Sam Nwafor, a Colonel and Deputy Director, Research & Development at the Nigerian Army School of Artillery had a peculiar grin on his face anytime a superior officer stopped at his exhibition table. On display before him were several round metal pins, which on first observation, looked like ordinary pins.
Soon, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, stopped by. “This is the firing pin for 122 MMD30 Howitzer field gun; this is locally-made, using local materials,” Nwafor told him, a big grin crawling to his face.
Gen. Usman paused and asked if the pins have been tested. “Yes, and they are working very well,” Nwafor replied, directing a corporal to show the General a video of the test.
The video showed the gun in operation in what looked like a battlefield, the Col. suddenly yelled: “Fire,” the Corporal pulled a button and the gun boomed. The grin reappeared on Nwafor’s face. “This gun is one of the most accurate guns in battle. It is very critical to our operation, that is why making these firing pins locally is important,” he said.
The 122 Howitzer field gun is one of the most important weapons in the fight against Boko Haram terrorism in the northeast. The Soviet Howitzer was designed in 1963 at the Artillery Plant 9 in Sverdlovsk by Fedor Fedorovich Petrov. It was instrumental to Russia’s plans in the Cold War. Till date, the D-30, being manufactured internationally, is still being used in more than 60 countries armed forces, including Nigeria’s. But as effective as the gun is, it has always come with its own peculiar problems.
Nwafor explained: “The more you use the guns, you see that the pins which fire the gun keep wearing out very quickly and to import a replacement is always a hard thing. So, we sat down and decided to manufacture our own, which will be stronger and more durable than the imported ones.”
as keys to self-dependence
When the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, mounted the podium at the first Nigerian Army Research and Innovation Summit in Abuja, he recounted a joke someone made about the Army, needing “Juju” to fight Boko Haram terrorists since the Army was not getting the needed weapons.
The summit’s theme was: “Research and Innovation, Developing Synergy with Indigenous Institutions for Enhanced Capacity in the Nigeria Army”.
Lt.-Gen. Buratai, who dismissed the Juju claim, agreed the military would have made faster progress with the required weapons at troops’ disposal. The Army chief admitted that over dependence on foreign equipment caused series of setbacks for the Army at the initial stages of the war on terror, saying the army has” learnt its lessons.”
He said many of the key weapons used in turning the tide against Boko Haram were products of hard work and ingenuity of the Nigerian Army Corps of Engineers, who worked hard to refurbish armoured tanks that were hitherto unserviceable.
The COAS said: “To this end, about 178 armoured fighting vehicles of various types were completely refurbished by the Nigerian Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at the various Army workshops across the country.
“These were the weapons and equipment operated by well-trained, dedicated and motivated officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army that turned the tide of operations in the Northeast in our favour.
“Our experience in the Northeast and other theatres of operation has assisted us in drawing useful lessons which have shaped the ongoing transformation process of the Nigerian Army.
“We also learnt the hard lessons of over reliance on foreign equipment and spares which was a huge setback in the initial stages of our operations.”
The aim of the summit was to leverage government policies and programmes towards enhancing research and innovation for improved operational capacity of the Army in synergy with indigenous companies with a view to achieving self-dependency in weapons manufacturing. It created a platform for the Army to showcase the ingenuity of its engineers, inventors and the weapons they had made, that helped in the defeat of Boko Haram insurgency.
The men of 35 Battalion Nigerian Army in Kastina waited expectantly for Defence Minister Mansur Muhammed Dan-Ali, COAS and other dignitaries to inspect what they called “one of the greatest innovations,” in the military.
Their innovation is the famous Combat Fighting Motorcycle (CFM), popularly known as the Jackal. In the Northwest, cattle rustling bas become a big security threat, with the perpetrators killing and maiming at will. These perpetrators of the crimes often use the motorcycles to get away on rough terrains. So, the engineers at the 35 Battalion remodeled some motorcycles, weaponised them and deployed them in the anti-terror battle.
The CFM was redesigned in such a way that two soldiers could ride on it facing opposite directions with a gun attached.
“The idea is that with these, we can move as fast into any terrain in pursuit of the criminals and terrorists. There are different types – one is fitted with machine gun at the back and others have Ak-47,” Warrant Officer (WO) identified as Salley, explained.
“With these ones, we can follow the cattle rustlers to their villages. Is that that not innovation?”, the minister shouted in excitement.
The COAS said the military has a plan to give at least a battalion of the machines for each Division.
