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Seated on the apex of decision making at NASENI is Professor Olusegun Oyeleke Adewoye, a material engineer who is the Director General. The agency is saddled with the responsibility of creating an enabling environment for home grown technology to thrive. This NASENI does through mass production of standard parts, goods and services required for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and striving towards making the ‘made in Nigeria’ dream achievable. NASENI`s headquarters, is situated at the industrial layout around the Dei-Dei, Gwagwa-Karmo axis of the FCT,a sprawling edifice that holds in display what could make any ‘doubting Thomas’ exhale in awe at the made in Nigeria products and technology are on display. NASENI proudly shows off their patents ranging from solar panels, cassava grating machine, table top oil expeller and science bench for secondary schools among others.The Director-General speaks with Economic Confidential.
EC: The cardinal thrust of NASENI“s mandate is to create an enabling knowledge- driven environment for local mass production of standard parts, goods and services required for advancing the economy. How have you fared so far?
Well, you know NASENI does its work in the headquarters, eight other institutes located at different parts of the country. In fact, these institutes are mono-mandate institutes, i.e. there is the one for building electronics, the one for hydraulics and the ones for materials manufacturing and so on. There are two others for production of equipments. What has happened in all of these places is that we have developed patents or modems that have either been transferred or are transferable to the private sector for production of goods and services. So from that perspective and given the funds available to NASENI, we have been able to develop from scratch technologies inherent in our own national culture. In reference to our recent press briefing where we highlighted our achievements in the areas of agriculture, energy, education amongst others, I will give you an example with this (holds out a white powdered substance in a polythene bag). This is cassava flour coming from a machine that we designed and built. The machine takes a cassava tuber in a continuous process all through until it becomes flour. This work was done in conjunction with 5 universities and two of our institutes. The collaboration made use of the technologies at Minna, Akure, Obafemi Awolowo University at Ile –Ife and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. Experts from these institutions, who have competence in different areas of cassava production, integrated to produce the grating machine. We have had several design meetings comparing notes which eventually and finally culminated into the manufacturing of the cassava processing machine. Later in the year we are going to present this and other of our products to investors so that we can appropriately sell them to those that require them. We have several things in the offing. Presently we have an ongoing project at Karshi, a satellite town in the FCT, where we are working and building a plant for the production of solar panels. At the same time we are equally producing what is called hydro power. We have the machine and components for that. We are also building a machine that can produce 8 bricks at a time. All these are going on simultaneously at what is virtually a plant. These patents are going to be presented to entrepreneurs who will carry on the structure of our work. My intention is to sell out the whole plant concept in one fell swoop. In the area of manufacturing we derive the joy in material selection. I want to sell all of that to an entrepreneur who can go and produce them under license from NASENI. That is our ultimate objective of sowing into the Nigerian economic agenda geared towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG` s).This is how far NASENI is faring so far under my stewardship.
EC: One key area that has beset the Nigerian economy like an albatross is the energy sector. Has NASENI done anything in the area of power supply in the country?
Okay, there are two things you can consider. One, we have a plant which I earlier mentioned that is under construction at Karshi in FCT. That plant is a 7.5 mega watts station for production of solar panels. I will not go as far as saying I want integrate 7.5 mega watts of electricity into the national grid, but I can do a few things in terms of addressing the energy problem befuddling the nation. Right now for instance, my office is under extra lighting from solar panels power output. You can see the solar panels at the premises of the building. This is only 8 kilo watts that have the capacity to supply light with such efficiency. We are setting a 7.5 mega watts plant that can do a lot of things in terms of energy requirements. We are using this as the road map to perfect this business of producing energy. We have been in discussions with state governments about helping them to set up a 25 mega watts of solar panels in interested states. When this is built in any state it would provide all the lightings in the capital, the hospitals, the police stations and other vital organs of governments. We are also working in the area of what we called Small Hydro Power (SMP). We have the data of the entire dam and all the rivers that can be dammed in the entire country. This would enable us to put equipments for generating electricity to the environs. At present we are manufacturing 10 kilo watts equipments for SMP. So it is not all about integrating to augment the national grid but advocacy towards self sufficiency. If I have 10 kilo watts SMP in a village, I can make a huge combination of things. It would be a great change in that village which could revolutionize the way of doing things in a big way. For instance, I can light over 8000 bulbs.11 kilo watts bulbs which gives me about 50 kilo watts of lower energy concentration consumption. If I can light 8000 bulbs in a village can you imagine the difference it can make? Or I can light 4000 bulbs and divert the remaining source of energy for boreholes. A bore hole needs only about 200 watts which can conveniently be sited in the same location as with the lightings. I can also light the hospital in that same village as well as power all the radios and televisions within the vicinity. All these can be handled by the capacity of an SMP of 10 kilo watts. This is one key area that NASENI is working assiduously towards addressing the energy problem in Nigeria.
