It is impossible to imagine a world without needs. The history of mankind is the history of his efforts to satisfy his needs. All the discoveries and inventions of science are a proof of man’s urge to solve his problems.
Hence, when man feels the pinching need of anything, he begins to think of how he can satisfy his needs. He then sets his mind to the task of invention. Necessity gives the first impulse; the rest is the work of the intellect. The world is changing every day, and we must adapt ourselves to our changing needs and keep pace with them.
We actually may not have seen the need to revive the dead, Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) before now. But as the terror of the deadliest terrorist sect- Boko Haram continues and the refusal of the US to sell weapons to us persists, there are many reasons for us to see the urgent need why we should produce our weapons ourselves.
In 1964, an Act of Parliament established the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON). It is to operate the ordnance factories for the manufacture and supply of arms and ammunition, as well as inspecting, testing and recommending ordnance materiel intended for use by the Armed Forces and other security organizations. The first Technical Partner of DICON was Fritz Werner (FW). FW designed and built the Kaduna Ordnance Factories with the production capacities of, 5,000 units of BM 59 Rifles per annum, 18,000 units of SMG 12 per annum, 12,000,000 rounds of 7.62mm x 51 per annum and 4,000,000 rounds of 9mm x 19 per annum.
The Nigerian Civil War, which occurred between 1967 -1970, necessitated the tripling of the production rates and the factory was thus able to make a significant contribution to the war effort. After the war in 1970, the lucrative arms market for DICON ended. Therefore, in order to remain in business DICON decided to use its equipment to produce civilian items like rural water supply equipment, industrial spare parts, and furniture for sale to the public.
That was how we forgot and abandoned our own production of weapons since 1970 till date.
However, as the security challenges facing our country continue, it becomes imperative for us to revive DICON and get it back to function accordingly.
For five years, Former President, Goodluck Jonathan begged the US government for military hardware to combat the Boko Haram insurgents. But according to the US, the Leahy Law prohibits it from selling military hardware to countries where human rights abuses are being found.
A global human rights watch group, Amnesty International, had recently accused the Nigerian military under former President Goodluck Jonathan of gross human rights abuses in the prosecution of the war on terrorists. The Nigerian military forces denied the allegation, and President Buhari has promised to investigate it.
Apparently, an arm deal with the US was part of a four-day official visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States of America. But he returned to Nigeria with no pledge of concrete military assistance against the Boko Haram sect from his hosts. The US government again told him, that its arms are tied by the Leahy Act, which prevents it from selling arms to countries with human rights abuse records.
Meanwhile, prior to the 2015 general election, the war against the Islamic terrorist group took a new dimension when it was reported that Nigeria procured modern military hardware, including fighter jets and armored vehicles which aided in combating the terrorist group. It is on record that achievements made during this period remain the most successful so far throughout the Goodluck Jonathan`s administration. What this means is; Boko Haram is not a sophisticated terrorist group. But our military isn`t well equipped and sophisticated enough to combat them. With the right weapons and technology, complete defeat of the sect is attainable.
Regrettably, the application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the grounds of allegations of human rights violations leveled against our forces denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to put an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.
We can`t blame the US for our woes and we can`t condemn the Leahy Law for standing as a barrier to securing an arm deal with the US. A country as big as Nigeria in size, capacity and capital and with all its manpower and resources should be able to produce its weapons by itself. We must as a matter of national emergency commence production of military hardware to solve our security challenges ourselves.
We cannot continue to wait for the US to help us out in everything. We have the brains, we have the materials, the basic technology needed isn`t a rocket science and we have the money too. So why can`t we? Why have we waited this far since 1970?
We should consider ourselves to be blamed for asking the US for help in the first place. When you can’t solve your problems yourself, and unnecessarily invite others to help, you invite ridicule into your affairs.
If former President, Goodluck Jonathan, had considered the self production of weapons in the last five years, by now we would have gone a long way. And who knows, we may have got no need to prostrate before our big boss- United States, for weapons as we do now. This is where visionary leadership comes in. For those periods we were begging, we should have considered our own production. But we prefer to beg than to invent.
Fortunately, President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday directed the Ministry of Defence to design a plan for the establishment of a military industrial complex for local production of weapons. He gave the directive at the graduation of Course 23 of the National Defence College in Abuja. This is a welcome development and we can`t not afford to lose the next second without an achievable plan on how to get this done.
If we must become a viable nation, we must define our needs and start to carter for them ourselves. After that, all we need from more advanced nations will just be complementary. It is not so much for us to achieve!
God Bless Nigeria.
Ogundana Michael Rotimi is a Nigerian Biochemist, Socio-economic & Political Commentator, and Public Speaker. He tweets @MickeySunny.