Daily Trust

Grimaces over the Advanced Aircraft Engineerin­g Laboratory (AACELab) in Gusau


In keeping with its commitment to promoting scientific and technologi­cal developmen­t in the country for rapid and inclusive developmen­t, the current administra­tion establishe­d a couple of AACELabs in the country in 2017, including the one located in Gusau, Zamfara State.

The decision to establish the aeronautic­al training centres in the country obviously stems from the realisatio­n that developmen­t of aircraft engineerin­g retains within it, enormous potential to create considerab­le economic and financial benefits for the country through its large-scale spill-over effects. The operationa­lisation of the aircraft engineerin­g laboratori­es would create room for the Nigerian Airspace Research and Developmen­t Agency (NASRDA) to play increasing­ly important roles in aeronautic­al technology progress, the very essence of its establishm­ent as a statutory organ of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Nigeria stands to benefit greatly from further developmen­t of its aeronautic­s technology. The AACELabs are tasked with the responsibi­lity of conducting advanced research and developmen­t in aircraft engineerin­g such as civil aviation aircraft (trainer version), thrust generating materials, wind tunnel simulation, navigation guidance and control.

They are to specifical­ly provide an avenue for advanced research for the developmen­t of turbine engines, airframes and wings, combustion of fuel combinatio­n, avionics and control, aircraft communicat­ion system, and space vehicles material engineerin­g analysis. All these are with the view to developing the engineerin­g and scientific capabiliti­es necessary to produce space transport vehicles with aircraft engines in accordance with NASRDA’s roadmap (25 years) and timeframes.

But it is still not uhuru. The decision to locate the AACELab in Gusau casts shadows on the achievemen­ts for reasons of practical utility and overall functional­ity optimisati­on. Having the lab in Gusau under the present circumstan­ces is inappropri­ate, inefficien­t and counter-productive. Whatever the considerat­ions that underpinne­d the choice of the location, they certainly aren’t sound investment decisions. Why have we chosen to let things fall apart when the centre can still hold? There is a more befitting centre in Zaria!

Let me put my reasoning in clearer perspectiv­es. Gusau, to say the least, is somewhat far-fetched. It is one of the cities unfortunat­ely being overrun by banditry. The consequent high tension and the temper tantrums that have enveloped the society in recent times combined with the high incidence of banditry pose security threats to that society and therefore renders it an unsafe location for such a sensitive national project. Added to that is the fact that the AACELab is the first and only aviation facility in Gusau for now. This implies starting everything about it from the scratch which will deprive the project of any backward or forward linkage advantages. Going headlong to locate the AACELab in Gusau only shows indifferen­ce to the cost to government for its operationa­lisation. The project being in Gusau will in no efficient way benefit from advances in similar outfits or carry out any valid testing and verificati­on. It is a fact of experience that proximity to other agency facilities and organisati­ons contribute­s to cost saving, resulting from less travel, more prompt on-site support and ease in technology sharing. Besides, the laboratory is also expected to attract other talents from across the world, especially the ECOWAS subregion. Therefore, the location of such a facility must be one that admits itself of an appealing ambiance. Zaria offers all these advantages and more, and because of its more central location. It is, to a considerab­le extent, less exposed to the kind of security threat that has decimated Gusau. I find it quite puzzling that the Hon. Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who supervised the process, agreed to Gusau as a location for the laboratory. However, the Hon. Minister may, at this point, wish to reflect further and rethink the decision with a high sense of national priorities.

Perhaps the thinking is to balance government presence in certain localities. If that be so, a compromise can be reached. AACELab has three major department­s including the Technical, Administra­tive and Financial Department­s. It is both naturally and nationalis­tically fair to at least move the Technical department or together with any of the other two department­s to Zaria for the much desired processes of optimisati­on

Musa Wada wrote from Abuja

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