The Nigerian Military is set to improve upon the local content of its armoury by commencing the local manufacture of some of its combat vehicles. This good news was disclosed recently by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai while commissioning a cottage technological training aids designed to improve recruits marksmanship. Already, through research and development within the army, five of those vehicles have been produced, a pointer to the prospect of the Nigerian Army becoming self-reliant in class B combat vehicles by 2025.
The idea of manufacturing locally some of the nation’s military hardware was conceived with the establishment of Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) in the immediate post-independent Nigeria. That project did not meet the desired expectation, as it became famous for the production of furniture and salt. One of the deliberate acts against that corporation was government’s policy of import substitution. That way, the nation preferred to bring in most of its hardware from Brazil and India made by similar companies set up almost at the same time with DICON. With a very strong local currency, it was believed that importing was cheaper, may be in the short term. But in the long term, it has proved to be harmful to the economy. With the downturn in revenue from oil and the massive expansion of the economy as well as other demands, foreign exchange as provided by that single commodity became not sufficient to service that, in our view, ill-conceived policy of import substitution. Still, this obvious turn of events did not register effectively on the minds of past military leaders. Feeble attempts were made to return to the original concept of the industry (DICON). That too became expensive, just as limited success was registered in the production of small weapons and other military kits.
But the military leadership in the present dispensation has consistently demonstrated its determination to reverse the trend of massive importation. One of those forward-looking measures is the collaboration with local auto companies to explore the viability of local production of spare parts as well as linking up with local shoe manufacturers to kit the military in that regard. These have, in a very significant way, assisted these local manufacturers in investing in research and development, creating local jobs and saving the nation from spending its scarce foreign exchange. On its part, the military is beginning to realise that it can be done and that has emboldened the high command to explore further.
It is possible to argue that this new trajectory in the building up of the nation’s military inventory was imposed on the leadership by the exigencies of the time. Maybe. But an unthinking high command could have ignored the opportunity to make a difference. It is also important to point out that tough times engender creativity and we applaud the current military leadership for its dexterous response to the challenges it met on ground. It is not only in the area of hardware; the army is also redesigning its tactics away from the old methods that demanded heavy mortar fire. Without abandoning that time-tested pattern in military warfare, it has developed what is known as cyber warfare which targets at ensuring cyber security as well as attacks on the nation through fake news that have proved to be inimical to national security. All these are geared towards enhancing the combat readiness of the officers and soldiers, the rank and file.
Without doubt, these are commendable policies initiated by the leadership of the Army and the Airforce, which have raised the pride of the soldiers who nurture a deep sense of patriotic satisfaction in being kitted by the efforts of local ingenuity. With this latest addition to the plan by the military high command to take effective control of the military hardware and software, that is, the policy direction that will make the army self-reliant in some classes of military hardware, the establishment is, in our opinion, moving in the right direction. And if implemented on a sustained basis, it will aid the country in building its own military industrial complex right from scratch.
Much as we try not to attribute the ongoing processes within the military to persons, we are also compelled by the successes recorded so far to maintain that focused leadership, the type that is being provided by the Chief of Army Staff and his comrade-in-arms in the Air Force wing, is what is expected of disciplined forces desirous of leaving behind a self-reliant military and their footprints in the sands of time.
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