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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Presidential Directive On Light Weapons: Defence Industries In A Shambles


Investigations by LEADERSHIP Sunday have revealed that the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) is currently in a shambles and in no state to produce weapons, as recently directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Buhari had during the graduation ceremony of the National Defence College in Abuja, earlier this month, directed the Ministry of Defence to produce a plan for the establishment of a military industrial complex for the local production of weapons for use by the nation’s armed forces, to end the current overdependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics.
“The Ministry of Defence is being tasked to draw up clear and measurable outlines for development of a modest military industrial complex for Nigeria.
“In this regard, it is to liaise with strategic ministries, departments and agencies to re-engineer the defence industries Corporation of Nigeria to meet national military hardware and logistics requirements,” the president said at the event.
On the heels of the directive, the president also directed the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) to partner with DICON and commence the manufacturing of light weapons it has designed.
Laudable as this may seem, sources at DICON informed LEADERSHIP Sunday during a visit to the complex at the heart of Kurmin Gwari community in Kaduna South local government council that unless government does a complete overhaul of the industry, it does not have the wherewithal to carry out the directive.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the defence industries currently, only produces civilian items such as coat of arms emblem for cars and offices, staff of office for chiefs, ceremonial swords, ballot boxes, head frame type A & B complete with accessories, windmill, hand pump, spare parts and maces for State and National Assemblies.
The gigantic structure housing DICON is well fenced and manned by armed soldiers, with the inscription, “Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria” at the top of the main entrance.
The structure is the ordnance factory of the defence industry with its administrative headquarters along Ahmadu Bello Way in the heart of Kaduna city.
LEADERSHIP findings revealed that DICON was established by an Act of Parliament in 1964, for the purpose of manufacturing arms and ammunition for the nation’s military and security agencies. Consequently, a West German manufacturing firm, Fritz Werner, was assigned the task of providing technical expertise and setting up the ordnance factory in Kaduna.
The first technical partner of DICON was Fritz Werner of Western Germany, who designed and built the Kaduna Ordnance Factories in 1964 with production capacities including, 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.
On 22nd January, 1979, the Federal Government signed an agreement with Steyr Daimler Puch AG (Defence Division) of Austria. The agreement provided for the construction of a factory building in Bauchi State, complete with all utilities, roads, rails and furniture for the production of Armoured Personnel carriers (APC).
The factory was designed to assemble in eight hours/day shift, the following, 300 units/yr 2 axles (4×4) Pinzgauer, 1 ton payload, 200 units/yrs 3 axles (6x) Pinzgauer; 1.5 ton payload, 140 units/yr Armoured Personnel Carriers; 45 unit/yr Command vehicles (APC); 10 units/yr Motor Carriers (ACP) and 5 units/yr Ambulances (APC). Factory buildings, utilities, roads and workshop equipment were all completed and commissioned since 1982.
The factory building was to be utilised by the Nigerian Army for the maintenance and rehabilitation of armoured fighting vehicles and APCs under a contractual arrangement.
In order to remain in business, DICON decided to use its equipment to produce civilian items such as rural water supply equipment, industrial spare parts and furniture for sale to the general public.
Studies show that the Nigerian Civil War which occurred between 1967 and 1970 necessitated the tripling of the above production rates and the Kaduna factory was thus able to make a significant contribution to the war effort.
But since after the war, the lucrative arms market for DICON ended, making its peers like the Brazilian Defence Industries Corporation that was established the same year leaving it far behind. The Brazil Defence Industries Corporation now manufactures military helicopters among other high calibre armaments.
DICON at present
Insiders in DICON told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the defence industry is “as good as dead,” owing to decades of neglect and abandonment.
A staff of DICON who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as he was not mandated to speak on the matter said, “DICON is zero in terms of weapon and ammunition production. We have two lines but the old line is completely down. The new line is actually okay but the immediate past Director General refused to allow production of ammunition.”
Why Chinese experts abandoned new production line
The staff informed our correspondent that some Chinese experts were engaged to work on a new production line for DICON but abandoned it along the line.
Explaining why the line was abandoned, he said, “the old line was used to produce weapons that are not up to AK 47 and then a new line was installed by Chinese experts. The former DG did not allow the Chinese experts who actually undertook the contract of installing the new line to further train us on how to use the equipment/machines to continue production. They (Chinese contractors) waited and left without putting the new line into use because of lack of raw materials. We can only produce ammunition on the new line; the old line is completely gone.”
He added that for the first time in 13 years, the industry had a single production because “we tried to test run the machines on the new line that was installed by the Chinese but the Chinese experts left for lack of raw materials.”
Further checks by LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that except for the test run of the new line and subsequent production of the OBJ Rifle in 2007, no production had been carried out.
“Since 2007 when we produced OBJ rifle, and the production of bullet proof jackets commissioned by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, we have not produced any military hardware in DICON. After that production, nothing has happened again for the past three years.
“In fact, DICON as it is now cannot produce weapon any longer except there is a serious turn around,” he added.
How prepared is DICON to carry out the presidential directive?
Though, efforts to get DICON’s management, headed by Brigadier General DIO Ehiorobo, to speak on the level of readiness of DICON to match action with the presidential directive could not yield positive result, sources at the industry said it could come to life with political will.
According to DICON’s Public Relations officer, Mr. Abdullahi Kurfi, General Ehiorobo who recently took over from the former Director General, Major General ER Chioba, would require ample time to study the industry to know the state of things before he could talk to the press. He therefore pleaded for more time to allow the new DG settle down to work.
Meanwhile, our source at the industry said, “the truth is that the military has succeeded in killing DICON, the industry is completely dead as we speak. The only way the government can bring DICON alive is for the Federal Government to think of starting it all over again. There is nothing in DICON apart from the new line that was installed by the Chinese people.”
“Staff welfare is poor; we have not been getting our allowances for a long period of time,” he added.

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