EC: In what ways does NASENI`s made in Nigeria technology brings benefits to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)?
Thank you for this question. In fact some years back we took one of our modem to Council of Ministers to show them that without home grown input of science and technology into SME,s our quest to encourage the “buy made in Nigeria “products would remain a mirage. It was the essence of that fact that made Alhaji Umar Nadada, the Director-General of Small and Medium Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to pay a courtesy call to NASENI. That paved the way for us to reciprocate the visit to SMEDAN where we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with them. We made a promise to the SME people that all the doors of our institutes nationwide are open to them. They can access them and make use of them at any time. We have a specific assignment that led us to establish 74 minutes boundaries in Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in the country paid for by the Education Trust Fund (ETF).Each of those boundaries is an SME in the making. This is because each of those boundaries would be components for patents. You can cast components for machines of grinding pepper, beans, sorghum, soya -beans and the cassava grater. In fact, one of such productions is now automated. All of the stages involved are electronically controlled. The one we developed in University of Benin has become an SME. So what I am saying in a nutshell is that anything that we do at NASENI is a prospective SME. We turn our products into micro small enterprises. So the empowerment content of that initiative is SME targeted as developed by the agency. At usage level we have the solar panels to serve as the energy source. We have a concept called Sunshine Village in the developing stage now. Once we start mass producing solar panels at commercial quantity, the factories can pick them up. You can actually start whole new business development area based on solar panels. You just lease out to a few diversified businesses; barbers, call-centers, restaurants, business centres, etc with autonomy to your power source and required supply. Now if you look at that object, it is one of our products (points to a row of board-sheets stacked at a corner in his office). That is what we call a science bench which is one of our products in the sciences .We also have other products on this range that includes primary science kits and mathematics sets. Not too long ago I took photographs of students learning mathematics in the bush in one of the villages we visited. They were doing that without the basic tools. Of course the instruments and kits that we now developing would help them not to do that anymore because that is an autonomous science bench, where by all the instruments they require is given in a small room that is powered by solar panels. That is our next goal. We have already bought the materials from other source to put the ideas to work and once we start processing out the solar panels then all these would be produced locally and education becomes mobile bound. The students can learn science where ever they are instead of learning it under the trees like in some places in Zamfara and Kebbi states. They would be learning it in mini-classrooms where even if there is no electricity in the neighbor hood, it does not matter because our solar panels will power the class rooms. A typical class room of this nature will have among other things a solar panel energy source, a computer and what we call an interactive board. If they have all that at their disposal then learning becomes easier.
EC: The focal point of President Yar`Adua`s administration is the 7-point Agenda geared towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). How has NASENI been able to fit into this programme?
I just gave you examples in the following areas of agriculture ,energy, education, economic enhancement via the SME programme which are all part of the 7-point Agenda of Mr. President in the present dispensation. Actually, the MDG programme is sort of funny because in the plan of action the Ministry of Science and Technology was not considered as one of the pivotal ministries to be carried along. This is quite incongruous in my opinion. The reasons are obvious because if you are able to get a Small Hydro Power into a village, you are going to wipe out poverty in that locality. If we are looking at the eradication of poverty as an integral focus of the 7-point Agenda then we must consider the role that science and technology would play. I strongly believe that vital omission not to look towards science and technology in MDG funded ministries is an oversight. But as far as the 7-point agenda is concerned we are major players. As a matter of fact, we are involved with all the indices of the programme more than some of the ministries at the thick of it. Besides that even the Vision 2020, NASENI is massively in the fore front of carrying out the activities that are also in consonance. This is not far fetched because we have already reflected what is called a paradigm shift from conventional to Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMT). If you go to any of our institutes, we have technologies that are completely advanced. In fact, they are world class in best practices. The essence of that is each of these AMT centers will metamorphosed into clusters for all the schools in the neighborhood, for NASME, MAN and NACCIMA; so that they can all produce high quality goods that are of international standard. We have institutes and centers to utilize and make that objective achievable. Right now in the headquarters we have the Advanced Manufacturing Center as well as what we called Fracture Manufacturing – where we can design components, e-manufacture it after selecting your components on the computer. Of course we have a Hyper Computing Center (HCC) where you can carry out all your simulation and modeling as a way of fast tracking national development. All of these are domicile in the headquarters and you can have a look at them. NASENI is into the 7- Point Agenda, the MDG and most importantly, we are in sync with the Vision 20/20 target.
