Dr Mohammed Sani Haruna, was recently reappointed as the executive vice chairman of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). In this interview with NKECHI ISAAC, he highlights benefits of the recently approved Executive Order 5.
What should Nigerians expect from the agency in your second term in office?
As you are aware, there are very important projects that are key to the alleviation of poverty, very key to the economic recovery programme of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration that we’re involved in that we’ve not completed. We’re more concerned with the completion of those projects in the first instance.
Firstly, the cost of solar installation is still very high in Nigeria and solar energy supply despite the fact that the energy is free in nature unfortunately remains a commodity affordable only by the well to do members of the public. The reason being that despite the fact that we’re producing solar module, solar panel and other components required for key projects in solar energy, it has remained very expensive and can only be affordable and cheaper for everyone is if it is 100 per cent made in Nigeria. To do that is to ensure that we produce solar cells in Nigeria, they are the component required to do solar panels.
Solar panels are a product of silicon, in other words, it is from sand, and thank God, it is abundant in Nigeria. The equipment required to process sand into silicon is the project we’ve been struggling to have on stream with the support of the government of the People’s Republic of China. It is top on our agenda.
This project is followed by the power transformer. We have researched and are producing manually, pool mounted, power transformer but it is taking us ages to complete one because the production is manual. It is a highly skilled project and the development of one takes time and concentration.
Now, to have Nigerian standard and to actually have substantial component of local content in the power industry, we have no option than to do this locally, not just assembling but truly made in Nigeriabecause through that we can have local standard, innovation can come in too.
The third project, which is also in the area of power, is the high voltage testing laboratory. We keep stressing that the nation cannot have a successful power industry without doing these testing for certification. It is not only for new equipment but can also be useful in fault analysis, it can also be used to analyse healthy systems to predict failures. This system is used everywhere in the world to determine status, predict and arrest failures before it occurs, this enhances stable power supply.
For instance, you can analyse gaseous products, condition of transformer, circuit breaker, oil to predict the lifespan of the insulation and therefore arrest or avert any likelihood of power failure. A lot of the time, there is availability of power in the country but due to the conditions of distribution and transmission facilities power does not reach the destination. Sometimes, the power generating company has to reduce their capacity despite the fact that power is not enough because of the process of evacuating what they are generating to reach its destination with facilities that their failures are minor. These three projects all in the area of power are key.
We have also developed capacity for small hydro turbine, yet it has not met the needs of the nation. There are several candidate’s small streams, rivers and water flows that this can be deployed. The target is to touch the lives of the rural populace. So, we’ve been approaching and encouraging state governments to see the need to partner with us and support the agency by going into partnership like the Osun and Nasarawa state governments have done to provide these services and build their own capacity to be able to do more in their rural community.
In executing these projects, did you engage other agencies or enter into some form of strategic partnerships?
Yes. We’re currently in a partnership with Machinery and Equipment Consortium Africa (MECA), with the support of the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) for a national tractor rehabilitation programme. There are many tractors across the country that are broken down and minor to major repairs are needed, some as little as a few thousands of naira can put them back but because there is lack of expertise in the system to repair them, they are not in use.
It has already commenced in Niger State, all NASENI institutes across the nation are providing repair centers. The state government is partnering with this NIRSAL to work with us to repair a minimum of five abandoned tractors in the first phase. It is not only repairs but maintenance, management for three years. Many state governments have indicated interest. We’re building more capacity through that and we’ve also entered into partnerships with other private sector companies like the Nigeria Machine Tools, Oshogbo, to produce more of the components in commercial quantity, spare parts, tractor repairs and also the Automotive Parts Industry (API) in Kano.
These projects are very important because they are key in the economic recovery programme of the current administration.
Apart from tractor repairs, do you have other projects in agricultural sector?
We have developed and commissioned the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for agricultural purposes. This was done in collaboration with other agencies including the private sector, especially oil companies that use this facility not only for surveillance of the field of their operation for safety and security but for prospecting oil availability and facility.
Let me take you back to the power sector projects, you said the only way it can be cheaper is if it is 100 per cent solar cells but importers prefer to import because it is cheaper. How can this trend be reversed?
In the solar panel/modules, 85 per cent of the cost incurred is in the solar cells, and the silicon, which is sand, required to do this solar cell is in abundance here in Nigeria. If we get enough machineries to build the solar cells here in Nigeria rather than export the silicon and then import cells, again it will crash to 15 per cent, definitely our price per kilowatt will definitely crash by over 85 per cent.
You mentioned that the agency would consolidate on power transformer.
I recall that the agency entered into partnership with the China Great Wall Industry Corporation to build power transformers locally, what’s the update on this partnership?
The delay has been the availability of 15 per cent counterpart funding from Nigeria but part of what is needed has been provided by the Federal Government in the 2018 budget through the budgetary allocation of the Ministry of Science and Technology, and we are hopeful that the project would soon take off.
What is your take on the Executive Order 5?
The signing of the Executive Order 005 is about the best thing that has ever happened to industrial development of Nigeria. This order has taken into consideration the reason why previous policies and attempts did not work. It is private sector friendly, friendly to research and development organisations and even academic institutions. It promotes innovations. It has provided ways to compel us.
You see, if we operate and religiously implement what is in the executive order, that means we’ll soon be in the position to build our own airports, sea ports ourselves. If the Chinese build our railroads from Abuja to Kaduna, the next one will be jointly built by Chinese and Nigerians and the next one would be built by Nigerians. That’s the essence, not year in year out we bring people to even do maintenance on our seaports and other facilities. This order provides for Nigeria to understudy these projects from conception, planning stages to installation and operation and maintenance. It is the best thing that has ever happened in the dream of Nigeria to industrialize.
I believe the federal executive order will trigger an industrial revolution because the implementation committee secretariat has no option but to work. The president is the chairman of the implementation committee, ministries that are consumers of science and technology products such as works, power, science and technology, agriculture, petroleum, all are members of this committee. The federal executive council directed that this should be done and the federal government is committed to it, and it has the buy in of the private sector and the academia. It will directly transform the way things are done in this country. It’ll bring about the much-anticipated revolution in Nigeria.