By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri) Isa Abdulsalami (Jos) and John Akubo (Dutse)
A professor of rotating machines technology, and head of icing and turbo machinery group, Department of Power & Propulsion Building, School of Engineering, Cranfield University, United Kingdom, David Mba, has delivered a blueprint on how boosting research development at the Air Force Institute for Technology (AFIT), Zaria, Kaduna, can help transform the country’s aerospace technology.
Mba in a paper titled: “Transforming aerospace technology in Nigeria through research and development: The role of AFIT,” delivered recently during the graduation ceremony at AFIT recently concluded: “The aerospace industry in African is set for significant expansion over the next decade. Given Nigeria’s economic power within Africa, there is a level of certainty that this expansion will also be reflected in the Nigerian aerospace sector. Such expansion can only succeed with the local availability of a skilled workforce. This is where AFIT has a role to play in educating, training and leading research in Nigeria’s aerospace industry. Its success is dependent in part of its leaders, encouragement and support from the Nigerian Air force, and incentives from the government.”
He said in proposing any direction the Nigeria government may wish to consider in developing its aerospace industry, it is worth looking at what other emerging economies have undertaken for exactly the same purposes.
According to him, Malaysia stands out as a good example. “Development of the aerospace industry was one of the strategic and high technology areas identified by the Malaysian government in the 1990’s. Their target sectors included activities that directly and indirectly contributed to the design and development, construction, operation, maintenance and disposal of aerospace-related products,” Mba said.
He said from 2010, the Malaysian government put forward incentives to kick-start their strategic objective and make Malaysia a global centre for aerospace industry in Asia Pacific.
The incentives included: Income tax exemption for a period of five to 15 years for activities in design, manufacturing and assembling; income tax exemption of 100 per cent of statutory income for a period of between 10 to 15 years for firms which offer maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services; and for companies undertaking aerospace-related certification, standard development, testing and licensing activities are eligible for exemption from statutory income equivalent to 60 per cent of the qualifying capital expenditure made in a five-year period.
Mba said the initiatives listed have resulted in the expansion of the Malaysian aerospace industry; evident with the recent announcement by Eurocopter that it will be part of a new helicopter centre in the Malaysian International Aerospace Centre. He said the Helicopter Centre will become the hub for all rotary wing operations and activities such as MRO for helicopters, hangarage and parking, as well as training services.
He said in stark contrast to such an incentives and investment in Malaysia, the Nigeria Aerospace sector is continually paying premium prices for basic certification and licensing services.
The Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, had said the routine training of pilots in Nigeria costs at least N2.5 billion yearly.
According to him, an airline with four aircraft spends at least $450,000 on simulator training. This means that the airline spends $112,500 on pilot training for each aircraft. The 74 airplanes flown by eight Nigerian airlines spend $8.3 million (N1.25 billion) every six months, and $16.7 million (N2.5 billion) yearly. As recently as July 2012, an estimated $150 billion has been spent overseas in maintaining and repairing aircraft.
On the role of AFIT, Mba said: “With most strategic goals, its success is underpinned by the availability of local resources to achieve set objectives. Such resources, particularly in the aerospace sector, require a skilled and well-trained work force. In Africa, excluding South African, there are seven universities/institutions that offer aerospace engineering in its curriculum. South African alone has 12 universities/institutions offering aerospace-related engineering programmes.”
He said the Nigeria government, via the National University Commission (NUC) in 2011 set up a curriculum in aerospace engineering to encourage development and growth in this industry. He said at present only AFIT has the technical resources to deliver the aerospace engineering programme ratified by the NUC.
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