Science, Technology and Industrialisation during the Babangida Regime


Edward Ugo Chukwukere

This Paper examines and evaluates the efforts and achievements of the eight-year regime (1985- 1993) of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), from purely the perspectives of its public policy thrust and development strategy, in the triplet economic sub-sectors of: Science, Technology and Industrialisation.

This dessicated sector of the national economy being, by its very nature, the “behind-the-stage” scenario of a country’s development “show-business”, government’s achievements in that area do not immediately impact on, or elicit spontaneous enthusiasm from the populace and hardly ever make the news headlines in the media – thus often going unnoticed and uncelebrated. Yet, it is these triplet sub-sectors that build a country, guarantee its citizens an optimal standard of living and earn it international respect. For this reason, persons of serious minds and independent thought in the Third World, have come to regard government’s performance in this sector of the national economy, as the barometric index: of its success or failure. The input- output achievement equation therein of any administration must, therefore, of necessity be subjected to a probing periscope, in order to bring into true perspective and focus whatever an administration achieves in this ail-important, nation – building area of Science, Technology and Indus trialisation. The Babangida regime’s performance in this vital sector, is studied and evaluated in this paper.

On 27th August, 1985, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida seized power with a “smokeless gun” (bloodless coup d’etat) and with characteristic finesse he named himself President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The whole Country yelled in applause, sang and danced and generally celebrated the advent of “the Soldiers Soldier” (The Economist, London, September, 1985) in ecstatic frenzy.

The then President Babangida set to work right away and quickly set up an “Economic Advisory Committee” of experts under the Chairmanship of a renowned economist – the late Professor Ojetunji Aboyade. The Committee was to report direct to Mr. President. This was a bright initiative. Though derogated from by the non-inclusion of engineers and technologists – the real builders of every nation. The regime moved fast and within four months in power (December. 1985), launched a clearly laid-out economic program, in which it gave these three technical sub-sectors a pride of place.

It became obvious from a study of the administration’s economic blue-print, which was predicated on -Self Reliance-, that Government appreciated the fact that the national economy was totally amorphous and so decided on a definitive institutionalization of science and technology as the only way to give structure and strength to the economy and boost industrialization. The thrust of the blueprint was lucid: to turn Nigeria into a credible techno-industrial state by creating a self-reliant science and technology-driven industrial sector.

On the industrial scene, all that the administration could see was, in essence, a random smattering of Lilliputian import – substitution industries, which had long derailed from their raison d’ ere, by importing over 80% of their raw materials input requirement, instead of sourcing the greater proportion locally from agriculture and other natural resources. Government noted that the industry also imported 100% of its plants, machinery , equipment and spare parts and (even in the organized private sector) over 60% of the finance capital on credit terms, together with a gratuitous equity share capital from the expatriate machinery suppliers, faked by inflating the cost of machinery by the ratio of the mandatory equity participation. In addition, over 80% of the top technical management and serviced, was also imported.

The regime further recognized that agriculture was closely allied with industrialisation and so had to be one of the starting points for the fight against economic backwardness, for without food and agriculture – generated raw materials, a boost to industry would be impossible.

The economic blue-print showed further, that the regime had already turned its searchlights on the Oil/Gas and Energy sectors the -heartbeat of the nation and noted that the oil boom of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s had gone bust by 1983 throughout the OPEC World.

In pursuit of solutions to all these identified problems, the Babangida Administration proceeded to put in place, an amazing mosaic of enabling agencies and institutions and parastatals across the broad spectrum of the three technical sub-sectors of the national economy and the bands of penumbra interfacing between them, including some science aspects of agriculture.

These strategic policy initiatives range from raw materials research, integrated rural development schemes, through automotive design, Nuclear , Space – and Solar Energy research and development, to a far-reaching rationalisation of the strategic direction of the Oil and Energy sector and development of hydrocarbon reserves. The highlight of these economic structural `nuclei’ – well over forty of them are now elaborated in specific terms.

As a first step and within its first month in power, the regime re-established the discarded Ministry of Science and technology in September, 1985, signaling strengthened it with the institutions, within and faithfulness to its economic program and establishment of the following enabling agencies outside the ministry, viz:

  1. RMRDC (1989) – Raw Materials Research and Development Council.

This Agency, established in 1988, supports and expedites industrial development and self-reliance, through the maximum utilization of local agricultural and mineral raw materials.

