ENGINEERING AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE NORTH: A CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org BEING A PAPER PRESENTED AT A WORKSHOP ON STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF RESOURCES IN NORTHERN NIGERIA.
(17TH AND 18TH JULY 2004).
TEEJAY GUEST HOUSE, G.R.A, ZARIA. KADUNA STATE.
The issue of engineering and industrial development in Northern Nigeria is always a matter of grave concern. It is therefore high time that the North?s engineering, technology and Industrial policy aimed at promoting economic development along a definite and conceived path. The thrust of the policy should be utilized on North?s natural, human and material resources endowment to transform the North into an industrial giant within a decade through creating harmony in the quest for knowledge about environment through research and the use of that to secure better quality of life for our people.
The history of engineering and technology as an industrial development apparatus in the North is quite astounding. Although over the last 42 years the Northern soil has seen a lot of opportunities pass unnoticed but we are yet to identify the focal points, which can position us well in order to reach the technological, economic and even social zenith. What we are witnessing today is just a repetition of opaque processes that will never allow us to differentiate, which moment is good and which one is ominous.
It is an established fact that engineering, science and technology are the bed rock of industrialisation and development. No country or region has achieved appropriate economic and industrial development without input from the development of technology and science. The state of Northern state?s industrial sector requires much improvement as the low level of activity in engineering and technology has negative impact on it.
Generally speaking, Northern states have neglected engineering and technology for a very long time. Schools have been derilicted, teachers allowed to waste away and industries have collapsed due to the harsh economic climate.
The higher educational institutions and research centres should have provided necessary guidance and solutions to the nation?s poor technological and scientific development. This has not been so due to the neglect they have received from several successive governments.
The previous and current educational dimensions have witnessed a rapid increase in the number of universities in Nigeria from 13 in 1979 to 20 by 1983. All were federal universities under decree No. 46 of May 31, 1977. Later, the state universities proliferated and by 1994, the number of universities had risen to 36 (Yoloye, 1999). With over 36 universities, in this era, 20 of which offer courses in different fields of engineering, and enough polytechnics offering engineering discipline, one would have expected much (Osita, 2000).
This reminds me of a question by Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, (the former Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration, A.B.U) during the science and technology forum on Northern states, in 2002, i.e ?How could these institutions provide the technology and science to move the nation?s economy forward when their research and development component today is almost non- existent??
Therefore, to borrow from the words of Mustapha Ibrahim Chinade that ?Given the quagmire Nigeria and the Northern states are in technologically, economically and socially, such a vision of Nigeria becoming technological and industrial through engineering, is in danger of becoming utopian or philosophical exercise. This, coming from a society at its nadir with its people at the end of their tether, we have no option but to attempt to change things for the better, if only it is both the path of honor and salvation. This is not to imply in any way that the task will be easy or the obstacles less formidable. The world is only what we make of it through our thoughts and actions. It is just an arena of actions, not a forum of day- dreaming. We have so far failed to live in better circumstances due to many self-inflicted malaises: poor vision, lack of conviction, dedication and perseverance; topped by chronic selfishness, complacency and indolence?.
It is believed to be a scholarly view that we can do no better than to start by isolating critical issues and accord them the priority they deserve. Nothing stops us from borrowing freely from the pool of universal wisdom and knowledge, especially in the field of technology and science, as the recently industrialized Asian Tigers have done, to chart a path to our salvation and true independence.
Only then will we be able to create a viable, confident, caring, self reliant and humane society.
It is in the light of this that this paper in-tended to provide a thorough analysis of engineering problems as regards to industrial development in Northern Nigeria with a view to proffer virile solutions in the end.
Globally, technology and engineering have been critical in determining the level of economic development of nations and the level of influence which nations exercise when dealing with others either regionally or globally. Yet in Nigeria today, industries and indigenous modern technology are foreign dependent and oriented, such that commercialization of locally generated research findings are discouraged. Equipment, machinery, services, raw materials, research-development are continuously being imported.
Developmental work and conceptualization of research findings generated within the country have been totally abandoned (Mani, 1999). This has contributed to the underdevelopment of various facets of the country?s industrial freedom and the North in particular. The Nigerian industrial structure is lopsided and inappropriate. Its current state is rooted deeply in the character of Nigerian colonial economy and replaced it with a colonial economic order that is based on large scale dislocation of indigenous technological development effort.
