48 years after :How has DICON fared?

By  Shitu  Obassa ,News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), Kaduna, was established by an Act of Parliament in 1964 to produce small arms and ammunition for the use of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies.

The Act also mandates it to use its excess capacity to produce industrial spare parts and other products for civilian use.

The vision is to build the corporation on a sound commercial footing to continuously produce and constantly improve on the quality of arms and ammunition needs for the defence, security and foreign policy objectives of Nigeria, while applying the best international standards.

How has DICON fared 48 years since its establishment?

Defending DICON’s budget before the House of Representatives, its Director-General, Maj.-Gen. Suleiman Labaran remarked that the corporation has the potential to create more than 3,000 jobs if properly funded.

According to him, DICON is capable of producing more than 20 million rounds of ammunition annually, and generate more than N10 billion from sells to other countries.

He regretted that foreign contractors had crippled DICON’s opportunity of achieving its goal.

He, however, expressed optimism that with a friendly operational environment and political will, the corporation could develop into a vibrant military conglomerate to supply the weapons and military hardware needs of the entire West African sub-region.

“If there is no political will the industry will not grow. There must also be government policy to compel security agencies to purchase arms and ammunition from DICON,’’ he said.

But Senate President David Mark said recently: “I remember that DICON was set up about the same time as the one in Brazil; but the Brazilian counterpart is building aircraft and ships, while DICON is only producing chairs and dining tables for us.’’

Also, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Defence Committee,Hon. Adamu Bashir, expressed concern that Nigeria still imports arms despite the huge investment made on the corporation.

Some analysts say that the corporation has not lived  up to its expectation as a revenue generating and labour -creating industry capable of launching Nigeria into the international arena as militarily industrialised nation.

Malam Mustapha Bello, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC), contended that the military industry is imperative for the development of Nigeria’s economy.

According to him, other countries have used their military industries to foster general economic development and attract foreign direct investment.

“We have recommended that the defence industry be transformed into a regulator so that the industry can make turnover from other operators.

“We can attract foreign direct investment if we deregulate the defence industry. If we make foreigners to come here and manufacture, we can create jobs and develop our own internal skills.

“The capacity should go beyond the production of small arms.We can expand our capacity if we expose our staff to what they should know, and we have the human resources.’’

Bello also solicited the expansion of the scope and type of products the corporation could manufacture.

For Labaran, the corporation’s management has identified some measures to enliven its performance to make it a vibrant military industrial complex.

Labaran told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that his aspiration is to make DICON an attractive venture for foreign direct investment so that it can grow into similar viable ammunition manufacturing conglomerates he has visited in the course of his military career.

“It is my desire to reposition the corporation on the path of steady growth and in conformity with its motto: `Towards National Defence and Enterprise’’’.

According to him, the main objective of the recent effort to reposition the corporation is to re-orientate the workforce from the culture of civil service under which it has been managed for over 48 years of its existence.

“If we are to run on a sound commercial basis, it presupposes that we run like a proper industry that will make profit for itself and government.

“We cannot do this if the staff are not properly educated and knowledgeable in the areas of investments. We have over the years operated more like a civil service organisation, and we all know the mentality of the civil service.

“We are going to have people who will come with their money to partner with us. As such we must understand the issues involved in such investments.

“We have decided that our staff must have the basic skills in those areas and under the culture and value context,’’ he said.

Corroborating, Bello said the NIPC has offered to train the staff of DICON in view of the fact that their involvement would further facilitate the inflow of the anticipated investments.

“A military industrial complex if well established, the quantum of resources it is going to turn up into the nation’s economy cannot be over- emphasised.

“It is very expensive to produce military hardware such as aircraft, armoured carrier, and tanks.If we are able to do them in Nigeria, we are going to save our economy huge amount of resources,” he said.

Bello cited the example of Israel which has acquired the knowledge to produce arsenal from the United States,adding that the quantity and quality of arsenal it produces locally has positioned it to stop importing military hardware.

“We have to start by training the staff of DICON to be able to acclimatise to a culture that aims at transforming the corporation into a regulator that would see the advent of investment into a military industrial enterprise.’’

As part of its reposition effort, the corporation has entered into a technical partnership with Poly-Technologies of China and Joint Venture Agreement with Marom Dolphin Nig. Ltd. to establishand operate a ballistic vest factory.

The corporation has also begun installing machinery for the production of 7.62 x 39mm special – the preferred ammunition by the armed services, while its e-library and Research and Development Centre are near completion.

Speaking when some investors visited the corporation in 2011, Defence minister Mohammed Haliru said the resuscitation of DICON was part of measures adopted to reposition the military to be self-reliant in the area of manufacture of military hardware.

He said the production of small arms and ammunition and military kits for the armed forces has resumed at the new DICON factory in Kaduna in an effort to make it vibrant and economically viable to generate revenue for the country.  (NAN Features)


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