In 1991 alone, “RMRDC identified 25 priority projects for execution by the Council for the development of vital raw materials together with the design and fabrication of simple machines for processing.”

  1. TEDAC: Technical Development and Advisory Centre.

This is a subsidiary of RMRDC above, providing technical advisory consultancy, industrial counselling and extension services to industries and individual entrepreneurs.

  1. TECSEI: (1988) Technical Committee on Science and Engineering Infrastructure, an Ad-hoc Committee which fashioned a program that gave birth to NASENI.
  2. NASENI (1989): National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure.

This is a unique Agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology that had “Mission” research as its thrust, in the area of development and production of science and engineering equipment, via its six subsidiaries whose nomenclatures define their functions and goals viz:

  1. SEDI- E: Science Equipment Development Institute, Enugu
  2. SEDI – M: Science Equipment Development Institute, Minna
  3. CAT- A: Centre for Adaptation of Technology, Awka
  4. HEDI- K: Hydraulic Equipment Development Institute, Kano
  5. EMDI- A: Engineering Materials Development Institute, Akure
  6. NEDDEC: National Engineering Design Development Centre, Nnewi

Other parastatals under the Ministry are:

  1. NARICT: National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Zaria

This undertakes research into hides, skins, leather, industrial chemicals, polymers and plastics.

  1. NIPRD: National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Idu, Abuja

This Institution undertakes research into medical plants, herbs and drugs development and formulary.

  1. NACGRAB: National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, lbadan

The Centre deals with the husbanding of plants and animal genetic resources and research in development genetics.

The following were near-moribund, or dormant institutions, which were resuscitated and/or restructured and refocused to conform with the spirit and thrust of the regime’s economic program.

  1. NIFFR: National Institute for Fresh (Water) Fisheries Research, New Bussa

This was formerly Kainji lake Research Institute. It is now to research into fresh water fisheries and other aquatic resources in rivers, natural and man-made lakes.

  1. NOTAP: National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, Lagos.

The parent of this office was the former NOIP (National Office of Industrial Property) which dealt vaguely on technology transfer. It now focuses on the vetting, registering and monitoring of technology acquisition (not transfer) agreements and patents.

  1. UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE, (Umudike), UMUAHIA 1991

This was the former Training School of the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike in Abia State, upgraded in 1991 into a full-fledged University of Agriculture. The parent Research Institute still exists autonomously.

  1. SHESTCO

Sheda Science and Technology Complex, Sheda, Abuja. The Complex is geared entirely to nuclear reactor development.

CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE

The Centres of Excellence designated by former President Shehu Shagari at four of the nation’s universities, were boosted by the Babangida Regime:

  1. Dan Fodio University, Sokoto and University of Nigeria, Nsukka Solar research.
  2. Obafemi Awolowo University, IIe-Ife and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Nuclear research.

The Babangida Administration injected funds into these special centres in order to give them a quantum leap in research facilities.

OLD RESEARCH CENTRES

Some of these have existed from colonial days, but were restructured and given fillip with reasonable funds allocation.

Industrialisation

The regime’s initiatives in the realm of industrialisation, placed great emphasis on the key sub-sectors of Steel and Oil and like that of Science and Technology, also took in its stride, aspects of agriculture, putting in place enabling agencies and financial institutions to facilitate access to investment funds, as well as some key industries, particularly in the Oil sub-sector. These are considered below:

  1. Facilitators
  2. DFRRI: Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure.

This Agency opener: up secondary roads and provided water to farming areas and villages for increased food production. The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) has now formally adopted this model and is “marketing” it to developing countries.

  1. RED: Rural Electrification Directorate

This is a Directorate of the Federal Ministry of Power and Steel, set up outside of NEPA, as part of the regime’s’ Integrated Rural Development Program. Very quickly, all Local Government headquarters were electrified.

The uniqueness of this Directorate, captive to rural areas, while NEPA concentrated on its main task of basic electric power development, is eloquent testimony to the immense importance which the regime attached to ELECTRIFICATION, seeing it as the essential pre-requisite for building the technological and material base of the national economy. Lenin once said in 1922 that “COMMUNISM is SOVIET POWER plus the ELECTRIFICATION of the whole country.”

  1. KRMEA: Kaduna Raw Materials Exploration Agency. This is adjunct to the Steel sub-sector.
  2. MELON: Metallurgical Engineering Consultants of Nigeria.

