from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – NIGERIA is upscaling the local production of military equipment to save scarce foreign currency in Africa’s largest economy bedeviled by problems.
Vast amounts of money have been spent over the years in acquiring weapons from abroad, particularly rising over the past decade as the West African country battles an insurgency by the Islamist Boko Haram group northeast of the country.
Prioritising local production is in line with the West African country’s proposal of a “Bill to enact the Nigerian Content Development and Enforcement Act.”
This also aligns to the Presidential Executive Order 003 and 005 of 2017 and 2018, that have prompted a new template in empowering the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) to attain higher production levels.
“The military is well motivated, mobilised and empowered to look inward by the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces to professionally implement the Local Content policy towards mitigating the problems associated with the acquisition of platforms from foreign countries,” Babangida Hussaini, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence, said.
He was speaking at stakeholders’ public hearing on local content, where he represented Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi.
The Joint Senate and House Committees on Content Development and Monitoring organized the hearing.
Then-President Nnamdi Azikiwe’s administration established DICON by an Act of Parliament in 1964, four years after independence from Britain.
Recently, DICON inaugurated its first local manufactured armoured vehicles, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPS) and some range of defence weapons.
Military engineers at DICON have also manufactured munitions, small arms and light weapons (SALW) as well as other related items and civilian products.
“Locally produced fighting equipment has drastically saved the country huge cost of importation of the military hardware in hard currencies,” Hussaini said.
In September, DICON signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the local Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) to spearhead indigenous content and encourage indigenous production in the country.
The agreement will culminate in IVM producing more military-grade, patrol and general vehicles for the armed forces and other security agencies.
Innocent Chukwuma, the Chief Executive Officer of IVM, pledged his company’s commitment to partner and support DICON in its production to assist the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari in its fight against terrorism in the country.
In August, the president was however quoted as informing state governors of the shipment of military weapons and aircraft from China, Jordan and the United States.
It emerged from the same meeting that two years ago, the government withdrew US$1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for weapons procurement.
ECA is a Nigerian government account used to save and invest the country’s excess revenues generated by the sale of oil.
The terror by the Boko Haram is most rampant in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, where it is estimated between 30 000 and 50 000 people have been killed and over 2 million displaced from their homes.
The conflict takes place within the background of long-standing issues of religious violence between Muslim and Christian communities, and the insurgents’ ultimate aim is to establish an Islamic state in the region.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and largest country by population (estimated at 207 million), is also beset by economic problems.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) to decline by 4,3 percent for 2020 on the back of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and global instabilities around the oil sector.
– CAJ News