EC: As far back as 1999, NASENI went to the ECOWAS Trade Fair and made quite an impression with one of its equipments for iron melting; since then what has happened to build on that break through towards exporting that to other African countries?
The answer is nothing. You see it is nothing to be alarmed of because that is all strategic. We want to soak our country with the technology first before venturing to export it. Remember I told you earlier that we have 74 mini boundaries. In fact, in all we have 100 mini boundaries in the country right now which are all based on our technology that we took to ECOWAS Trade Fair and came first. We were given coverage in the Ghanaian Times where we were showcased as an example for innovations. We have 100 mini boundaries which in my reckoning would like to be taken to every Local Government Area in the country. I remember Governor Segun Oni and I were working on that before he was elected as a governor.The idea was to go and convince Bank of Industry to lend entrepreneurs money to enable them build each one of these would-be SME in each Local Government. Our vision was at least if you have each of this in every Local Government and organize massive workshops in the States capitals then all the things that people eat and drink, etc. The technology for designing and making those equipments would be accessible to all the locals without difficulties. For instance we have done a Ballot Scheme study in Ondo State to look at what the people need by way of our technology. They will process, eat out of as well as sell for economic gain. A poverty eradicating master-plan you can say. Farm produce such as cassava, palm kernel, sorghum, beans and soya beans would have been maximized as cash crops. While solid minerals such as iron zinc, tin and colombite were also on the schedule for processing all towards the economic emancipation of the Nigerian people. It was all part of this research that equally revealed how many tons of steel and iron is required for aluminum production and the number of workshops needed to create that awareness. The result of these findings from Ondo state was to be replicated in all the states of the federation. Based on that we were equally going to write proposals to the state governments and tell them that for their people to be able to process what they eat and drink as well as offer the opportunity for economic viability, these are the number of boundaries required and the number of workshops to make that achievable.
EC: Finally sir, I am lumping 2 questions at a time. one, we have been impressed by some of the technologies developed in NASENl like the solar panels for generation of electricity, which is home grown technology.. How much does NASENI need to achieve more? Two, what does Professor Olusegun Oyeleke Adewoye wants to be remembered for?
In terms of NASENI as it were, funds were prescribed to be made available from the yearly budget. This was to be one percent in 1992 to rise to eight percent in 2000. Now a cursory look at that figure runs into hundreds of billions of naira. This was never adhered to. The founding fathers of NASENI were principally General Ibrahim Babangida who promulgated the law establishing it and Alhaji Ibrahim Inuwa Khalil, a top grade engineer who went round the world on a fact-finding mission and reported back to Nigeria to say what was inherent in the world and the need to replicate it back here. That was how NASENI was created. If the blue print of that vision was followed to the letter, NASENI would have established an institute in every office of the federation. That could have forestalled importers from bringing in any equipment that can be produced in Nigeria, and would have been a major precursor to making maximum impact in technology advancement in the country. The Nigerian elites are completely irresponsible. I am not talking about this government or that government, this parliamentarian or that parliamentarian. It is the dominant ethos of the national elite to patronize foreign goods. They are too much in a hurry to purchase what other people produce even if there are local alternatives. I do not know any country in the world that has developed on that premise. You cannot be buying your consumables all from foreign sources and think you can advance. You must empower your people to produce them locally. Until that mindset is affected where by Nigerians and its elites patronize home grown goods and steer the will to be makers and not just buyers, we would continue to have that problem as a nation. As to what do I want to be remembered for, on a general note I will like to allow posterity to judge. But let me shed some light on one or two things I have done. Principally I have been able to enthused young people to believe in themselves and believe in Nigeria. I believe in technology. In that regard I have succeeded in imparting that passion to the younger generation. What will I do when I leave NASENI? The first thing I will do is to go back to the class room to teach. Secondly, follow up my passion for art collection. I am going to set up an art gallery. Thirdly, I am thinking of setting up an institute for innovations and manufacturing sciences. I hope to raise the money and have one of the institutes here in Nigeria and the other in Ghana. So that out of the little that God has given me, I can also transfer it to future generations. Part of where the funds for those projects would come from is the proceeds of selling my house in Zone 4 Wuse, Abuja-FCT. That will form the seed money for this work.