By Prof. MK Aliyu – Editor

  • Emphasizes the Significance of Panteka Market As A Heritage Site
  • Speaks on Invention of KADPOLY COVID-19 Technologies
  • Thanks Prof Bogoro-Led TETFUND For Promising KADPOLY N116m to Support Its Research Efforts
  • Sheds Light on Establishment of Centre for Technology Development

Professor Idris Bugaje, a World Class Professor of Chemical Engineering, is the current Rector of Kaduna Polytechnic, one time Rector, Federal Polytechnic Nasarawa, Nasarawa State, and Director General, National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Zaria (NARICT). In this interview with Education Monitor, Professor Bugaje spoke on a number of issues of national interest. He specifically spoke on the Significance of Panteka Market to Nigeria and its teeming unemployed citizens, urging that both Federal and State Governments should declare it as a World or State Heritage Site. He also spoke on the contributions of the Polytechnic in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Excerpts:

EM: Sir, you recently made a very good declaration which generated a lot of interest from the public where you said that the Panteka Market in Kaduna should be declared a Heritage Site. How can you explain this for the understanding of the public and government?

Bugaje: Panteka has a very long history because it is the largest and the most enduring fabrication hub in Northern Nigeria. It was actually established about 50 years ago, opposite Kaduna Polytechnic where skilled artisans produce different components of machineries, spare parts, fabrication of domestic utensils etc., converting waste to wealth. They were doing all these based on their individual ingenuity. They did not go to training to any University, nor any Polytechnic. In fact, it is the graduates of these institutions that go there to learn skills. So, the achievements of Panteka in the last 50 years needs to be recognized.

I have been to a number of Heritage Sites in Africa. Recently, I was in Mombasa. I went to the University of Technology Mombasa where I discovered beautiful architectural buildings and I complained to the Vice-Chancellor; ‘Why do you keep these old buildings filling the whole space, (because it is right in the center of the city of Mombasa). She said; ‘No! our University has been declared a UNESCO-Heritage Site, because of this traditional Mombasa architecture. We are therefore not allowed to destroy it, rather, every year UNESCO sends money to maintain it and visitors come and visit.’

That is just something so simple like a building. There is something bigger happening here in Panteka. Many industries in Kaduna, in those days when Kaduna was really an industrial hub, spare parts were not imported from Europe or Overseas. They will come to Panteka and if Panteka makes spare parts they don’t need to see the original design of your machine. They would just look at it, out of their ingenuity and develop a replicate and when you use it, it will work and it is produced in a very cheap way. So, for this reason, we felt this is an institution that must be supported by the federal and state governments. In fact, Kaduna state government should declare it a State Heritage Site. This will allow it to be improved upon in terms of the infrastructure.

It is also for this reason that Kaduna Polytechnic is working hard to partner with Panteka so that the about 40 different skills being developed there can be certificated. What this means is that we can now start giving Certificates to Panteka apprentices. When they enter Panteka, they should graduate and move elsewhere within Nigeria or overseas either to build new Pantekas there or become skilled workers across the globe. By this, new entrance can be absolved into Panteka.

So, it is both an industrial hub, a training hub, and a very historic site, technologically in terms of development of Northern Nigeria.

That is why we felt the attempt to dislodge them or remove them out of their present site will be an ill-informed and a counterproductive decision; and it is for this reason therefore that we felt the need to advise the state government to shelve its decision to relocate the market.

With our appeal, I am very hopeful that the state governor will listen to us, so that he can maintain Panteka as a national Heritage Site, and not only a State Heritage Site. While doing this, he should seek for interventions from Global Agencies, Foundations, UNESCO and the rest of them. So that they can now bring in inputs in order to develop Panteka further.

If this happens, this kind of market will not be the only heritage site in the country. If you go to the South East, there is the Aba Shoe Market. In the past, cobblers were the ones running Aba Shoe Market. But, because of the intervention of the state government and the International Labour Organisation and the UNDP, the Aba Shoe Market has been transformed today. They have state-of-the-art equipment. They are producing World-Class Shoes. Some of them, you will believe are made in Italy.

I met a Nigerian on my way back from Mombasa, who was coming from Botswana and I asked him; ‘What are you doing in Botswana?’ He said; ‘I am buying shoes from Aba, delivering them to Botswana, selling them in multiples.’ He said he was making heavy profit. Every two months, he will come to Nigeria, buy shoes from Aba Shoe Market, the standard of the Aba Shoe Market has been lifted up through technological intervention, through interventions from international bodies.

