The Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, has developed the required capacity for the local production of 15 million units of pencils a year, according to the director-general of the institute, Prof. Goddy Onuoha.
Nigeria is said to be spending about N750 billion on the importation of pencils annually. The agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) said that apart from production, it can also transfer the technology to interested local firms.
All the machineries we require have arrived,” Onuoha told LEADERSHIP in a telephone interview. “The physical structure where the production will take place is in place.
We are waiting for the Chinese to commence installation by the middle of January after which we will commission the plant which has capacity for 15million units of pencils annually.”
Apart from the imported machines, raw materials for this project will be sourced locally. Graphite will be sourced from Mambilla Plateau while industrial grade clay for the pencil production is available in Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Niger, Adamawa and Cross River states. Wood will also be sourced locally.
The Institute has progressed in the process as it has not only located, discovered and collected the graphite and clay deposits and pencil wood in the country but has evaluated basic local raw materials properties through chemical analysis (a data bank) of local clays suitable for pencils.
It has developed an innovative beneficiation process suitable to the peculiarity of Nigerian graphite ores, yielding up to 98.8 percent fixed carbon on laboratory scale, produced designs for pencil moulds and extrusion facilities and done projection of some demonstrable sample pencils - HB and 2B.
Underscoring the relevance of the project to economic development, Onuoha therefore asserted that there is a dearth of school pencils (2B and HB) for the implementation of most of the educational programmes of the states and Federal Governments such as the Universal Basic Education (UBE) for primary schools, and MDG number 2 whose target is that, by 2015, children everywhere in Nigeria will be able to complete the full course of primary schooling.
All school pencils are imported, causing capital flight and industrial underdevelopment. Domestication of school pencil production technologies to encourage local raw materials exploitation and encouragement of entrepreneurship and support for sustainable school pencils and crucible pots technologies is a step in the right direction.
“In other words, it we are encouraging Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacture of pencils, and invariably creation of employment opportunities,” the DG said.