For the first time in the country’s history, a consortium of about six indigenous engineering firms was set up as a permanent body to render consultancy services to Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited – patterned after MELON of India.

  1. TCPC: Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation.

This was an ad-hoc body set up as a “half-way house” to cushion the rather unreasonable demand of IMF for wholesale privatization of key Government industries and parastatals, by first passing through a commercialisation phase. TCPC later metamorphosed into BPE (Bureau of Public Enterprises).

  1. BPE: Bureau of Public Enterprises.

A permanent institution that succeeded TCPC described above. It is responsible for guiding and overseeing the privatization of Government enterprises.

  1. NACB: Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank.

Funded fully by the Federal Government for financing purely agricultural, projects, farms and cooperatives.

  1. PEOPLE’S BANK

Funded by the Federal Government for liberalizing credits to small businesses and rural enterprises.

  1. COMMUNITY BANKS

Approved by Government for rural banking by private and/or community investors.

  1. NERFUND: National Economic Reconstruction Fund.

This institution was established for the purpose of liberalizing credits to SME’s (Small and Medium – scale Enterprises), after a careful and thorough investment analysis has been made on the projects to be financed and they have been found feasible.

All these Banks and Financial institutions were vital to Government’s integrated rural development program.

  1. ALSCON Aluminium Smelting Company of Nigeria.
  2. COAL MINES MECHANISATION

It was common knowledge that by 1984, the COAL industry was all but dead. The Babangida administration invited international proposals between 1987 and 1989, for the mechanization of Enugu coal mines. In 1990/1991, the Nigerian Coal Mining Company Limited was re-constituted and restructured. Soon the Company boosted its production by over 600% and commenced international exportation on medium – term supply contracts with European consumers.

Innovations within Controlling Ministries

The regime professionalised the Ministries in order to reduce the bureaucratic shuffling of files by classical civil service officers and so quicken decision making. Also, inter-ministerial cross-posting and reposting of directors, resulting in the slowing down of activities in the agencies and parastatals under the ministries, were stopped, or minimized.

Regrettably, this result-oriented innovation has since been abandoned by a later administration and the unproductive colonial-type bureaucracy regurgitated.

THE OIL AND ENERGY INDUSTRIAL SECTOR

The achievements of the government in this area show the regime’s amazing foresight, hindsight and trademark originality. Government noted that:

“the demand for OPEC oil had fallen from 31 million barrels per day in 1979 (peak) to about 17 million barrels, ……… attributable in part to a prolonged world-wide economic slump, which drastically reduced the demand for oil……” Prior to the period of decline (1982- 1987), “OPEC had a firm control on oil prices because it produced about 55% of world oil consumption and controlled about 95% of world traded oil…” By 1986, “OPEC produced less than 30% of total world oil consumption and marketed less than 65% of world traded oil and since that time, had become a `price taker’ as control shifted to non-OPEC producers”‘ So, oil prices collapsed, drying up investments in, and causing capital flight from the industry.

Thus appraised, Government immediately articulated remedial measures delineating a bold program of action that would not only stem capital flight from, but also encourage capital infusion into the industry. These innovative measures which run from some strategic incentives offered the prospecting oil companies, the establishment of ancillary industries – triggering projects, include the typical examples summarized below:

  1. THE “M.O.U”: Memorandum Of Understanding.

Within one year of the Babangida administration, “in a well thought out move to realize its stated objectives of increasing national hydrocarbon reserves and productivity (in the Oil industry), in an environment that guaranteed fair returns to investors, the Government signed the first-ever M. O.U., in 1986, between it and the big Oil Companies”. ‘ This was at the time of the big of 1 slump and price crash..

The M.O.U. aimed at encouraging capital infusion into the industry, being essentially, “a fiscal package to encourage investments by guaranteeing notional margins to the companies, depending on their levels of cost efficiency and investments …”‘

The benefits flowing from this arrangement were quick in coming, viz:

  1. The Oil Companies prospecting activities snowballed. For example, “SHELUs operating rigs rose from 7 in 1987 to 22 in 1991! The number of wells drilled by SHELL shot up from 19 in 1986 to 115 in 1989!!
  2. By 1990, SHELL alone had added a net of one billion barrels of crude oil in new “recoverable reserves.” The other companies augmented these figures to more than 2 million barrels,
  3. Four multinational Oil Companies jumped into the Nigerian “Crude Business” with huge investment portfolios. They are: BRITISH PETROLEUM (a returnee) in partnership with STATOIL of Norway, DUPONT and DEMINEX.
  4. In 1991, there was need to revise the M.O.U. in order to maintain a balanced ratio between levels of costs and margins. The revision targeted increase of reserves from about 16 billion to 25 billion barrels by 1995. The country’s production capacity moved steadily up to 2.1 million barrels a day (mbd) in 1991 and was projected to 2.5 mind by 1994.
  5. THE JOA: Joint Operating Agreement.