We would like to see that same experiment is repeated on Panteka. The first step is, declare it a heritage site. Then from there we can move on. KADPOLY will now roll out training programmes, certification programmes of the skills. We only need to enhance them. For example, in the selection of metals, Panteka relies on scraps, a lot of times they don’t test the properties of those scraps, the hardness, the tensile strength and other properties, the elemental compositions, they are not tested. We have modern machineries that can help them test it, so that when they make a spare part it can last for years, instead of six months or one year.

So, these are some of the interventions KADPOLY is trying to roll out, including the Certification Programme under the NSQF, that is, National Skilss Qualification Framework, approved in 2017 by the Federal Executive Council.

EM: Sir, your institution has successfully invented what has, today, become subjects of discussion in the country, related to the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Can you please tell us about these inventions and how you think the public and government can benefit from this commendable research initiative?

Bugaje: Well, when the COVID-19 pandemic set in around early this year, a number of higher institutions were doing a lot of research and development. Some were doing medical research while others were doing paramedical research. Many Polytechnics and Universities developed respirators, handwashing machines, sanitizers, etc. Kaduna Polytechnic also did appreciably in those areas, but we felt there were certain gaps in the COVID-19 interventions that are missing. For example, the respirators that were imported or locally produced, needed medical oxygen to operate. Medical Oxygen is simply Oxygen which is 99.9% pure, that is the one being taken in by the respirator and then pumped into the lungs and because of the higher concentration of Oxygen, the absorption will be higher for a COVID patient. They do not pump in ordinary air. Air is only 75% Oxygen. The ability of the lungs to absorb the Oxygen into the blood streams is attenuated by the COVID virus. So, you need higher concentration of Oxygen. That is why they require 99.9% pure Oxygen so that the absorption would be increased significantly, because not every part of the lungs system is going to operate. I am not a medical doctor but I am just trying to explain why we need a 99.9% pure oxygen for the COVID patient.

Now, that is a gap that we realized in this country. A lot of the respirators do not even have the medical oxygen to operate. Some of these medical oxygens are being imported. There are one or two Plants here in Kaduna and Ilorin and they could not cope with the demand. One of the national dailies carried a Headline story about two months ago that medical oxygen supply is grossly inadequate in the country. So even before that headline we realized that was going to come. Therefore, we called a team of chemical, mechanical and electrical engineers that could produce medical oxygen. It is not rocket science. The raw material is ordinary air, which is everywhere and free of charge.

All you need to do is find a way of concentrating the oxygen either through absorption or through liquefaction.  That is, you bring certain air, put it under high pressure. If you are doing liquefaction put so much pressure that the air will become liquid. And once the air becomes liquid, you can now allow it to evaporate. Distillation can take place at that high pressure and now you can separate the oxygen from the nitrogen. On the average, it is 25% oxygen, 75% nitrogen. So, you can now produce two products. The oxygen can go for medical and the nitrogen can be used as a fire retardant. Every refinery you go, or any petrochemical plant you go, they always have bottles of nitrogen. In case of fire, when you put nitrogen, fire will never progress because fuel combust with oxygen. That is one method.

Then, there is pressure swing which is an absorption process. It is an easier process. It will give you the high quality 99.9% Oxygen that you require. So, that was what we adopted because the liquefaction requires extremely high pressure. We also decided to adopt this process called the pressure swing, and we were able to design a processing plant which was able to produce that. The cost of the plant is just about 55 to 60 million naira. In addition to that, there is this fumigant, they call it hypochlorite, either hypochlorite acid or sodium hypochlorite. The raw material is easily available in the country. We are importing it largely in this country. They call it ‘Hypo’ for short. The raw material is table salt. If you take table salt, the chemical composition of table salt is sodium chloride. If you put it in solution you will have sodium chloride and chloride irons. If you put that solution in an electric field the sodium will go to the negative cathode while the chlorine will go to the positive anode. So you can be able to separate them. Now, the sodium that goes there will combine with the OH of water to form sodium hydroxide. The chlorine will form chlorine gas. The chlorine gas is allowed to combine with hydroxide to give you sodium hypochlorite. It is a very effective fumigant. It is a major fumigant used by the Ministry of Environment to clean environment from suspected COVID contamination.