The crude oil exploitation and export by Nigeria during the oil boom in the 1970s afforded a golden opportunity for capital good import, as part of efforts toward industrializing the economy.
However, the identifiable snag in the capital goods import-strategy is the inability of the government to empower and revitalize indigenous technology and make scientific participatory effort through institutional reforms. The Northerners have failed to realize these injuries, which are inflicted on their body and psyche; hence, they are ensnared in the bandwagon of neglecting the indigenous technology and science. They have forgotten the fact that they are a pre- requisite for transforming a society and empowerment of its economy is central to its technological and scientific breakthrough.
In this globalised world the most critical variable shaping the dynamics of international competitiveness is engineering and technological progress. Industrialisation through modern manufacturing is driven by technology. In essence, industrialization proceeds with accompanying shift in production structuring towards productive processes that are more complex in design and operation; and where this happens, a high rate of productivity is experienced in all sectors of the economy (Sulaiman, 2002). This is central to the rapid rate of industrialization in the western world and the unprecedented industrial transformation of Japan and other developed economies of the world. The most surprising aspect of this is, its revolutionary speed, especially after the 1774 industrial revolution. From the World Bank analysis, the U.K, which was the first industrial nation, took 58 years to double its per capita (1780-1838), other countries took far less, as for example Japan took 34 years (1885-1919), Indonesia 17 years (1968-1985), South Korea 11 years (1966- 1977) and China just 10 years (1977- 1987, (Chinade, 2002).
The Northern states, could achieve this within a shorter time if issues are properly addressed and priorities clearly set. This can be attained later in the course of this analysis.
There are both basic and fundamental problems facing engineering and industrial development in Northern Nigeria. Taking the case of our industrial set-ups, one may observe that a majority fall within the small and medium scale enterprises with small size facility engineering maintenance teams
(Atijosan, 1998 and Owualah 1991). The basic set backs of these enterprises are technological backwardness, administrative bottlenecks, legal and social bottlenecks, techno mania, corruption, lack of infrastructure, negative attitude of elites, non exploitation of natural resources, lack of the right manpower and capital ( which is the most pressing), lack of encouragement and motivation, reticence of corporate bodies and individuals to embark on holistic research and development, low research development culture, injudicious use of budgetary allocations, faulty education system and lack of collaborative efforts in scientific and technological research ( Osita,2002).
These are the basic problems that are hindering engineering, technological and industrial renaissance in the Northern states. Other fundamental problems are lack of encouragement and participation of our people in the running of affairs and development of indigenous engineering construction and industrial production processes. We have deliberately refused to encourage our indigenous expatriates. To buttress this fact, it is not quite improper to share Prof. C.O Folayan?s (the executive Director of Center for Automotive Design and Development) ?Nigeria?s experience? at the construction stage of Kaduna Refinery between the 70s and 80s, that ?I asked the leader of the construction company that handled the project (Shiyoda) of the number of Nigerians he employed, his response was just few. Only 20 welders were employed from Nigeria while 600 of them came from China?! There is also lack of competition in our local industries. They do not enjoy the benefit of competition because they are dominated by foreign companies, who enjoy absolute monopoly. These foreign firms made the Northern industrial settings to suffer from incompetence; the reason for this is simple: our high taste for foreign goods. We don?t appreciate things that are locally made. This has serious implication on the economic savvy. For instance, a recent international report indicates that today only 5 firms control 50% of the global market in aerospace, electronic components, automobiles, airline and steel. Five companies control 40% in oil, personal computers and the media (Suleiman, 2002). This evidently is a sign of loss of competition in the global economies. Unfortunately, none of these firms is Nigerian not to talk of Northern Nigeria. Bribery and corruption has eaten deep into both public and private sectors. In the areas of information and communications, there is acute shortage of manpower vis-?-vis the current needs of public and private sectors. There are inadequate institutions offering courses in ICT to meet the needs of civil servants and academic staff. The existing few institutions in the Northern states are often poorly equipped. In a nut shell, these are the problems that hinder engineering and industrial revolution in Northern Nigeria.
