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