Abiodun OBA

The Defence Headquarters on Monday, canvassed that research and development be taken more seriously, so that the required military hardware can be produced locally.

Speaking at the Bill’s public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Defence, the Director General, Defence Research and Development Bureau, Air Vice Marshall U. P. Uzezi, said: “This bill is very needed at this point in time in the history of our country, bearing in mind the national security challenges we are facing. I was thinking to myself how are we going to achieve this local production without adequate research that is being done to encourage local production. I did not find one. 

“Of course it is implied in the bill but not explicitly captured. I thought that R and D should be included as one of the priorities in this Bill. Explicitly captured.

“There are many research institutes but they have suffered and they have been able to achieve a lot because of this singular act of inadequate funding. 

“I believe that the bills when passed into law would support the bill that is coming forth for the defence, research and development, which I also think is a good thing. 

“I want to plead with the committee to include particularly in the establishment of the fund under the utilization of the fund section 3, that R and D be captured.”

In his submission, the Director of Production, Defence Headquarters, Air Vice Marshall M. A. Yakubu, said with the fluctuating exchange rate, sometimes it is impossible to fund procurement of equipment already signed for, making them run back to the federal government for interventions.

Yakubu said the United States will not sell equipment without a support package for a minimum of three years.

According to him, ”There must be training and other things. That total package came to that amount. How many years would it take you to budget. The maximum we have received from 2017 to date we have received in capital allocation for the Air Force was about N44 billion per annum. 

“Convert that at the current exchange rate. How many years do you need to gather $500 million to buy just 12 aircraft? Look at the expanse of land we are required to cover? Nigeria is over 920,000 square km. Every inch of the land needs to be covered by either surveillance or capability to attack.

”About two weeks ago, we had a brief discussion of what we intend to generate from this. We are estimating something in the range of N100 billion per annum. Convert that to dollars because virtually all the equipment are imported. This will go nowhere. And it would not address the problem we are seeking to address unless we expand the sources. 

“Nobody wants to sleep with only one eye closed. Everybody is scared of traveling on the road because of insecurity. Therefore I would urge that all stakeholders must educate citizens to understand the need to sacrifice because if we do not do that to address this problem sincerely speaking would continue to be a mirage.”

He further called for the raising of the percentage of various areas that are expected to fund the trust fund.

“If we are not able to raise a minimum of $2 billion per annum in the next three years for a start, subsequently maybe we can begin to taper down the percentages. But for a start we need a bulk sum because of many of these manufacturers of equipment require 100 per cent down payment to even start production. 

“So, you cannot sign a contract example with the US manufacturers and pay 15 per cent mobilization as required by the Procurement Act. Nobody would look at you. Their terms must be followed. Many times we are asked to pay 100 per cent,” he added.

Responding to the stakeholders’ inputs, the Chairman of the Committee and the Bill’s sponsor, Hon. Babajimi Benson, assured the audience that going forward, all concerns raised will be addressed.

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