Dan-Ali, who was impressed, told the engineers: “We need to do another; the one with three tires; that one will have more stability.” The men agreed to take up the new challenge.
The CFM, which has been deployed in Kastina and Kano states, has assumed a frightening reputation from criminals.
“We have been very successful with it in Folgore forest in Kano. This is the latest machine all over the world, even the developed countries are praising us over this invention,” Salley boasted.
The Infantry Patrol Vehicle (IPV) with off-road mobility and a crew of three was one of the star attractions at the summit. Weighing 650kg and powered by 150-200 Horse Power Engine, the IPV has a 130 kilometre per hour capacity.
It provides force multiplier and the required flexibility to undertake all tasks across the entire spectrum of military operations, including range fighting, fast action mission, urban and border patrols.
The IPV is fitted with two machine guns and have been deployed in all the theatres of operation.
The Nigerian Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineers have also been ingenious in the modification of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for combat operations. One of such is the modification of 4 x4 Hilux Trucks with Peak Cap Turret.
The Peak Cap is mounted on the Hilux and it has 18mm hardened steel and can be modified to carry any gun. It has a mechanical traverse of 360 degrees. The Peak Cap also offers protection up to 30 meters from small arms and 100 meters from machine guns.
There is also the Buratai Overhead Manned Turret (BOMT) which is one of the ugliest weapons but which offers an “all round protection” according to the Army. Weighing one tone, it provides all round observation with the aid of periscopic sights and the plate thickness can give protection for up to 30 meters.
The BOMT invention was necessitated by the delivery of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPVs) BOMT has been installed on the MRAPVs now being used in the Northeast.
The Nigerian Army Institute of Technology (NAITE) in Markudi, has also invented the unmanned aerial vehicle with two transmitters which can survey human presence and an unmanned drone with transmission capacity up to 100 meters. Though the vehicle and drone have been tested, they are yet to be deployed to the theatre of operation.
Brig.-Gen. Ayo Ibikunle of Nigerian Army Ordinance Corps was modest about his latest invention – the Hand Grenade ASI-17 Smoke (Smoke Grenade).
According to him, the Army was importing the small but important weapon, which is used to give location of troops to the aircrafts and also useful in covering the movement and number of troops from enemy snipers.
“I made these grenades using all local materials, this was what we used to import but they are available now,” Gen. Ibikunle said.
However, one officer who was not ‘modest’ about his invention is Lt. Col. Muhammadu Buhari Gremt of the Nigerian Army 81 Division Abeokuta.
The officer invented what he called Collapsible Ammunition Incinerator Device (CAID) which is used to dispose deteriorated ammunitions in a safe and environmental-friendly way. Gremt said the former method of ammunition disposal was dangerous and unfriendly to the environment but his CAID can dispose more ammunition in a safer manner.
Gremt boasted: “The CAID destroys Pyrotechnics gunpowder and small quantity of high explosives, compared to open burning, this is mobile and can be broken down by four men and assembled in two minutes and it has been tested and used in burning 375,000 rounds of ammunition.”
There was also the Hydro electrical power plant which though crude in appearance has been used to generate three megawatts of electricity used to power a military check point. The officers and men of the Nigerian Army School of Military Engineering in Markudi promised that a bigger plant will be built to generate electricity to an entire street.
The cadets of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), who came with 11 innovations, were, however, the stars at the exhibition. Among their innovations was the dehydrator, used to dehydrate vegetables, extracting the moistures and preserving the nutrient which is essential as food for troops.
There was also the incubator, which according to the NDA Instructor, Captain Dike Garba (rtd), can incubate 3000 eggs in 21 days. Garba also showcased the Solar meat dryer which can dry one kilogramme of meat into Kilish in nine hours; the Eagle-Bot an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Detector and Disposal equipment; the Side Car for Perimeter Patrol which is also cost-effective.
Others are: the Star tilt-rotor unmanned aircraft which takes off vertically and can go up to five kilometers for aerial surveillance. It also has aerial bombardment capabilities. One of the novel inventions by Cadet Ebenezer Mojeed was the Automated Sniper Rifle (ASR) which is designed to be mounted on observational post or likely adversary route.
According to Mojeed, the ASR has surveillance device with the monitor in the hands of an operator who is hidden from sight. The operator is able to view the enemy position and using the controls, can engage and repel the adversary.
Mojeed operated the ASR which also has traverse capabilities and using the consuls began to fire, but instead of bullets, water was sprayed all over the audience. “We are using water in place of bullets for the purpose of this demonstrations, he said.”