So, we felt we need to produce it locally in Nigeria. The Plant is also just costing about 50 million naira. We felt this needs to be developed. Now, we have already taken our proposals to a number of agencies. We have gotten response from TETFUND. The TETFUND Board has approved about N116m for Kaduna Polytechnic to fabricate those two Processing Plants and to put them in operation before the end of the year. We are only waiting for the release of the funds. If they release the money in good time, Insha Allah before the end of December 2020, we should be able to produce Medical Oxygen here in Kaduna, hypochlorite right here in Kaduna. The raw materials are locally available. We don’t need to import anything and Nigeria will be made self-sufficient. When we succeed in doing this, we intend to replicate this for other zones, for other states or other private sectors who may be interested in producing them locally.

Even after COVID, these two Processing Plants will be useful. Medical Oxygen at 99.9% can be used by hospitals. At a lower concentration of even 95% purity, it can be used for oxy acetylene welding. So, Welding Plants will require it. So, our plants will continue to produce for welding companies or fabrication workshops. In addition, the Hypo is being used for many other activities, bleaching of materials and so on and so forth.  So the production will still continue and there will be market for it. The motivation at the moment was COVID-19 and even after COVID, I believe these two products will find use in the Nigerian market.

Meanwhile, the Kaduna Polytechnic did not only stop at the invention of covid-19 technologies, but has been at the fore front of technological revolution in the country.

This is evident in the establishment of the Centre for Technology Development CTD located in the City of Kaduna, Kaduna State.

According to the submission of the Secretary of the Committee for the Centre Auwal S Anwar, the Centre will exploit Nigeria’s technological resources to the rescue of the nation’s overdependence on imports and to reposition it into a strong global player and leader in that sphere of development.

The submission says that the polytechnic has appreciated the major role of skill acquisition in modern technological development that has compelled many advanced economies to reconsider their focus on higher education to technical and vocational education.

“Nothing underscores this like the steep rise and consolidation of the Chinese economy that was primarily a result of a robust investment in vocational skill acquisition, clearly, Nigeria cannot be left behind”. The submission stressed

This is why the Polytechnic, under the able leadership of professor Bugaje, has come up with a wonderful initiative called-The Panteka Upgrade Intervention, to be executed by the about to be established Centre For Technology Development (CTD).

“Interestingly, the main campus of Kaduna polytechnic is sitting right next to the famous old Panteka Market where more than 38,000 artisans produce various products using disparate skills with appreciable utility and finishing grades”, Auwal submitted.

“In this regards, the CTD has the mandate to chart a course for upgrading and certifying the skills, provision of improved facilities and work environment for the panteka Market so as to jumpstart the emergence of a robust industrial fabrication hub whose product will compete favourably both in Nigeria and abroad.

“Accordingly, it will provide a major leap for industrialization, at small and medium scales, by providing necessary machineries locally and the technical backup for sustainable operations and maintenance”.

The submission further revealed that the CTD will bring together experts from the academia and investors from the private sector to churn out technological solutions and services to the nation in particular and to the world in general.

As Nigeria tries to extricate itself from the cul-de-sac of rentier economies, the CTD shall engage its core human and material resources to support the diversification of the economy, employment creation, generate wealth and rescue the population from deliberating indices of poverty and insecurity.

The necessity for the establishment of CTD in Nigeria is underscored by the country’s disturbing status as the 139th country in the world by Gross Domestic Product per capita and, more seriously, its 152nd placement on the human development index ranking.

Countries previously in such dire straits, like India, Malaysia and Singapore, leveraged heavily on CTD-like structures and successfully emerged into stable, even world-class, economies.

“In the spirit of this proven path, the Kaduna polytechnic’s CTD shall bring to bear its scientific, technological and business resources to deliver Nigeria from its currently untenable solution”, the submission read.

The submission provided that the CTD comprised of seven divisions including; ‘Panteka Upgrade’ to provide work facilities for modern tools, equipment and machines for the use of the artisans, to improve their skills through training and standardized apprenticeship and ‘Embedded Technology’ division to serve as hub for engineers and scientists to generate promising ideas and prototypes.

