the Nigerian DIB, some
of which were mentioned earlier stem primarily from the country’s
slow rate of diversification of her resource base since the
discovery of the vast oil deposit. The same problem has generally
hampered the growth of other industries in the country. Though,
the forefathers had a vision of an industrial society, the
oil boom and the door step of several individuals and corporate
organizations had been a hindrance. Because of the fairly long
gestation period associated with industrial returns very few
were willing to invest in this area. Rather, it was more profitable
to invest in quick-yield businesses. Allied tot hat is the
partial neglect of the infrastructures such as power supply,
telephone services, water supply, road networks etc. Resultantly,
the cost of running virile industries has been exorbitantly
unacceptable to potential investors. Interestingly, the present
government, since inception has been facing the problem head-on.
Hopefully, the efforts will start to yield result in the nearest
future. It is however important to highlight some specific
problems which have ben on the way of Defence Industrial Development
in Nigeria .
Poor Funding: Undoubtedly,
mot Defence related industries have been poorly funded. Besides,
research organizations which should be the power house of industrial
development have been totally neglected. Indeed, allocation
to Ministry of Science and Technology has consistently been
in the neighbourhood of 0.1 percent of the Gross Development
Product (GDP) as against the minimum of 1.0 percent of GDP
recommended by the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU). Notably,
the committee on Vision 2010, in its report recommended the
creation of an enabling environment for private sectors participation
in the local manufacture of military needs and the commitment
of at least 5 percent of Defence budget to R&D. Unfortunately,
no concerted effort has been made to fully implement this recommendation.
This therefore brings to fore, the need for the government
to properly fund and challenge the various defence-related
industries in Nigeria .
Poor Skill Acquisition: The
importance of human capital to any industrial growth cannot
be over emphasized. Examples abound of how countries had to
attract their highly skilled and experienced manpower from
abroad to pioneer industrial development. Of particular note
is the method adopted by Samsung Electronics of Korea . “In 1985, Samsung was just an average Korean
Company. By 1994, she had become a leading producer of semi conductors.
This was achieved through a process of ‘reverse engineering’.
Samsung, in addition to setting up a semiconductor R&D laboratory,
had to employ the services of Korean – American PhD Electronics
holders from top American universities with experience at International
Business Machine (IBM), Intel, Zilog. These highly skilled men
were operating from an R&D outpost in Silicon valley , USA
while another taskforce team was set up in Korea . The two outposts
organized joint training and research, and were given tight deadlines
for meeting technological goals. The result within a short period
is the technological capacity of Samsung and indeed South Korea
today. There is therefore a deliberate need to identify talents,
train them and give them challenges in collaboration with other
technology giants based abroad.
Lack of Patronage of Local Entrepreneurs: For
long, Nigerians have been known for their preference for foreign
goods. This was not considered a problem when the economy was
still booming up to the 1980s. However, in the present circumstance,
there is a dire need for all and sundry to look inward for locally
produced goods. Interestingly, there are clusters of industries
located in every part of the country particularly in Lagos ,
Nnewi, Kaduna etc. These industries have huge potential for Producing
Defence inputs but must have to be patronized so that they can
expand their capacity and diversify their range of products.
Some of their problems include, lack of requisite infrastructures,
low capital base, lack of access to R&D facilities etc. Since
the government is the largest consumer of Defence products, it
must have to extend a hand of fellowship to them in the interest
of National Industrial Growth.
Civil Alienation from the Military: National
Defence issues in Nigeria are usually treated as government business,
left alone to the uniformed personnel and the Ministry of Defence
(MOD). Ekoko attributed this to the super-secretive mode of operation
of Defence related government departments. Apart from few academics,
the involvement of high ranking policy formulators in Defence
planning has been low. This attitude must change and defence
issues must involve all stakeholders, legislators, academics,
private sector players, etc.
THE WAY FORWARD
The near absence of clear policies on military
industrial development has largely hindered development in this
area. A Defence industrial policy is essential for development
of defence-related industries. This policy would spell out the
role of stakeholders and guide the activities of the industry
players. The formulation such as a policy lies with the Presidency
and the National Assembly but the draft must have to be produced
by the MOD, Ministry of Industry and National Planning with inputs
form the private sector and other experts. This policy would
emphasis the importance of dual purpose industries, R&D organization
and would have to be implemented by an established institution.
Besides, the government must have to develop the political
will to move the Defence-related industries forward. It is only
with the necessary political will that the strategic and other
industries could be well funded. It is also through this attitude,
that the residues of the civil war breakthrough could be harnessed.
Allied to this is the need to recognize, patronize and properly
fund the small scale industrial clusters in various parts of
Furthermore, the present level of civil-military interaction
in defence matters need the government to provide incentives
for contributors and investors in these industries. The benefits
from such development could be enormous as the country is well
positioned to service the defence needs of the sub-region.
Finally, the level of manpower development in this area is
still unacceptably low. Experts in various field of research
are needed to conceptualize problems, decide on analysis. Engineers,
technicians and artisans need to be given incentives in order
to practice the trade. Beyond that, research institution could
even be established close to identified universities, to focus
on specific range of products. This could be patterned after
the Silicon Valley in Califonia and Route 128 in Boston . These
institutions are distinguished by their cutting edge technologies,
high manpower skill and unparalleled staff motivation. Above
all, there is a need to institute deliberate policies to attract
young folks to the engineering profession as well as improving
engineering training in higher institutions. The training must
A DIB can be conceptualized either in terms of its products
or in terms of complexity of the industry. Whichever way, Nigeria
has a limited DIB, which essentially Produce goods that served
both the military and largely the civil society. These industries
among others include DICON, ADCL, NMTL and Aluminum smelting
Company of Nigeria. Other Defence-related industries are NND,
Naval Shipyard, NAF/AIEP Joint Venture, ACM, ACW/Steyr Project,
Nnewi Industrial Clusters and others. Most of these industries
have either been operating at very low capacity or even epileptic,
as a result of a number of problems. Prominent among these problems
are poor funding, lack of patronage, lack of skilled manpower,
lack of interest by the civil society and corruption. Perhaps,
Nigeria would have surpassed the present stage if the gains of
the civil war breakthroughs had been harnessed, but it seems
lack of political will had been a hindrance. All the same, all
hope is not lost, if the trend is reversed, the future is still
There is the need to enhance civil military relations so that
the civil society will realize the stake they have in building
a virile Defence Industry. Above all, there is a need to attract
the highest level of skilled manpower to the industry. The examples
of Silicon Valley in California and Route 128 in Boston , both
in USA are instructive.
Capt (NN) William Kunle Ogunbiyi was
commissioned into the Nigerian Navy in 1982 after a Bachelors
Degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering. He subsequently
attended several courses including Weapon Engineering application
Course UK, Intermediate Level Weapon Maintenance Course (Nig),
Junior and Senior Staff course Jaji, Nigeria and Defence Diplomacy
Diploma course, Cranfield University UK.
He was Deputy Director at the Defence Headquarters. Abuja and
presently the Director of Maintenance (Weapon Engineering)at
the Fleet Maintenance Corps Headquarters, Lagos .