Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan has officially opened a newly established ballistic armour factory and commissioned Nigeria’s first locally produced armoured personnel carrier Igirigi.
Jonathan on Monday commissioned the DICON-Marom factory in Kaduna, which is a public private partnership between the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) and Israel’s Marom Dolphin Nigeria Limited. The factory will manufacture bulletproof vests and other military textiles.
“With this commissioning, you must convinced me beyond all reasonable doubt that DICON cannot produce any product before such product is imported. This commissioning marks the beginning of a vibrant defence industry,” Jonathan is quoted as saying.
“Today, we are witnessing a major improvement and expansion in the activities of DICON. I believe this will positively impact on its capacity to keep pace with the highest standards of developments in the technology and manufacture of military hardware worldwide,” he added.
On January 24 this year DICON and Marom signed an agreement to establish the factory. Marom specialises in military and security textile products. The company says it is the main authorised supplier of tactical and bulletproof vests to the Israeli military and ministry of defence.
“The nation’s military establishment has effectively keyed into the Federal Government’s Local Content Policy which is aimed at building indigenous capacity in the petroleum and other sectors of the national economy,” Jonathan said.
“The new factory, along with new innovations in the navy and air force shows that the military has keyed into the transformation of Nigeria,” the president added. He also drove Nigeria’s first locally manufactured armoured personnel carrier, the Igirigi, which is produced by the Nigerian Army Engineering Corps. He commissioned the vehicle at the Command and Staff College in Kaduna.
At the beginning of June Jonathan commissioned Nigeria’s first Seaward Defence Boat, NNS Andoni, and laid the keel of a second. The vessels are the first warships to be built in Nigeria.
Jonathan said that the federal government would send a bill to the National Assembly to give DICON a global reach and allow it to export its products overseas. He added that the government would give preferential treatment to local or foreign firms that establish defence industries in Nigeria.
Established in 1964, DICON also operates an Ordnance Factory in Kaduna, where it makes small arms and ammunition, including assault rifles, machine guns and sub-machine guns. Its Special Vehicle Plant is carrying out the refurbishment and upgrade of Scorpion light tanks, Steyr tracked armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and MOWAG APCs.
DICON was primarily established to produce small arms and ammunition for the Nigerian Army and other security agencies. The Corporation also uses its excess capacity to produce machinery spare parts for industries and other products for civilian use. The company has produced an assault rifle similar to the AK-47 and has also developed 60 and 81 mm mortars.
DICON remains the only legal small arms and light weapons manufacturer in Nigeria. Despite former President Obasanjo appealing to DICON to meet the arms and ammunition needs of West Africa, DICON continues to suffer under insufficient and inconsistent funding, according to the Jane’s Information Group. However, in November last year the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and Chairman of DICON’s board, Linus Awute said the company would start production of the AK-47 to deal with Nigeria’s security challenges, which have increased exponentially since the Boko Haram militant group stepped up its attacks.
The Minister of State for Defence, Olusola Obada, said on Monday that to develop Nigeria’s defence industrial base, the government had partnered with a Chinese firm to produce military equipments.
Earlier this year DICON announced that it has sent a third batch of engineers and technicians to China for “technical training covering all aspects of engineering and technical skills.” China’s Poly Technologies Incorporated (PTI) is one of DICON’s main technical partners.