OPINION: The ABU mini Refinery Plant

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ABU mini refinery: It is increasingly becoming glaring that knowledge is fast replacing other resources as the main driver of economic growth. With this development, education has become the foundation for national and individual prosperity as well and social mobility. “Skilled human resources and knowledge resources,” write notable Harvard Business School author and scholar on strategy Michael Porter, “are two of the most important factors for upgrading national competitive advantage.”

This is the singular reason higher education worldwide has moved from the periphery to the center of governmental agendas. Universities are now seen as crucial national assets in addressing policy priorities, and as sources of new knowledge and innovative thinking. They are also seen as providers of skilled personnel and credible credentials; contributors to innovation; attractors of international talent and business investment; agents of social justice and mobility; contributors to social and cultural vitality; and determinants of health and well-being.

However, it appears Nigerian varsities are far from addressing some, or most of these because of the perennial crises that has, and is still rocking the education sector in the country. Our varsities seem to be “missing in action” when it comes to innovation. But there appears to be a glimmer of hope with the cherry news from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in Kaduna State.

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It was reported recently that the department of Chemical Engineering of the university has established a mini-refinery plant which, when fully developed, can serve as an impetus to address the challenge of refining crude oil into various petroleum products in the country.

The ABU mini Refinery project

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ibrahim Garba revealed that the “prototype refinery” was built to function at “one barrel per day production capacity” as a model which can be developed to function in higher capacity.

The university, he pointed out, established the mini refinery that can produce relatively small quantity of petroleum products, and that the process has gone far. Related to this, there is “a sponsored research by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) to develop some kinds of material called Zeolite. It is a mineral component that is used in refining crude oil to create Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), Diesel, Kerosene and other petroleum products…”

The VC noted that the varsity is “challenged with that project, and so far, the university has succeeded in developing a locally- produced zeolite from locally- sourced choline material. This has already received a patent certificate from the Federal Government and the PTDF has the property right and the project is going into the next development of testing again to meet international standard.”

From the same varsity also came news that the Mechanical and Engineering Department has produced a prototype car which has even won an award in South Africa and Netherlands. These indeed are cherry news and what we expect from our ivory towers.

OPINION: The ABU mini Refinery Plant 2
A car made by the mechanical engineering department of Ahmadu Bello University 

Universities with mission serve to make students think, and when they think they’re bound to innovate. They do so by feeding and training their instinct to understand and seek meaning. True teaching and guidance disrupts complacency, and where there is no complacency innovation can take place. They are taught to question interpretations that are given to them, to reduce the chaos of information to the order of an analytical argument and to seek out what is relevant to the resolution of a problem.

Students bound on making positive marks also learn progressively to identify problems for themselves and to resolve them by rational argument supported by evidence: and they learn not to be dismayed by complexity but to be capable and daring in unravelling it. It doesn’t matter how crude the innovation might be, but the fact that an interrogation of a process takes place is what interests the critically minded individual.

I remember the 1990s when various electronic products flooded Nigeria. Majority of these products which came from Taiwan were actually produced by undergraduates and graduates. Mere looking at them you can tell they were not up to the standard of a Japanese electronics. But the point is that someone got down and tried to make something out of a prototype. That is the interrogation of a process.

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Our problem is that we are too used to imported products which has succeeded in killing some of our bourgeoning industries. In the same 1990s, Aba was noted for producing shoes that we should have been proud of. Some of our artisans like carpenters equally rose to the occasion by producing good products. If the country had encouraged these groups of small businesses we would have been telling a different story today.

China that we seem to be eulogizing today started their renaissance from small businesses. We have them all over the place in the country with most Nigerians amazed at their high level of adaptability in an environment where they are challenged by language and cultural issues. Nigerian business should critically look at the Chinese who are living case studies of how to rise from poverty.

I’m glad that the current economic challenge, occasioned by the fall in oil price, will now make us look inwards whether we like it or not. Our varsities should rise up to the occasion and ensure they make good use of this opportunity that could mean well for small businesses.

I listened to some people discussing in a shopping that they couldn’t believe Nigeria import pencils. I had to chirp it to let them know we import everything from office pins, sharpeners etc which pupils and students use in our schools. Imagine what would happen to our economy if we produce these at home.

It is in this light that I am elated by the ABU example. I don’t care how “crude” the technology might be, but the fact that some students and lecturers can get down and come up with solutions to contemporary challenges is worth celebrating

By Dr. Dan Mou ©thenationonlineng.net

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

Founder/Team lead at TheAbusite.com | Abusite | Entrepreneur | Activist | Humanitarian | All Inquiries to info@theabusites.com. SMS/WhatsApp +2349015751816

Chila Andrew Aondofa has 798 posts and counting. See all posts by Chila Andrew Aondofa

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