The military all over the world is a symbol of national pride, strength, valour, resilience and power. The hallmark of the military includes: patriotism, tact, discipline, selfless national service, among others. In fact, the military is a repository of knowledge. History has shown that the military has broken grounds in several scientific and technological innovations aimed at sustaining national growth and development in defence, security, aeronautics, medicine, agriculture, ICT, etc. No wonder, the need to partly anchor Nigeria’s ship of Industrialisation on the military at inception was part of a deliberate plan to place Nigeria on the path to industrial growth and development. The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1964 with the responsibility of driving this plan of industrial revolution. As a result, a West Germacollaboratingng firm Fritz Werner was assigned the task of providing technical expertise and setting up of the first Ordnance Factory for the Nigerian military in Kaduna in 1964. The factory had a mandate to produce 5000 units of BM 59 Rifles, 18,000 units of SMG 12, 12,000,000 rounds of 7.62mm x 5 and 4,000,000 rounds of 9mm x 19 of ammunition annually.
Incidentally, the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970 boosted the production levels of arms and ammunition at that time. The war time opportunity afforded the corporation a platform to make significant impact to the war effort. After the war in 1970, the domestic lucrative arms market for DICON came to a halt. Consequently, DICON took a detour of its original roles to remain in business and embraced diversification by venturing into the production of civilian goods like rural water supply equipment, industrial spare parts and furniture for sale. After over 56 years of existence, has DICON lived up to its responsibilities? Industry watchers and stakeholders are of the unanimous view that a lot have been left undone. In fact, DICON cannot favourably compete with its peers like the Indian Defence Research Development Organisation.Many reasons could be adduced to the poor performance of DICON; they range from paucity of funds to drive production and research to leadership. Another is the political will of succeeding governments to up the ante. It must be re-emphasised that a production and research based defence corporation like DICON deserves astute leadership and a quantum of budgetary allocation for optimal performance. However, the appointment of Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) and Major General Victor Okwudili Ezugwu as the Director-General, DICON, by President Muhammadu Buhari has changed the narrative. Until his appointment, Major General Ezugwu was the Managing Director of Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Assembly in Kaduna where his achievements bear eloquent testimony of his managerial prowess.
A miliary historian but an engineer by vocation, he initiated the design and production of prototypes variants of light, tactical patrol as well as Armoured Fighting Vehicles by DICON-CED Kaduna.With funding from the federal government and interest shown in growth of DICON by the military and the CoAS, a new oxygen bank, new spark and lease of life has been injected into the corporation. There is an ongoing revival in DICON. With his penchant for leaving a trail and creating a path where there is none, General Ezugwu has brought to bear his commitment, wealth of experience and professionalism in driving the affairs of the corporation. On assumption of office, the DG declared: ”it is my commitment therefore to transform DICON for maximum output towards national defence and enterprise, I pledge to catalyse all directorates and units through target-driven endeavours, improved welfare and focused leadership.”
The DG also maintained that ”in order to key into the new strategic direction and be relevant both within and outside Nigeria, DICON under my leadership had to do the honest self-assessment. This led to the evolution of a new vision, mission statement and logo to drive the corporation for optimal performance.”In a spate of one year, the industry is on a purposeful and defined path of transformation and greatness.
DICON has undergone and currently undergoing major overhaul. It has recovered lost grounds and has placed the nation on the map of industrial revolution. The corporation has not only become the pride of Nigeria but that of Africa and the world. Capacity development of personnel is a top priority. In view of this, many staff have benefitted from sponsored trainings in China, India and other countries.Compensation and general welfare which hitherto negatively affected morale of staff now come as at when due. It is said that a motivated work force is a product of industrial harmony, a reflection of increased productivity and desired results. The needed industry operational tools, equipment and machinery are also provided in due time. Every right and valuable opportunity at the disposal of the management of DICON is transformed into excellent results. With the meagre resources at the disposal of the corporation, the DG has proved that a lot could be done with commitment and the right manpower.The military world wide is networking, collaborating, evolving and venturing into other commercial and defence related businesses. In the same vein, DICON has opened its doors of partnership and collaboration to states, universities, ministries, agencies, parastatals, companies and genuine investors in line with its corporate policies. The corporation has built and is building on President Buhari’s directives to the Ministry of Defence and Defence Headquarters to urgently articulate the establishment of a Military Industrial Complex to produce weapons and other equipment for the country’s Armed Forces and reduce reliance on reluctant foreign suppliers. In realisation of the above, steady efforts were made to tackle the problems which until now hindered production at the Ordinance Factory.
Gladly, the production lines have been revived beyond 90% and the factory has now come on full stream. In fact, DICON presently is driving R&D efforts with a state of the art Research and Development Centre.The famous Mine Resistance Anti- Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) code named Ezugwu MRAP by the Chief of Army Staff is a phenomenal military collosus: proudly a local content initiative designed to tackle insurgency and other forms of internal and external insecurity conceptualised, invented and designed by Ezugwu. Other milestones achieved by DICON are the production of military hardwares, tactical, combat vehicles and other defence related items. Achievements also recorded were in the areas of production of ballistic vests, helmets, boots and other defence related items.
Abandoned production lines for the manufacturing of ammunitions and high powered pistols, among others were restored by the corporation. There is also an established unmanned aerial vehicle workshop and a ground breaking ceremony of DICON-SUR Corporate Wear Nigeria Limited: a collaborative effort at building the biggest garment factory in Africa at DICON Ordinance factory. In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, DICON rose to the ocassion by prodicing ventilators, face shields, face masks and quality hand sanitizers.
All these efforts were in line with the Executive Order 5, directing ministries, departments and agencies to leverage on local content. Ezuguw said; ”DICON is becoming self-reliant in its production capacity and we owe our gratitude to the unflinching support from the Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai and the president Muhammadu Buhari.” DICON is really working!The Nigerian military through DICON has proved that industrial growth and development is possible through committment and purposeful leadership. There are other General Ezugwus in the military, accademia and other sectors of the economy who are ready, able and willing to add value to the industrial growth of Nigeria. The nation could tap from their wealth of experiences when government recognises their innate talents and bring them on board.
DICON in conjunction with the ministry of Science and Technology and other relevant agencies should stepped up collaboration that will take Nigeria to that next level of the desired industrial revolution.
Eze, publisher of thenewinsightng.blogspot.com, writes via sunnyeze02 @yahoo.com