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As Army Drives Industrialization/Indigenization ~ By Emmanuel Onwubiko

The Nigerian Army’s engineering corps clearly has embraced the essential elements of local productions

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From what we have just read up from the definitions encompassed in oxford languages, the concept of industrialization is seen as “the development of industries in a country or region on a wide scale”.

Similarly, The Guardian (Lagos) sees industrialization as a process by which an economy moves from primarily agrarian production to mass-produced technologically advanced goods and services. This phase is characterised by exponential leaps in productively, shifts from rural to urban labour, and increased standards of living”.

However, the first scholar we quoted says industrialization is beset by numerous challenges including low capacity utilization; unstable infrastructure (which impacts on the costs of doing business); absence of ventures capital for business start ups, high cost of capital especially from banks and other financial institutions; lack of longs term loan and absence of enabling environment.

Obi .I. Iwuagwu of the Faculty of African Economics history of the University of Wisconsin said “Since Nigeria became independent in 1960, achieving economic development through rapid industrialization has remained a major challenge”.

The academic who wrote on the theme; “Nigeria and the challenge of industrial development: The New cluster Strategy” stated that industrialization has actually constituted the fundamental focal point of almost political administrators that Nigeria has ever had.

The above is factually accurate because in the current dispensation, the Nigeria Army under the capable leadership pf Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai; as well as the other segments of the Armed forces of Nigeria, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has actually made landmark achievements in the area of industrialization and indigenisation of military technology in such a way that the end products have been effectively deployed in waging the war on terror to some appreciable level and successes.

The Nigerian Army’s engineering corps clearly has embraced the essential elements of local productions; construction and manufacturing as the official modus operandi in line with the industrialization mantra of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Remarkable and empirical successes have been recorded in such a way that a lot of roads and housing assets have been locally fabricated and constructed by the Nigerian Army.

On 3rd December, 2019, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, commissioned the first locally made Mine Resistance Ambush Protection Vehicle, called Ezeugwu MRAP to join the military inventory used for Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency operations in Northeast.

A top military Officer informed media watchers that Ezeugwu MRAP will join the infantry patrol vehicles that were earlier produced as testimony that Nigerian military efforts are yielding positive results as Buhari had noted during the commissioning.

The senior officer explained that Ezeugwu, is a 4 by 4 resistance ambush protection vehicle, designed to carry out extraction of troops , assault and counter-terrorism operations, especially in the North East terrain.

“Since it’s unveiling, Ezeugwu MRAP have been tested and proven to be a game changer in the fight against insurgency in the country, because of its features and capacity to ward off terrorists. The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) and Command Engineering Depot (CED) have also continued to work hard to improve the vehicle.

“The improved Ezeugwu MRAP has been tested in the northeast with optimal results and the feedback of its exploits from the theatre of operations led to the production of five additional units of the MRAP bringing its total in the operation to 10 units,” the officer said.

MRAP has a maximum output of 375 horsepower, turbo charged diesel engine, with the maximum Turk of 1650 Newton meters and its primary and secondary armament are 12.7 anti- aircraft gun and 7.62mm LMG GPMG. It is designed to resist mine blast of up to 12 kilograms TMT and can protect the troops inside the vehicle.

According to further information made available by sources from a documentary video, Ezeugwu MRAP is versatile in counter-insurgency vehicle that poses threat to adversaries. It has been acknowledged by the federal ministry of science and technology at the technology and innovation expo 2020 and the Kaduna chamber of commerce industry, mines and agriculture at the 41st Kaduna international trade fair to be a game changer in addressing security challenges confronting the nation.

The Chief Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, noted that in addition to boosting the fight against terrorism, the production of Ezeugwu MRAP, is a good step in reducing the country’s reliance on foreign made war machinery.

“There is the dire need to begin a 360 degrees deviation from the reliance on importation of all classes of tactical and heavy and operational vehicles to the indigenous production of mobility war machinery”, Buratai said.

Ezeugwu MRAP was named by the COAS in honour of the Director General of DICON, Major General Victor Ezeugwu, a veteran whose foresight and contribution led to the actualisation of the Nigerian army vision of producing indigenous military fighting vehicles that meet the requirements of Nigerian needs in tackling insurgency in the northeast.

But as is well known, good thing often attracts attention and in some cases, certain claims are manufactured to try to detract from the essence of the landmark achievements. The same scenario played up as soon as the Nigerian Army introduced these combat vehicles but the Army rapidly diffused the needless cacophony of confusion.

The Army said that the attention of the Nigerian Army (NA)has been drawn to an online publication with a caption – “Meet Emmanuel Ezugwu: Military War Vehicle Named After Him”.

In the light of the above erroneous and misleading publication, the NA finds it necessary to correct the gross misrepresentation and wrong assertion and to put the records very clear that the Emmanuel Ezugwu referred to in the publication is NOT the brain behind the Nigerian Army locally manufactured Mine Resistance Anti- Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP).

The NA MRAP was indeed conceptualized, invented and designed by a serving army General – Major General Victor Okwudili Ezugwu the current Director General Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria. Major General Victor Okwudili Ezugwu NOT Prof Emmanuel Ezugwu not only conceptualized and designed the production of the first ever Nigerian made MRAP, but also diligently supervised the production from the beginning to the end at the Army Command Engineering Depot (CED), Kaduna.

For record, history and posterity, find below a brief history of Maj Gen Victor Okwudili Ezugwu and the MRAP .

Maj Gen Victor Okwudili Ezugwu was born on the 28 June 1964. He joined the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna on 27 September 1985 as a member of 37 Regular Combatant and Commissioned to the rank of 2Lt on 22 September 1990.

