Patrick Sonny Aigborkhaebholo Irabor, Nigeria’s deputy director in charge of solid minerals, ceramics and electroplating technologies at Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, thinks there is a big opportunity in the ceramics business awaiting his nation, and believes that 85 percent of the raw materials that would be needed could be obtained locally.
In a story in the Sun newspaper published in Lagos, Irabor acknowledges that getting into the ceramics business will not be easy:
“The challenges facing ceramics and its glaze component manufacturing in Nigeria are enormous. There are a number of crucial factors necessary for the development and growth of ceramic and glaze technology and manufacture in Nigeria. Such factors are many and varied from government policy frame work, financial structures, politics, expert manpower, technology, to availability of appropriate raw materials.
“Of significance is to acknowledge the science and engineering nature of the ceramic discipline. This fact is not in doubt in the developed and developing worlds, except in the under-developed worlds where a degree of lack of knowledge exist in the area of pottery, its technology and engineering.
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“The available skilled manpower in this sector has either being frustrated into changing into other profession or is redundant, leaving the stage for pseudo-experts in ceramics.
“In the area of equipment, Nigeria’s machinery and system building capabilities is very low and this sad situation has reflected on the level of production, huge import bill, poor maintenance culture and a high failure rate of industrial projects. With particular reference to ceramic manufacturing in Nigeria, the dependence on imported machinery, remains high as the most vital systems must be imported, maintained and operated efficiently for a sustainable production process.”
Still, Irabor remains optimistic.
“The prospects for ceramics and glazes in Nigeria are phenomenal as it stands to accelerate development. In today’s world, pottery has grown through development in science, technology and engineering to assume a formidable role in the modern and space age of man.
“Emphasizing the importance of ceramics, I must state here that without ceramics, there would not be the convenient employment of electricity, the production of the highest grade of steel and that most other products of the furnace would be impossible, there will be no bricks or tiles, the production of corrosive chemicals, the use of crucibles for refining purposes would remain unknown. In short, a modern industry state without the many diverse forms of pottery is almost inconceivable.
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“The development of ceramic glazes to service producers will encourage the reactivation of dead factories, the establishment of new industries, improve the exploration and appropriate utilization of our nation’s abundant natural solid mineral resources. It would also create industrial activities, employment generation and economic empowerment of the citizenry, while the huge import dependence of ceramic product would be reduced. The development and investment in this non-metallic solid mineral-based sector would go towards the much talk-about diversification of the mono-oil economy.
“The way forward lies in charting a positive course to revert the current situation to reduce our import dependence, create employment opportunities, improve living standard and reduce poverty just by exploiting and utilizing our natural solid mineral resources more appropriately through adequate R& D funding, manpower development and general capability building in the non-metallic mineral and ceramic sectors”