Why Power Equipment Needs To Be Manufactured Locally – Haruna
Engr. Mohammed Haruna, the acting director-general, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), in this interview with NKECHI ISAAC, x-rays various innovations of the agency, and maintains that until Nigeria commences the local production of components and equipment in the power sector, its dream of getting stable power supply will be unfulfilled.
Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) and Nanotechnology is a world leading economy developer, as an agency with the mandate of developing science and technology in Nigeria, how have you been able to key into this world trend?
The National Agency For Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) is proud to say that it has not only keyed into this trend, but is the pioneer and chief advocate of AMT in Nigeria. We introduced it to the country and we were the people that invited other stakeholders in science and technology to buy into the trend during the first workshop that was hosted on advanced manufacturing. We imbibed it as a culture and ensured that all its research and development institutes’ processes are through AMT. It is the agency with the support of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that established advanced manufacturing centres (AMCs) in nine tertiary institutions in the region. We have also offered training in the use of Advanced Manufacturing Concept (AMC) to several universities in Nigeria at several forums and also to members of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to see how it is done.
Not only that, but to maintain its lead in AMT, NASENI is now committed to start assembling of major machines CAC milling machines and computer aided software and manufacturing systems in Nigeria and to make it a huge success we’re in collaboration with Nigeria Machine Tools (NMT) Oshogbo, and HMT India to commence Assembly of Advanced Manufacturing equipment in Nigeria with a target to gradually replace the company by manufacturing some locally.
What strides have the agency recorded in the area of nanotechnology?
On the area of nanotechnology, the advancement NASENI made was that to say that we don’t have this capacity, let’s reach out to Nigerians in the Diaspora. So the first, second and third workshops held in Nigeria on nanotechnology were pioneered by NASENI, in collaboration with experts around the world. We even took membership of Nanotechnology Society of America in order to keep pace with what is happening around the world.
Part of the training we are currently running, with assistance from the Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP B) in collaboration with African University of Science and Technology (AUST), is to ensure the widespread and meaningful impact of nanotechnology because even other science and technology families that have not keyed into this culture, we have invited them and their personnel and they are now part of the trainees benefitting from this project.
Not only that, but with the funding support of World Bank STEP-B, NASENI now has a centre of excellence, the first of its kind and the best in the West African region in Akure. This centre will ensure the benefit of this latest technology in the world across, not only R&D community, research academic community but also manufacturing facilities. And from day one, we had a programme on how the project will sustain itself because it is to be run as an enterprise that will generate revenue, pay for its expenses.
What collaboration already exists between AMT, nanotechnology and Nigerians who are already into manufacturing?
We are continuously having capacity building for the manufacturers, but we decided to venture into assembling of parts of machineries in Nigeria because these manufacturers cannot afford the machine because of the cost; they are highly capital intensive, hence the need for us to assembly it, manufacturing some parts of the component in Nigeria. This is why the agency has made moves to ensure that when these products are manufactured in Nigeria, it will be affordable because even those that can afford it because of the intricacies of importation and purchasing foreign items are not all the time encouraged to do that.
The Deepwell Hydraulic Pump project by the agency – how do you think the nation will benefit from this project?
One of the memos the agency presented at the just concluded National Council of Science meeting in Ibadan is on NASENI’s approach as a solution to the water project. Our package on water solution, in collaboration with three overseas partners to ensure domestication of the advanced water rig manufacturing processes in Nigeria has been offered to SURE-P. We have presented it, defended it and gone through the rigorous process of screening. We’re hoping that, at the end of the day, our submission and proposal will be successful.
It is a project that intends to ensure that from ward level to local government level efficient, advanced but simple to operate rigs that will provide water is available across the nation. We call it a national water solution. It is an improvement on the rigs we’re already doing but embracing the most recent method of production. The design and proposal are customised to take into consideration the different geological terrains of the country to ensure that rigs are available, capable of drilling water to the deepest water table that you can find anywhere. Appropriate rigs are to be deployed to the appropriate community. The project is not only to provide water solution to the nation, but it will create chains of other businesses.
Moving from the water sector to the power sector, I am aware that NASENI has developed innovations that can boost the Nigerian electric power sector; have there been collaborations between the government and the agency in terms of utilising these innovations in the power sector?
We are still appealing to the government to look at the solution offered through NASENI – the innovations of its Power Equipment and Electrical Machinery Development Institute (PEEMDI) to identify recognise it as the NIPP projects. We have been stressing that until these power components and machines are produced locally, any solution in the power sector, any availability in the increase of generating capacity of power is a temporary solution. Until components and machines are also produced locally, there will be no sustainable continuous power supply.
