The managing director of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI)’s Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI) Minna, Niger State, Prof. Mohammed Ndaliman, has called out to Nigerians to patronise the institute by buying its scientific and laboratory equipment to curb importation, strengthen the naira and grow the nation’s economy.
History of SEDI, Minna
The Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI) Minna is amongst the famous institutes of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) created from the Act which established the NASENI in 1992. Although SEDI had been conceived much earlier than that. Before then it was called the Science Equipment Manufacturing Factory (SEMF) that was before the establishment of NASENI. The intention was for the establishment to serve as a government-operated factory for the production of various scientific equipment. With the SEDI now under NASENI, its mandate is to research into the production and reverse engineering of various systems for the mass-production of school laboratory apparatus for physics, chemistry, biology, introductory technology, integrated science and others. Part of our mandate is to research scientific equipment for higher institutions. Also, we carry out research and development (R&Ds) for some instruments, mechanical and artisanal works in the country and transfer the results to SMEs or individuals for mass production. Going by the mandate given to SEDI by NASENI, we can research into all the above to evolve a sustainable technological system for production for all scientific industries in the country and also produce them in large quantities. This will gradually industrialise the country.
SEDI Minna has demonstrated capacity and given opportunities to dispense capacity and skills in the manufacturing of laboratory, school laboratory equipment, machine-building and reverse engineering as a part of our mandate. We have developed various components and machines and are now working on the processes of sensitising stakeholders on how to transfer some of these technologies to those interested in using them commercially. Over the years we have offered consultancy services to various individuals and organisations in the development of scientific equipment.
We have come up with products that reduce hardship in schools, in terms of organising practical sessions for students. Our star products are the various science kits [for] primary and junior secondary science kits (JSK) and the mathematical kits which contain various items and apparatus required to carry out experiments, scientific investigation and observations in schools. By mid-2022, we will have ready a complete kit that can be used to carry out practicals at the senior secondary school level.
Challenges Around SEDI Operations
This institute was established over 30 years ago. This means over 30 years of experience and operations. Therefore, it takes constant maintenance to retain the quality of everything installed at the onset.
Some of the challenges now are infrastructural and closely connected to funding. One of the challenges we have now is the inability to manufacture results and recommendations from completed research and development. As a result of our earlier mandate, SEDI’s infrastructural emphasis was to provide various manufacturing endeavours. For instance, if you’re manufacturing, you will discover that 90 per cent of the manpower required comprises artisans and technicians.
But seeing as it is the manufacturing of machines and tilting towards research and development and less of artisans and technicians, the composition of our manpower is an issue. The infrastructure on the ground is not fully researched-based; neither is the manpower.
Another challenge is the absence of sophisticated equipment and high-tech knowledge for research.
Tackling the Challenges
As for the issue of finance, we try to sensitise people who have one thing or the other to do with the institute, so that we can add what we get from sales and other forms of internally-generated revenue to whatever we get from the government. These augment the financial needs of the institute.
Some of the structures within the institute are dilapidated. But, thanks to the approvals from various authorities and our executive vice-chairman (NASENI) Engr. Prof. M.S Haruna, we have reached out to headquarters and sought out ways of getting support, to reduce the level of structural dilapidation, as well as replacement of broken-down,non-functional equipment. In no distant time, within one to three years, we would be where we aspire to be.
The next challenge is staff orientation and development. For instance, six years ago the only SEDI staff who had a doctorate was the managing director. Over the last 3 years to this day, we have more holders of master degrees and six doctorate holders.
We are taking steps to get to a level where we can easily tackle the challenges I earlier mentioned.
We have come up with various science kits (the junior secondary science kits (JSK) and the primary science kits (PSK)) and the mathematical kits which serve as mobile science laboratories to schools. When one class or school is done using them, it goes to another school or class. This method is cost-effective and solves the problem of the lack of funds needed to build standard science and technology laboratories for schools. Even schools in remote locations can benefit from this by performing scientific experiments. Not long ago, we donated these kits to pupils in schools in our immediate community.
Talking about reverse engineering, we have imported the latest equipment which we split or dismantle and creatively build something similar to them. While doing this, we build local capacity to fabricate machines and distribute them to industrialists. We now make plates, shaping machines, glaze-mixing machines, screen-printing machines, sheet metal-splitting machines, ceramic wares, laboratory measuring cylinders, beakers, funnels, water dispensers, aspirator bottles etc. Some of these items have been produced in plastic form so that they can be easily handled by children in primary and junior secondary schools. The delicate ones are produced in a glass form. All these were produced in our glass and allied workshop, while others like burners were produced in the engineering workshop. Apart from laboratory equipment, we have rulers, computer hardware, workstation and other teaching aids.
The institute’s wood workshop also produces home and school furniture.
In the ceramics section, we produce ceramic cups and flower vases made from ceramic. In essence, let me tell you; we have enough to produce as far as our scientific mandate is concerned; it’s just a question of infrastructural perfection.
Foreign Science, Laboratory Equipment Flooding Nigerian market
The country’s parallel foreign exchange rate is increasingly rising and currently stands at N565 to $1, even when the official rate is just about N416 to $1. This gap exists because almost everything we need in this country is imported; not just scientific laboratory equipment. We have no confidence in using anything produced in our own country. Nations that possess the national discipline to consume/use their locally produced products are amongst the world’s biggest economies today. They look inwards, except for cases in which they have tried to produce such things but could not. This should be our socio-economic strategy to develop our country.
Our destiny is in our hands everyone should look to and work with the SEDI, an institute with the mandate to transfer its production systems, scientific apparatus and all laboratory equipment to the private sector for onward mass production and commercialisation.
I use this medium to invite Nigerian entrepreneurs to come to take over the technologies behind our production systems [so that we can] do business with them, strengthen our economy and reduce the cost of foreign exchange used for the importation of all manner of items into the country.
Relevance of SEDI Minna to Socio-economic Development of Nigeria
In the arena of socio-economic development, if we can transfer the technologies or our production systems and various scientific equipment, by extension, many of them will be produced within the country by Nigerian businessmen and women. Resultantly, we will affect the socio-economic realms of the country positively and cause the economy to become a knowledge-based one. This will checkmate continuous capital flight, strengthen the value of our national currency and prevent currency devaluation [which is the case presently because we now have a situation where the naira is chasing the dollars needed for importation of all things into the country].
Besides the SEDI Minna, the nation’s manufacturing sector needs to be revitalised so that production can increase. A productive economy always strengthens both the currency and the general economy of the country.
SEDI is a critical unit of the Nigerian manufacturing sector, given that it was set up to strengthen the manufacturing sector and for the general economic development of the country
New NASENI With SEDI as Institute
In no distant time, most of these challenges – finance, poor infrastructure, inadequate research infrastructure etc – will become things of the past, as soon as NASENI’s funding mechanism is restored. The present government is taking the right steps to get science and technology to drive the Nigerian economy to the benefit of all sectors.