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AN APPRAISAL OF THE NIGERIAN DEFENCE INDUSTRIAL BASE


INTRODUCTION

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 through export.

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.

AIM

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 INDUSTRIAL BASE

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 related industries.

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.

  • NND/Naval Shipyard PH.

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.

  • NAF/AIEP Joint Venture.

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 DIB

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 the country.

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 be job-oriented.

CONCLUSION

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 promising.

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.

BIOGRAPHY

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 .

 
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