The Nigerian military is heavily investing in young Nigerians to build innovative solutions to the country’s national security challenges, the Director-General of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), Major-General Victor Ezugwu, said on Monday.
Major-General Ezugwu was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
He said the investment was initiated by President Muhammdu Buhari’s decision to upscale the military’s ability to build its own technology.
“The President ordered us to look into local content for developing strategies and equipment for military solutions to our national security challenges,” he said. “And DICOM is the hub of that solution to our national defence equipment production.”
On December 3, President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled Made-in-Nigeria Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and Major-General Ezugwu noted that the production of the vehicles was mostly done by Nigerians.
“We are using local content up to 70 percent in the production of the armoured fighting vehicles that was recently commissioned by the President.
“And we have gathered some Nigerians who I know are blessed with a lot of human resources. We have gathered engineers. All of them are Nigerians, no foreign advisers or consultant that produced the Ezegwu MRAPs that Mr President has commissioned. The oldest among them is 31 years old.”
DICON has produced ten MRAP units for the army and have signed a contract to produce another 28 units.
“We still need a kind of production line that will enable us to increase the number we can churn out within a given amount of time. The Minister of Defence is helping us with that.”
According to the Major-General, the ten MRAPs were produced within a period of seven months. “We outsourced some parts to our collaborators,” he said. “The Chief of Army Staff has said his joy will be when we reduce foreign content to 10 percent.
Major-General Ezugwu added that DICON was also looking to solve other technical challenges for the military.
“Apart from the MRAP, we have looked into the problems in the north-east and we have begun to address the issues. We have developed a mines-sweeper and mines-roller that is going to address the issues of landmines. We are producing ballistics and helmet for the military and other equipment, all locally.”
Saving Foreign Exchange
Major-General Ezugwu said the focus on local innovation is already saving the country some foreign exchange.
“We are saving a lot of money that would have been used by contractors to import these things abroad,” he said.
“The MRAP we produce here locally is about a unit cost of N70m; those we import from abroad cost us in the neighborhood of between $500,000 to $1,000,000. So we are trying to reduce capital flight in Nigeria.
“We need homegrown solutions for our problems. Let us, DICON and Command Engineering Depot in Kaduna, which is a Nigerian army establishment, to go into production of these MRAPs. We looked at all other MRAPs that other countries in Europe have produced, so we now designed one that can address the terrain in the north-east. Because when you get a MRAP from abroad, the issue of our weather and environment may not be so much captured in production.”
A Starting Point
The Major-General went on to stress that the MRAP production was a starting point.
“In the next five years, if this feat is sustained, I can assure you that we might not have any need to import any vehicle into this country for military purposes.”
Although DICON has been in existence since the 1960s, the Major-General noted that its operation is being ramped up by the current administration.
“This is the time that we have a strategic leader who thinks ahead, who is desirous to ensure that Nigeria’s defence capacities are enhanced. Also, I must thank the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, for having the courage to assist the DICON and Command Engineering Depot to achieve this project.
“The funding of the (MRAP) project, which is valued at well over a billion naira was drawn from the support of the army’s headquarters.
“The fact that we have not made an inroad into defence production in the past is because the environment, the strategic guidance, was not actually there. But now we have leaders both at the military and political levels that support defence industry production. And that is why things are going the way they are going.”