Government signed a Joint Operating Agreement with the Joint Venture (JV) partners, which for the first time in the country’s history, gave Nigeria a structure and Legal Framework for managing its relationship with its Oil Company partners and the opportunity for accelerated technology acquisition by Nigerians in the upstream sector.

  1. Second Port Harcourt Refinery

The Babangida Administration commenced and completed the second Port Harcourt Refinery in 1989 and immediately approved, same year, an increase in the quantity of crude oil for daily consumption from its erstwhile 260,000 barrels to 300,000 barrels.

  1. Construction of Petroleum Products Strategic Reserves

The Country’s estimated daily petroleum products consumption demand in 1989 was 240,000 to 260,000 barrels of crude oil equivalence. In raising this figure to 300,000 barrels a day, the plan was to conserve the surplus 40,000 barrels in strategic reserve every day.

In 198911990 fiscal year, the regime ordered the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Jibril Aminu, to construct facilities for the building of a strategic fuel reserve. The Minister was unsuccessful in executing the project, saying that “the plan did not materialize because of sharp practices in the Oil Sector”. So in 1992 the then new Oil Minister, Chu Okongwu, inherited this responsibility to execute the plan.

Phase I Petrochemical Industries

Pushing the regime’s policy on strategic industries in the Oil sub-sector, Government quickly made the Final Investment Decision (FID) in 1985, on the plastics industry raw materials-generating Phase I Petrochemical Industries, which for long had remained on the drawing boards with past generations of bureaucrats. Construction quickly commenced and the project was completed and commissioned in 1988. The major component industries are listed below.

 

 

  1. The Polyprophylene Plants, Ekpan, Warri

Located at Ekpan, Warri, this plant produces some of the most popular polymer raw materials for the Nigerian plastics industry – for the manufacture of miscellaneous domestic plastic wares, containers and pressure pipes etc. – all of which were hitherto imported.

  1. Carbon Black Industry

Also located at Warri, this plant produces carbon black – a crucial raw material in Nigeria – used in the plastics, printing and paints industries etc.

  1. Linear Alkyl Benzene Industry

This is located in Kaduna. It has a wide application in the plastics industries and also is used in the manufacture of insecticides.

Other Phase I Petroleum Industries are:

  1. * Kero Solvent

9.* Benzene

  1. * Heavy Alkylate

Also used as polymerising agents, or building blocks in the manufacture of various grades of plastics.

  1. Phase 11 Petrolchemical Complex, Eleme, Port Harcourt

Faithful to its implementation program for the Oil sector, Government concluded the financing package for ELEMEPETROCHEMICAL COMPLEX in late 1990 and Mr. President laid the foundation stone early 1991 with construction continuing apace. The complex was completed on schedule later in 1994.

  1. Kaduna Refinery LPG Plant

The Kaduna Refinery Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) plant was completed in 1991 and it immediately commenced production with related Refinery units. This immediately boosted the domestic LPG (cooking gas) market with 70,000 tons of cooking gas. The Nigerian housewife never had it so good. Soon after; commencement of production, NNPC gave out tenders for the construction of nine LPG depots in various regions of the country.

  1. Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and The Indigenisation of the Upstream Petroleum Industry

What would be the fate of Nigeria, if some political crisis were to compel the western multinational Oil Companies to cease all operations and withdraw from the country? This poser informed the bold and courageous decision of the Babangida regime to indigenise the upstream (exploration and prospecting) petroleum operations – hitherto the exclusive preserve of western multinationals.

So in 1988, the regime created the NPDC, along with other subsidiary companies of NNPC, “to take over the major functions of oil exploration and production responsibilities of the NNPC and was initially endowed with ten concessions …

Three years later and in consonance with the Indigenisation policy, a substantial number of indigenous companies were allocated acreages and provided with special incentives in order to give Nigerians firsthand experience in oil exploration and production.

