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A portrait of a silent achiever

The Raw Materials research and Development Council (RMRDC) is today Nigeria’s focal point on local sourcing of industrial raw materials by the making of one man whose vision for the country, Nigeria can be classified as heroic.

The raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) was established with the mandate to expedite industrial development through the optimal utilization of local raw materials as inputs to our industries.
In the pursuit of her mandates, RMRDC collaborates with researchers and other stakeholders to ensure the sustainable supply of raw materials to the nation’s manufacturing industries.

Professor Hussaini Doko Ibrahim wears many caps, as its quintessential Director-General and as its wizard of Oz, the maverick in the realm of local sourcing in Nigeria.

A self-made man, he rose through the ranks at the Council in which he joined in 1994 as a Chief Scientific Officer, to become the 5th Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of the 36 year old institution.
Today he has demonstrated his mettle as a messiah with a magic wand whose potency is being felt throughout the length and breadth of the nation as a cusp of prospective industrialization and competitiveness. He was appointed Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of the RMRDC by President Muhammad Buhari GCFR, on 8th April, 2014, and judging by these achievements, has justified his appointment.

Professor Ibrahim needs no further introduction within the spheres of local content development for industrial applications and local sourcing of industrial inputs. In his era, there has been a noticeable quantum leap in industrial activities and increased productivity by the manufacturers under the umbrella of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) as has been attested to by the body at official fora.
He had his early education at the North Primary School, Doko from 1968-1974, after which he attended the Government Secondary School, Kontagora from 1974-1979 where he obtained the West African Examination Certificate (WAEC) with outstanding performance.

Prof. Ibrahim continued his education at the School of Basics Studies, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1979 where he did the Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB) examinations, after which he enrolled for the Bachelor of Science degree programme of the University to study Textile Science and Technology in 1980. He obtained his first degree in 1984 with an outstanding performance which earned him the Oba of Benin Prize for the Best Final Year Student of the Department for that year.
As a result of his performance, he was retained as a Graduate Assistant in the Department, after his one-year National Youth Service programme with the Borno State Council of Arts and Culture.
On assumption at ABU, he immediately started his Master’s degree programme in Textile Science Technology in 1985 at the University. However, due to unavailability of specialists in that area at the time, he had to undertake part of his research at the prestigious Leeds University, United Kingdom.
He won the Commonwealth and British Council Fellowship Awards to enable him pursue his post-graduate studies. He studied for his Doctorate degree programme at the Leeds University which he completed successfully in 1992.
Prof. Ibrahim started his public service career as a Graduate Assistant with ABU in 1985 and rose to the post of Lecturer I. He joined the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) in 1994 as Assistant Chief Scientific Officer. He became Chief Scientific Officer/Head of Research and Development (R&D) Division in 1996.
He was thereafter promoted to the rank of Deputy Director in charge of Research, Evaluation and Monitoring. In 2002, he was promoted to the rank of Director. As a Director, he headed the Zonal Offices Coordination; Investment Promotion and Consultancy; and Industrial Chemicals and Minerals Departments. In November 2013, he was appointed Acting Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of RMRDC and was confirmed substantive Director General of RMRDC in April 2014.

With a fixed focus on import substitution, import reduction and an increment on local content manufacturing of goods and products in Nigeria, to meet local and international demands, he swiftly swung into action to reposition the nation’s industrial sector for optimum performance of local industries and the Organized Private sector economy.

All this while, Professor Ibrahim’s deft touches at the RMRDC have been noticeable and unmistakably decisive and tenaciously inspiring, reverberating through out the Council’s core objectives and programmes. And as he strives to harness the nation’s local resource potentials to a national economic profitability, he is guided by a vision of economic prosperity for the world’s largest black nation, Nigeria.