Engineering and Industrial opportunities in the North:
This section concerns some of the North?s natural resources that are left wasting, especially in the fields of engineering that deals with energy, transport and hydroelectricity. The Northern states of Nigeria being home to more than half of the nation?s population, and which represents about two- thirds of the Nigerian landmass, it is disheartening to note with dismay that it contributes less than 20% of the science and technology professionals (Chinade,2002). It has minimal industrialization and highest number of school dropouts; despite the fact that God has endowed us with almost everything that we can make use of. For instance, in the areas of engineering and energy, especially solar and wind energy, the North could have made remarkable achievements in these areas. Six hundred (600) watts of solar energy per square meter for about 11 hours per day on an average, is received by the entire Northern states, which is one of the highest in the world. If 0.1% of this sunshine is converted and harnessed at an efficiency of just 1%, this shall meet almost the entire energy needs of the Northern states (Bugaje, 2002). Solar is also environmentally- friendly and provides a long term advantage such as reasonable low maintenance cost, low demand for skilled labour, no fuel costs, and renewability of the energy resource.
Practically speaking, solar can be used to design and develop a photovoltaic powered lighting (Yahya, Sambo and Sa?idu, 1996). It can as well be utilized in providing alternative way of producing fresh water by the use of solar distillation stills (Aliyu and Atiku, 1996). Other applications include: thermo siphon indirect solar crop dryer, solar water heater, solar cooker, solar egg hatchery, solar chick- brooder, and solar still, solar thermal refrigerator and satellite solar power systems (Omosewo , 2001).
On the issue of wind energy, the North could have used this to maintain its windmill projects that have been neglected over time. Some of these projects are wasting away, especially the one at Heipang, near Jos, which showed that it is very feasible to construct windmills.* Wind is also a very important energy converter system for electric power generation and supply. It will be surprising to know that already there was an extensive research on this by the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute, in collaboration with the Department of electrical engineering, university of Lagos, since 1989 ( see Nig. Journal of solar energy vol. 8, pg. 273).
Of the conventional energy sources, however, petroleum products shall continue to dominate the scene for several more decades to come. The northern states must intensify search for crude oil especially in the Lake Chad basin, which had earlier shown some promise. It is also necessary to use the advantage of sharing land borders with sahelian states to link up, revive and develop the trans- Saharan fuel pipeline project. This is expected to cover Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Niger rep. and Libya.
Transportation is another aspect of serious concern. The emphasis here will be on the roads and railways. If Northern state governors can put their heads together and resuscitate their railway systems, certain difficulties will be alleviated (i.e movement of heavy goods and services) and alternative means of travels will be created. For example, railway phases such as Wukari- Jalingo, Gombe- Yola and Kano- Katsina, should be well rehabilitated and linked up with airports and seaports in the southern part of the country, these should also be linked to our neighboring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon. This will inevitably provide easy access for trades and investment free zones with our neighboring states and countries. It will also serve as a free movement border lines between the North and its neighbors. Although, a huge portion of the North especially the Northwest and Northeast are without railway services but they too should have constructed railways.
Likewise, the issue of roads, the North stands a better chance of constructing classical (trans- Saharan) roads that can link it up with other countries such as Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Sudan etc. But all these cannot be achieved without coming together as a united entity. Every stakeholder, private or public sector participation is necessary. Competent firms whether indigenous or foreign should be used. They should work hand in hand with indigenous engineers and technicians, such that quality is achieved.
The Northern states also have an important potential in this sector. Hydroelectric power if further developed on a large- scale will be the cheapest source of energy. There is no reason why the Northern states should not put their heads in partnership on a joint electric power generation project. They should jointly build a hydroelectric project in Mambila Plateau of Adamawa or Zungeru that is capable of generating over 4000 kilowatts. This project according to Mallam Ujudud Sheriff has been on the drawing board since the 1960s. On smaller scale, there is no reason why the North should not utilize the Tiga Dam and set up a hydroelectric power scheme. Even if the Northern states will not be able to get one of the multi- billion Naira Gas Turbines that are all being established in Ogun state, it is only reasonable that they should begin to utilize what nature has endowed them with ( Ujudud, 2003).
These are some of the ample opportunities in the North that can either be deliberately utilized or mischievously refused to search for.
