By Chioma Amajor
In the 1940s, the Economy of the United States of America was in depression: there were the challenges that followed the Second World War; rehabilitation of returnee soldiers, inflation, unemployment, housing, low wages and Pension matters, among others crisis.
Inventions and Innovations became the vehicles that pulled America out of the depression; the period witnessed the emergence of motor cars, refrigerators, air conditioners, among others, which led to the growth of manufacturing industries, and created jobs, as well as, empowered the people, changed their lifestyles and made the United States flourished, once again.
This was until the Wright brothers invented the Aeroplane. The Aeroplane survived hostile criticism, cynicism and skepticism from science scholars and the media, which wrongly assumed that it was impossible for humans, to fly like birds, from one point to the other; some of them cited issues about weight and gravitational law.
But the Wright brothers in 1904, launched the first aircraft, and flew it around. Critics predicted failure, the market was reluctant to receive it, but the Wright brothers were confident inventors, who were far ahead of the rest of the world; and died in the process.
It dawned on the American society, four years later in 1908 that it was not only possible for humans to fly, but the invention of the Aeroplane was the greatest gift that changed people to people interaction, all over the world.
American government and people capitalized on the various inventions and innovations that came out of the depression, to cause changes. It created access to loans for the American people, which enabled them to buy the manufactured goods from the industries, and led to expansion of manufacturing activities. This laid a solid foundation for industrialization in the United States during the 19th century. In the 21st century, and Nigeria was confronted with similar challenges which the United States faced long ago, and came out of it stronger. As was the case in the United States, Nigeria was also grappling with, even more compounded crisis, which ranged from insecurity, inflation, dearth of industries, mass unemployment, food shortage, housing crisis, educational decay among others.
Farmers still used primitive tools to grow limited food, educational institutions lacked modern teaching aids to facilitate teaching and learning; manufactured goods like refrigerators, auto-mobiles, telephone handsets, among several other consumables, were imported; due to lack of technology to produce the Machineries.
It was this gap that the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), was created to fill, when it was established in 1992. It was mandated to initiate research for “ …a truly home grown industrial economy, creation of jobs and wealth opportunities, based on Nigeria’s entrepreneurship capacity and drive, developed deliberately, to use own science, engineering and human ingenuities, to develop a truly national economy, while utilizing local materials…”
Unfortunately, Research and Development, was not core in the values of successive administrations, consequently, Research funding was low or lacking. NASENI was one of the Research Institutes affected; and for this reason, the Agency, had been in limbo with little progress to celebrate.
But since Research and Development regained its eminent importance, in the long term planning of government, since 2015, under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, things changed at NASENI.
The administration brought on Board, Professor Mohammed Sani Haruna, as Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive of the Agency. Under him, the Agency started making new statements. There were about 36 prototypes Machineries, at various NASENI research workshops, waiting to transform Nigeria from a consumer country to a producer country.
No fewer than 30 Machine manufacturing industries could emerge to under-take mass production of various tools, which could be used for the production of various consumable items; but searching for entrepreneurs.
One of them is the NASENI Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, (UAV), which was on parade at Abuja, where it flew mid-air for several minutes from the three ARMS Zone to the Eagle Square, within the same area.
It was an innovation, designed to drive the Agricultural sector into greater productivity. It was targeted at facilitating the application of herbicides and pesticides on farmlands. The UAV could also be deployed for traffic supervision and control, emergency services, including, rescue operation, and to monitor power and pipelines against vandals.
NASENI also proudly, exhibited the NASENI Jet Engine, Gas Turbine, at its Enugu workshop; it was said to be the first step towards building Nigerian Aircraft. Although, it was still under research and development, its objective was to meet Nigeria’s needs in gas engine, which has been in use in the transportation and power generating sector of the economy, for several decades.
Teaching Aids, were also on parade, among them, the SEDI-E Mobile Refrigeration Cycle, designed to provide students with every detail to the working model of a refrigeration system.
It was developed to bridge the gap between “theory and practice in the study of air conditioning and refrigeration in tertiary institutions; it provides laboratory experiments, to effectively teach ideas in the most effective ways.”
There was the Mathematical Kits, at its Minna workshop; which was developed to provide teaching aids for primary schools; to bridge the gap between low levels of knowledge of Mathematics. The research objective was to develop standard technological know-how to locally, manufacture Mathematical Kits, which were not readily available and affordable in Nigeria.
The Kits allowed Mathematics teachers in primary schools, to develop lesson plan, in accordance with the scheme of work and syllabus; to effectively teach Identification, Classification and Calculation.
It also developed NASENI Primary Science Kits (PSK), to aid teaching in physical sciences in the primary schools. It aimed at making learning of physics fun and exciting in the class; and assist teachers in guiding the pupils to perform experiments.
It was to “enable the Nigerian Child to observe and explore the environment and seek science process skills; including, observing, collecting, manipulating, classifying, interpreting data and formulating models.”
There was the Thermal Conductivity Apparatus; it was developed to get the temperature data logger for measuring the rate at which heat travels from one point to another in a solid body. It can be used to teach thermal conductivity in tertiary institutions
The Digestive Module was developed as teaching aid; it illustrates the construction of digestive modules of human digestive system. It demonstrates the step by step movement of food from mouth to anus. It uses electrical signal embedded in wood carved human parts, involving indigestion, with different color code, which shows the food and enzymes as they act on food. It illustrates the processes the food under goes along the pathway.
There was also the development of Force Board, for teaching and learning physics. It was designed for the fabrication of force board, to demonstrate principles of movements and friction, on an inclined plane in physics experiments for Senior Secondary Schools.
At its Nnewi workshop, NASENI also exhibited first made in Nigeria Tricycle and Motorcycle, with high local content. The KEKE NASENI, Passenger and Cargo Models, were ready to displace the KEKE NAPEP, and KEKE Maruwa, which were imported.
NASENI inventions and innovations, witnessed the development of Animal Drawn Metered Mechanism Boom Sprayer; it was developed for application of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, to ensure better yields on the farm.
There were several other inventions and innovations: these include, Water Treatment Plant to guarantee safe drinking water in rural areas, Interlocking Brick Making Machine, for low cost housing projects, Hydro Electric-Turbine to provide small scale power to small communities or industrial plants as alternative source of power supply, Energy Saving Bulbs, and on and on.
What makes the difference, between 19th century America and 21st century Nigeria, was that while the invention and innovations in America were supported by loans to facilitate expansion, NASENI products were still searching for entrepreneurs to acquire the patents, for mass commercial production.