Other divisions are ‘Pilot Plant’, where pre-commercial production systems employing new production technology shall be developed, ‘Fabrication division’ for the fabrication of equipment and machine parts and ‘Laboratory Services’ division to handle all analytical services for the food and other process industries as well as research clients across the country for free.

It will also include ‘Extension and Marketing, and Finance and Administration’ divisions to provide support for the end users of CTD products and stakeholders.

The submission says that these divisions shall offer a multi-disciplinary team of full-time Engineers, Technologists, Scientists and Business experts from the polytechnic’s six colleges which are equipped with expertise in various areas.

These areas, according to the Secretary of the Committee includes; Technical and vocational education technology, Mobile solutions and computing, software design and development, Web Applications and Wireless Technology and specialized training.

Other areas are Food processing automation, testing and Microbiological Analysis, Process Plant design, installation and Training for the agro-allied and related industries.

Fabrication of equipment and machine parts including Agricultural Implements for Tractors, post-Harvest Processing, Industrial Machinery spare-parts; Processing, Product Design and Mechanical Drafting.

Other areas are provision of Halal Certification in conjunction with the Nigeria National Accreditation Services and JAIZ Foundation to enhance export of Nigerian food products to the Middle Eastern and South East Asian markets, Technology Incubation Platform for local researches and innovations and Business Consulting.

Also included are development of technical and financial proposals, and Market Analysis and Patent Registration Consulting to facilitate and fast track intellectual property rights protection and acquisition for Nigerian researchers.

On this pedestal, the CTD shall operate with the following six divisions:

1. Panteka Upgrade Division

The Panteka Upgrade Division will serve as the driver of the Kadpoly Panteka Upgrade Intervention. The intervention will comprise the provision of work facilities especially modern tools, equipment and machines for the use of the artisans, improving the skills of the artisans through trainings, standardizing apprenticeship, certifying the acquired skills via NSVQ Codes and upgrading the work environment.

2. Embedded Technology Division:

The Embedded Technology Division of CTD will serve as a hub for Engineers and Scientists to generate and develop promising ideas into prototypes. A novel internship program in the embedded technology unit will churn out programmers and designers who will bring out new software and hardware solution for local and global consumption. The Division shall also develop production plans after successful prototypes are developed for licensing or partnerships with SMEs and local businesses. It shall support SMEs in adopting technology to either enhance or develop new products, processes, applications or practices. In addition, the embedded technology Division shall have equipment and staff for pilot runs and direct manufacture of electronic boards for products destined for the market place.

3. Pilot Plant Division

Pre-commercial production systems employing new production technology shall be developed. The knowledge obtained is then used for the design of full-scale production systems and commercial products. For example, the technology of identified agro industries shall be piloted for further development as well as training of technologists.

Some of the pilot plants shall include but not limited to the following:

a. Tomatoes past processing

b. Shea-butter process plant

c. Honey processing and granulation

d. Corn/Millet vita production for tuwo, kunu etc

e. Essential Oil Extraction by Steam Distillation

f. Fruits juice extraction and canning plants

g. Glucose production plants

h. Ginger extraction and granulation plants

i. Bioethanol and biodiesel production plants

j. Minerals beneficiation plants

4. Fabrication Division

This shall be the hub for fabrication of equipment and machine parts including agricultural implements for tractors, post-harvest processing plants, industrial machineries and their spare-parts, etc.

The Fabrication Division will comprise six (6) sections which are:

a. Fitting & measurement section

b. Sheet metal work and fastening section

c. Machining shop section

d. Welding section

e. Foundry and surface finishing section

f. Computer design section

5. Laboratory Service Division

This shall handle all analytical services for the food and other process industries as well as research clients across the country for a fee. They shall also handle the Halal Certification Program.

6. Extension Services and Marketing Division

It shall engage end users of CTD products and stakeholders. Technical experts should be available to provide ongoing support to user of CTD equipment and also be responsible for undertaking follow-up impact evaluation via surveys. This information should be systematized and documented to feed into future programs. This Division shall also provide Bankable Financial Studies, Business Plans, etc. for entrepreneurs for a fee.

Kaduna polytechnic has established the Center for Technology Development (CTD) to chart a course for and execute the Panteka Upgrade Intervention as well as bring together experts from the academia, the industry and the private sector to provide technological solutions to Nigeria’s economic challenges.

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