The NPDC executed its first major exploration task in the ABURA FIELD located in OML (open mining licence), which it bought over from the former owners: TENECO, MOBIL and SUNRAY in 1990. It became a success story and by the next year, it was producing 3,000 barrels of crude oil per day without any assistance from any expatriate company. The Ahura feat was followed up in 1990 by NPDC successfully drilling CREDO – 9 well, boosting its production capacity to 10,000 barrels per day in 1992.

  1. New Acreage Allocation

This was a fundamental and revolutionary decision by the regime, “intended to give an expanded base for future exploration ..:’ (NNPC). By this policy, 136 new `blocks’ were placed on open international tender, in order to ensure a rapid and thorough exploration of all prospective areas. This modified the original practice of granting concessions over large portions of the country, or over the whole country itself.

“In the course of time-…, Government decided that it would itself delineate the blocks of land available for exploration, instead of (the old practice of) oil companies selecting and applying for whatever area was .of interest to them … This policy was very successful and the NNPC took control of the areas to be licensed and now charges fees to cover its acquisition costs. It also receives bonus payments that reflect the prospect of the areas on offer:

The Gas Sub-Sectors

Two major achievements by the Administration in the Gas sub-sector are:

  1. The Oso Condensate

In 1991, Babangida laid the foundation stone of the Oso Condensate Project in Eket which has 500 million barrels of recoverable reserves and a daily production of 100,000 barrels, a remarkable achievement!

  1. Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Bonny

The successful construction of the Nigeria LNG at Bonny is one of the landmark_ achievements of the Babangida regime tender, in order to ensure a rapid and thorough exploration of all prospective areas. This modified the original practice of granting concessions over large portions of the country, or over the whole country itself. “In the course of time…. Government decided that it would itself delineate the plots of land available for exploration.”

 

 

Decision Making and Implementation

One quality that cross through the entire gamut of IBB’s governance is his scientific methodology in decision making and policy implementation. Once the facts and arguments were presented his decision was prompt and implementation immediate. Thus he kept faith with his publicly propounded philosophy that: “History will forgive you if you make a wrong decision … but will not if you fail to make a decision at all …”

At the implementation stage, evidence of the regime’s mettle in decision making, is seen in the prompt and speedy completion of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos (long abandoned); SHIRORO DAM; the approval and construction of the Aluminium Industry at Ikot Abasi; the signing of NNPC’s Joint Venture “M.O.U” (Memorandum of Understanding) and the physical development to completion of ABUJA, among others. These were projects on which previous regimes pussy-footed. Equally amazing was the admission of indigenous entrepreneurship by license, into the hitherto monopoly-dub of expatriate multinationals in the upstream crude oil exploitation business.

All the forty-five aforementioned landmark elements of economic structure put in place by the Babangida Administration, survive to this day (with a handful merely rechristened) and they constitute a stable foundation for future Governments to place their building blocks on.

Conclusion

This brief survey of the performance of the Babangida regime in the crucial but unsung area of Science, Technology and Industrialisation, throws up in bold relief, the great magnitude of the achievements of that regime in the techno-economic field.

The foregoing highlights of the incredible performance of the Babangida administration, thrown up by the findings in this study-paper in the areas of Science/Technology and Industrialisation, `speak’ volumes of the rare ingenuity of the leadership of that regime.

They give a vivid insight into Babangida’s acclaimed leadership qualities, manifest in all other areas of his administration and openly, or privately acknowledged by friend or foe, namely:- charisma, courage and bravery, bold initiatives and vision, a scientific and intellectual approach to problem solving, an uncanny sense of decision making and “stopping-the-buck”; ability to comprehend the multi-faceted .issues of governance, a magnetic and affable personality that commands respect and loyalty with ease. All of these made him ride the crest of the wave of popularity for the entire period of his regime; thus appearing to “bestride the Nigerian and indeed, the African scene, like a colossus”. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s honoured front seat in history’s state-box, is not in doubt.

References

Fact sheets of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Freetown, Sierra Leone – 1995

NNPC Corporate Affairs Department

NAPETCOR – Quarterly Magazine o/’NNPC, Vol. 12 No. 4, 1991

African Concord, 6th January, 1992 NNPC Public Enlighten-meet Supplement

Chief M. O. Feyide: “Policy, Strategy And Achievement In The Nigeria Oil Industry” – a paper presented at an NNPC long service award ceremony, 1991.