An infantry officer of high professional rating, he served Nigeria meritoriously in ECOMOG/UN Operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia and Operation RESTORE HOPE in Niger Delta. He commanded 28 Task Force Brigade in Adamawa State and 7 Division Maiduguri as General Officer Commanding from 2015 – 2017. He was appointed Director General Defence Industries Corporation on 3 June 2019.

An engineer by mere providence and passion, he initiated the design and production of prototypes variants of Light, tactical patrol as well as Armoured Fighting Vehicles by DICON-CED Kaduna. In recognition of these feats, the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen TY Buratai rewarded his achievements by naming the first indigenous MRAP as Ezugwu. The Nigerian Army had earlier elevated the principle of buy made in Nigeria by showing the spirit of patriotism when the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai bought shoes for the soldiers from Aba in Abia state Nigeria as a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy of encouraging local manufacturing and ultimately promote industrialization.

The 8th session of the Senate hailed the Nigerian Army over purchase of Made-in-Nigeria shoes inward and patronise locally made goods.

The Upper legislative chambers applauded the Army thus: “Patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods is an obvious panacea for our economic problems. We will by doing that increase our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), empower our youths, challenge their creativity, increase revenue generation ability of state governments and improve on the sense of self pride and patriotism of Nigerians.”

The then Senate President further advised State and Federal Governments to encourage local manufacturers by providing them with necessary infrastructure, soft loans, patronage and helping them to improve on the quality of their goods as well as facilitating their ability to access the export market.

Saraki also implored organised groups like the National Economic Summit Group (NESG), associations in the field of marketing communications and others who can help in the areas of goods packaging, sales promotion and quality enhancement to engage the local manufacturers and see how they can help them broaden their reach and produce goods that can be sold across the world.

“We have an opportunity to turn our challenge to prosperity. We can create mass employment and make the private sector centre of our economy if we can make our small and medium enterprises to prosper. This is a task for all of us and this promotion of Made-in-Nigeria is a cardinal point in the Agenda of the present Senate.” (Channels TV).

The strong message from the good examples of the Nigerian Army is that the 36 States need to embrace the promotion of local manufacturing as one way of promoting employment opportunities for graduates who are being churned out in large proportions without any blueprints for absorbing them into the workforce. Few days back, the National Bureau of Statistics released the latest unemployment rate and then stated that Imo state has the largest concentration of unemployed people. An Harvard University trained lawyer and former Chief Executive officer of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission Dr. Sam Amadi has proffered industrialization and indigenization as one way out of Nigeria’s perennial problem of mass unemployment of the young people just as it is appropriate to recommend to political office holders in the states to look towards the Nigerian Army to borrow a leaf on how to actualize in both short, medium and long term, the industrialization of their states so as to create wealth and jobs for their people.

Dr Sam Amadi wrote thus: ” Many have wondered why Imo State is the unemployment centre of the nation. They have argued that it means that the government in Imo State, over the years, has done a more terrible job than the governments in the rest of the country. Well, we have had terrible governments but that does not explain our lead in the unemployment market.

Dr Amadi said also: “We are top in unemployment because we are graduating the most students from universities and we don’t have opportunities for them to secure jobs or create jobs for themselves. Some other states don’t have employment or business opportunities but they don’t have large entrants into the employment market. If you graduate an average of 4,000 young men and women from the universities every year and your industries and commercial outfits can only employ 500 and another state graduates 2,000 and can employ 100 persons, you have a higher unemployment rate. The demand and supply of employable persons determine the unemployment rates.”

“In Imo State, like other states’ focus for employment has been on civil service jobs as there are few commercial and industrial activities. The reason is because governance in these states has been political rather than entrepreneurial. Those states have not been entrepreneurial. An entrepreneurial state is one that drives investment and productivity as a business would, so as to enhance efficient production.”

He also affirmed that: “We saw such governance with the late Dr Michael Okpara in the defunct Eastern Region when we became the fastest growing economy in the world. Okpara established several cottage industries and commercial outfits. In one fell swoop, Internally Generated Revenue grew astronomically such that Okpara believed that if Nigeria followed the vision, it could reach the GDP and per capita levels of developed economies in less than 15 years. Because Okpara understood the principles of economic development and social transformation, he was able to create wealth and jobs through efficient public sector leadership. He did not wait for the non-existent private sector to drive development. Like the East Asian leaders, he understood the concept of a developmental state and utilised all natural resources in sustainable manner to create wealth and jobs.

“We can and should replicate Okpara’s vision in Imo State and the former Eastern Region. The same structure and resources remain, the only things missing are is the knowledge and character.

“To solve the high unemployment evidenced in the state, the Imo State Government needs two strategic actions. First, it needs to go back to cottage industries across the state and the region. When I ran for governorship primary, I identified prospects for one cottage industry every quarter in every LGA in Imo State employing about 100-150 persons. This will cater to the unskilled and semi-skilled young men and women. Again, government should encourage the establishment of ICT and innovation incubation centres to enable high skilled and educated youths to attract digital jobs across the world. This, supplemented with entrepreneurial training and financial support, will help many to develop new start-ups. With about 99% literacy and high quality human capital, Imo State should be Africa’s capital of start-ups. That’s why in my vision, I boasted of making Imo State the Bangalore of Africa.

We need this twin approach to deal with unemployment in Imo State: cottage industries for low skills and high-end digital hubs for high skills. But you first need a focused government that is stable and democratic. Okpara got this right when he urged Nigeria to develop consensual governance that will enable rapid economic development.”

Industrialisation indeed is the way to go and the Nigerian Army has one or two lessons to teach the State administrations.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)

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