The solutions offered by the agency, apart from the products that it researched, developed and produced, the prototype includes collaboration with China Great Wall on Assembly plant of how medium sized transformers will be produced locally. Currently, NASENI is trying to see the possibility of having its own High Voltage Testing Laboratory. There’s nowhere where power industry can be successfully run without this facility, and presently in Nigeria the absence of this facility has made it impossible for the power sector to have a standard method for preventive and regular maintenance in the sector. However, on completion, it will not only provide services to the government but to private operators in the power sector, even to manufacturers of cables accessories and any electrical accessories.
If the agency is funded by the government, do you have the capacity to come up with enough equipment that will revolutionise the power sector?
We’re not saying we want to go into power generation but into power components, equipment and machines. We intend to do this in collaboration with the private sector, that is, the China Great Wall, despite the indication of the Chinese company and the Kogi State government we’re still calling on the private sector because this project is commercially viable, sustainable and there is market for it not only in Nigeria but also in the West African sub region.
In the agricultural sector, there are innovations by your agency to boost the nations agricultural sector especially in the cassava process technologies; how far have you gone with these innovation?
Our prototype integrated cassava flour processing machine is tested and it is in operation. We have approached the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and they have sent in their personnel and experts to come in and inspect the machine and we have offered to produce more for them in 2013 if their budget provisions can carter for it. Our cassava grater, cassava presser, garri drying machine and other components of cassava, at local level people are buying it to meet their own demand, that is, those that cannot afford to buy the complete garri processing plant through our production centre in Enugu. From time to time inquiries keep coming in for these products. Some private sector people around Nnewi and Enugu are presently discussing with them on how they can have plants to produce this in large quantities. But as far as we’re concerned, we have met up our mandate in making the products available; however we’re not meeting the nations demand because of lack of mass production. And to do the mass production, we’re inviting the private sector yet again to come so we can sell this technology to them for mass production and also we’re asking government agency to patronize this product because it provides the solution particularly the federal ministry of agriculture.
You have been harping on private sector participation especially in the areas of taking over innovations by your agency, so far has there been a fruitful collaboration with the Nigerian private sector?
NASENI has registered its technology business development unit with NASMI (National Association of Small and Medium Scale Enterprise), we’re in the process of getting our other institutes to register with Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) to reach out to the public sector we have been actively participating in Trade fairs and exhibitions and now we’re reaching out to the private sector with our business plans on what can be done especially in terms of research proper recording, details on market analysis, market research and funding support. The Bank of Industry (BOI) recently reached out to us on how they can support private sector through us especially those who are willing to take the technology from us and enter into mass production of these products. You know that the private sector in Nigeria is constrained by funding but with this collaboration with BOI and SMEDAN on how to support the private sector especially the Small and medium Enterprise, while we offer the technology, they offer the funding and training, I’m sure it will make a difference, also our new approach to new products by collaborating with the private sector from day one so that it will be a successful venture. I believe it will make all the difference.
Can we get an update on your solar manufacturing plant in Karshi, Abuja?
The solar manufacturing plant in Karshi as you know is commissioned; further R&D is currently going on there. The manufacturing plant is supposed to be in three phases, the first phase is the assembly plant, which is ready and is producing, the second phase which is to ensure the availability of the solar workers in Nigeria such that the importation chain can be reduced is what we’re yearning for funding, when we saw that the funding was not forth coming we reached out to the China Great Wall, through their solar manufacturing facility in China, to come and collaborate with us and jointly provide us with service. It is our own counterpart funding that we’re sourcing. We are also processing approval from the ministry of finance for the NASENI aspect of it to be funded by Chinese Africa Development Fund (CAD) Fund because we don’t have the authority to acquire the facility as loan which is payable within a period of 10 years at zero interest except it is approved by government. If this is done the last phase will be the utilization of silicon and other raw materials available in Nigeria for 100% solar products in Nigeria. the other progress we made again on the issue of the solar plant was to say that since it is a factory of its own we’re processing approval to allow the factory to run as a separate incorporated business away from the day to day operations of the agency such that the plant can sustain itself. We have already applied for it, we have discussed it and have followed all the processes and we believe the ministry will give us approval to allow the plant to be an incorporated business, a separate entity that people can visit for further research and development activities. The assembly plant will be able to sustain itself and generate revenue for the government.