* Agency gets marching order to produce helicopter
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to release statutory funds due to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) to enable it function optimally.
He also gave the agency a marching order to manufacture a Made-in-Nigeria helicopter.
Buhari,q who gave the directive Tuesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja during a virtual meeting of the board of the agency, noted that NASENI is a mechanism to stimulate linkages between science and technology, academics and the industrial sector on the one hand and the country’s economic and industrial transformation on the other.
He stressed that for NASENI to succeed, it must be empowered through adequate provision of financial, human and material resources and allowed to exercise independence to forge partnerships.
He said: “By its mandate, NASENI is strategically poised to develop local capacity in machine building and fabrication, which is critical to Nigeria’s industrial development. However, in order for it to realize its full potential, NASENI must be empowered through the provision of adequate financial, human and material resources and be given the autonomy and independence to forge international partnerships to acquire the relevant technologies for social, economic and industrial advancement of the country.
“In this regard, I have directed the minister of finance budget and national planning and Federal Inland Revenue Services to commence remittances of funds approved by law to the agency.”
Buhari observed that the enabling law of the agency was promulgated to an Act in 2004, adding that Section 2, Subsection 1 and 3 of NASENI Act provide for a governing board of the agency under the chairmanship of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While commending the solar energy and research ingenuity and manufacturing of NASENI, the president also directed the minister of finance to conclude negotiation and acceptance of 85 per cent funding source for establishment of solar cell production, high voltage testing laboratory transformation in collaboration with China industry cooperation.
According to the president, “It is important for NASENI board to note that agencies of government with similar mandate as NASENI in many countries are under the supervision of their respective heads of states and government. This administration has a premium and importance attached to home grown technology, science and engineering infrastructure towards the social economic and technological development of respective countries.
“The uniqueness of the mandate of NASENI as enshrined in the enabling law towards actualization and realization of our development programme such as creating 10 million jobs, Economic Recovery and Growth Programme and post coronavirus sustainability plan, it’s only deliberate deployment of engineering, science, technology and innovation using technology domestication and reversed engineering of capital goods, making them available in Nigeria that can fast-rack realization of our collective will to build the capacity and reduce poverty of our teeming populace.
“The countries that are at the forefront of economic recovery have only one thing in common, investment and sustained research and development work in knowledge economy.
“Coronavirus pandemic has exposed the technology and innovation gap between us and the developed world which NASENI is strategically positioned to fill. It is my desire that this meeting of the governing council will reposition NASENI for the realization of its mandate as envisioned by its founders.”
In a chat with reporters after the meeting, the Vice-Chairman and CEO of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, disclosed that the agency has been given the marching order by the president to produce a made-in-Nigeria helicopter.
He said a lot of progress has been made in developing the helicopter, whose components, he said, must be approved individually because of the precision required.
Haruna said: “About the helicopter, if you have been following, NASENI has demonstrated what it’s been able to achieve so far, and to go further because of the security and high precision required in the aerospace industry. Because, someone said it’s better to be on the ground and wish that you were flying.
“So, every component produced is required to be certified before we can deploy. So, to fast-track these important things, that is the beginning. There is a matching order to have a made in Nigeria helicopter.”
He also said the board has approved the use of local materials to produce solar cells, adding that the agency already has the capacity to produce 7.5 megawatts of solar panels in its assembly plant in Karshi, Abuja with imported cells.
“Solar energy is very expensive to produce. So, the board has approved that we use locally available raw material, that is silica. And silica is from sand and sand is free of charge. So, if we begin to produce solar cell in Nigeria, it means the price per wattage of solar energy will be cheaper and affordable for everybody.
“If we can produce solar cells, then we have the technology to venture into production of electronics, communication technology and competition equipment.
“In short, it was solar cell production that gave America the popular Silicon Valley. Once we can do that, we do a lot of things. What is limiting Nigeria’s creativity in the area of communication devices because whatever you design you have to look for its components, glasses etc. And these things are in abundance almost in every part of Nigeria. This has been approved,” he stated.