IN a speech during the graduation ceremony at the National Defence College in Abuja on August 8, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Ministry of Defence to urgently articulate a proposal for the establishment of a Military Industrial Complex to produce weapons and other equipment for the country’s armed forces and reduce reliance on reluctant foreign suppliers.
Many defence analysts, who shared the frustrations and pains of denying the country access to defence weapons in the face of an onslaught by Boko Haram and other criminal elements regard the Presidential directive as timely and highly patriotic. It is also in fulfilment of his promise during the campaigns to do everything possible to enhance our collective security.
The step taken by the President came just after the immediate former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Vice Marshall Alexander Sabundu Badeh (rtd), had attributed the delay in defeating insurgents to lack of imported weapons and hardware.
The decision of the government to set up a Military Industrial Complex will ultimately mitigate the inadequacy of appropriate hardware and weapons for our armed forces, and enhance their capacity to quickly exterminate any group that will dare raise arms against the nation.
No nation state will fold its arms and watch vagabonds killing innocent citizens and destroying vital public social and economic infrastructure; killing also the patriotic men and women who signed to defend the fatherland.
In all countries that have it, a Military Industrial Complex is simply a collection of specialised machine tools entities with linkages to each other, that are primarily engaged, sometimes in collaboration with end-users, in the conception, design and forging of whole hardware or components that could be assembled to manufacture equipment mainly for military, and in some cases, non-military deployment.
It is because of the inherent necessity of having numerous players in a Military Industrial Complex that the President directed the Ministry of Defence to liaise with other Ministries and Agencies to collaborate and re-engineer the Kaduna-based limping Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) into an institution that is capable of producing military hardware and logistics requirements for the Nigerian armed forces.
Nigeria is known to have an impressive inventory of facilities, some privately owned, but many of them owned by the Federal Government, that could contribute in speeding up the take-off of the Complex.
All it requires is efficient and unwavering coordination. According to the former President of the African Iron and Steel Association (AISA), Dr. Sanusi Mohammed, a metallurgist, Nigeria has dozens of private functional foundries, while some Federal Government agencies, such as the Nigerian Railways Corporation, have foundries, which could be upgraded to fabricate components.
Similarly, some fabrication Units at the sprawling Ajaokuta Steel Company could be part of the Complex. The Nigerian Navy Dockyards in Lagos and Port Harcourt, the Nigerian Air Force engineering and research facilities where ‘Gulma,’ the drone was developed, the Nigerian Aluminium Smelting Company and the country’s industrial research institutes, could collectively be brushed up and turned into the nucleus of the launch pad for the Military Industrial Complex.
Even though electricity supply is a national challenge and a vital requisite for a metal fabrication and precision industry, the generality of Nigerians should have no fear that the problem could be surmounted with adequate planning and the implementation of a deliberate programme to achieve such an important national goal.
If a private entity in the cement sub-sector could set up a power plant to operate its factories, profitably there is no reason for an equivalent government-backed programme that will advance the national interest to fail.
On the aspect of manpower for the take-off of a Military Industrial Complex in Nigeria, there is a large pool of engineers and specialists in turning metals into equipment within and outside the armed forces that could be engaged to bring their knowledge of turning those metals into useful tools in the service of the nation.
Similarly, technicians and machine operators for drills, lathe gear and other equipment in the iron and metal-utilisation industry, are readily available for recruitment and training.
However, one significant issue that needs to be given attention is that of adequately motivating the operators of the science and technology-based industry to do what the nation requires of them with absolute commitment.
Indeed, Nigerians are hopefully waiting for the day a parade of military hardware and weapons that were conceived, designed, fabricated and rolled out in Nigeria by Nigerian scientists, technologists will be staged as is the case in sister countries such as India, Pakistan, Brazil and South Africa.
That hope and expectation can be met, as the task is doable given the national will as expressed by the President in his historic speech at the National Defence College, Abuja.