Based on the aforementioned, the following can serve as a panacea to our ailing problems:
First, there is need to establish Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) at both state and grassroots levels, which will be shouldered with the responsibility of studying and investigating locally produced equipment and machinery, so as to encourage indigenous manufactured equipment and plants for raw materials processing and development. The council should serve as a forum for local manufacturers to show cases their products for possible patronage by investors and industrialists. And this can only be done by creating awareness and market for locally manufactured equipment and machinery, in order to build high capacity for indigenous tech. The council should also create an enabling environment where researchers and research institutes can participate and produce something that can be commercialized to other neighboring states and countries. As technology policy expert, Banji Oyelawan suggests strongly that effort should be laid on local research efforts, and that technology transfer should not be treated in isolation of indigenous research efforts. The two must marry each other as ?husband and wife? in perfect harmony.
Secondly, there must be need to create an atmosphere where engineers can interact with local artisans for mutual benefits. The quality of the present crop of engineers in the Northern states and Nigeria fall far below expectation, as they are unable to marshal and actualize the theories of engineering into practical solutions to existing problems of the society.
Thirdly, the North must intensify effort of reinvigorating its energy research institutes, especially the ones at Sokoto and Zaria so that feasible resources based project on either solar or wind energy can be exposed and implemented for the betterment of the communities. And there is nothing wrong for policy makers to propose for an inclusion of solar/ wind energy and their applications in the curriculum of the Northern Junior and Secondary schools.
Fourthly, since it?s crystal clear that the gap in engineering, technology and science between the Northern and the Southern states is widening every day, there is need for a massive training scheme in our state technical and science schools boards. The Northern elites must try harder to implement earlier resolutions passed by various fora on the resuscitation of science and technical education in the Northern states. We should learn from the old Kano/ Jigawa science and technical schools? curriculum sho In the meantime, NGOs in various states in the North, could organize extra- mural classes in the sciences to enable students make-up the grades required for entry into post secondary education and other vocational institutions. The NGOs could also support activities of Junior Engineers, Technicians and Scientists (JETS) clubs.
Fifth, I recommend the book ?science, Technology and the Northern states?, published in year 2002 by the Science and Technical Forum (STF). The book (a 60 pages events), is an essential tool for Northern policy makers, elites and concerned indigenes, who have the interest of the North at heart.
Consequently, the North?s engineering, technology and Industrial policy should aim at promoting economic development along a definite and conceived path. The thrust of the policy should be utilized on North?s natural, human and material resources endowment to transform the North into an industrial giant within a decade through creating harmony in the quest for knowledge about environment through research and the use of that to secure better quality of life for our people.
Until and unless our focus and bearing is centered on this, the North will continue to be relegated politically, economically and socially from the scheme of Nigerian things.
1. Osita, A. (2002) ?Science and technology in Nigeria, a critical appraisal?. African Science and technology, a compendium of scholarly findings, (vol.1, No.2), JCF publ. Nigeria. pp. 43-49.
2. Mustapha, A. (2002) ?Forward address?. Science, Technology and the Northern states, Nigeria. pg. 5.
3. Mani, M. (1999) ?We have got the potentials?. The A.B.U Chemical engineer?, July 1999, Nigeria, pp.27-28.
4. Sulaiman, K.I (2002) ?Industrialisation and the New world order, prospects and problems?. The Unibello engineer, September 2002, Ramk publ. Zaria, Nigeria. Pp.12-14.
5. Chinade, I.M (2002) ?State of science and technology in the Northern states of Nigeria?. Science, technology and the Northern states. Nigeria. pg 10.
6. The Nigerian Universities Engineering Students? Association, A.B.U, Zaria Nigeria, (vol.9) September 2002. pg. 13.
7. Bugaje, I.M (2002) ?Fuel and Energy?. Science, technology and the Northern states. Nigeria. pp. 50-52.
8. Omosewo, E.A (2001) ?A proposal for inclusion of solar energy and its applications in Nigeria?s Junior Secondary School Integrated science curriculum?. Inter- world science and technology (vol.1 No.1) Durson publ. Nigeria. pp.66-71
9. The Directory of Renewable Energy Research and Development activities in Nigeria. ( vol.2, 1999). Nigeria. pp. 50- 52.
10. Ujudud, S. (2003) ?Agenda for Northern Governors?. Daily Trust, June 10th publ. Nigeria. pg.32.