A lion heart, the fight for the soul of the manufacturing sector of Nigeria, is not one for the lily livered, and like a colossus, he quickly dived into the affray surmounting one hurdle after the other as the DG of the foremost research institution in the country.
Nigeria currently suffers a lot from high import bills for industrial raw materials with its attendant foreign exchange requirements. Professor Ibrahim is determined to end all of this by helping to increase growth of related local economics sectors (agro and mineral) and provide employment opportunities.
Therefore, he began a campaign with the Council, his constituent area, to promote the production of secondary raw materials that can translate into increased export earnings, higher level of industrialization and greater economic growth. This is with the belief that a well-developed local raw materials base would increase the percentage contribution of manufacturing to Nigeria’s GDP.

He, upon assumption of duties as DG of the Council had immediately conducted a raw materials and process technology survey to appraise their availability and status with a view to ascertaining industrial and manufacturing capabilities within the country. This information has been useful in promoting industrial activities and entrepreneurship for national and economic development.

Raw materials local industrial input sourcing is an activity of promoting the local sourcing, development and utilization of raw materials to meet industrial reequipments. This effort aims to promote the nation’s import substitution drive and promote local sourcing of raw materials by local industries for manufacturing purposes and boost the economy.

His performance over the years has furthermore set out a part for him in the history of the Council. The singularity of purpose that have characterized his programmes initiatives in the Council have had unparalleled consequences on the nation’s industrial sphere. A lot of focus have today shifted to industry-driven research and development initiatives and the implementation of programmes to promote value-addition to the nation’s raw materials.

In spite of the daunting challenges which organizations in Nigeria and around the world faced in the year 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Prof. H.D. Ibrahim led the Council’s management team and indeed the Council itself to record remarkable achievements in its programmes and projects. These commendable achievements were in line with the Council’s mandates.
These achievements are the DG’s efforts to ensure that the Council keys into the Federal Government’s efforts to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, collaborate with institutions of higher learning across the nation on research activities, collaborate with other research organizations to design and develop scientific and technical problems of adding value to the nation’s raw materials for its industries and collaborate with indigenous industries for the utilization of its thoroughly researched processes.

The year 2020 presented an immense opportunity for the Council under the astute leadership of Professor H.D. Ibrahim to align its Local Raw Materials Content Programme to the Federal Government’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme focused on utilizing the nation’s private and public industries to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the nation’s medical personnel who were at the forefront of interacting with patients who had either contacted the Covid-19 virus or required medical attention in order to militate against the spread of the virus by nipping it in the bud.
The production of the PPEs was the result of a directive from the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, during a tour of the Council on the 17th of April, 2020. The Hon. Minister directed that the Council should collaborate with the relevant agencies and institutions to design and produce the Personal Protective Equipment for the nation’s frontline health workers and the public in the Federal Government’s drive to achieve conformity with the standards and specifications of the World Health Organization (WHO).

As a result of this directive, the Council constituted a committee of experts comprising staff of the Council, representatives of ABU, Zaria, representatives from the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Jola Global Investment Ltd., Ado Ekiti (a company which produces a wide range of products from locally sourced raw materials to meet national and international needs) and DIGIFAB Labs, Abuja (the parent company which organizes the annual Digi-Fab Summit Nigeria, an event designed to bridge the gap between digital manufacturing and design in the production of things.
The committee was constituted to engineer the development of raw materials for the production of PPEs and the domestication of the technologies for converting developed primary raw materials to secondary raw materials in the resulting production of synthetic fabric for PPE: The council partnered with Indorama Nig. PLC to produce Polypropylene chips (PP), High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) chips and Polyethylene Teraphthalate (PET) as raw materials for the local production of PPEs. These led to the actual production in Nigeria of Polypropylene Melt Brown Non-Woven Fabric which is used in the production of face masks, face shields, non-slip rubber boots, protective gloves and surgical hand-gloves.

Under this programme and in the Council’s continuous efforts to streamline its programme along the lines of the Federal Government’s fight against Covid-19, the Council under the leadership of Prof. H.D. Ibrahim and in collaboration with the ABU, Zaria designed and developed a ventilator to advance the fight against the pandemic.
Prior to this, Nigeria didn’t have the local capacity to produce automatic ventilators within the country. This step is one in the right direction of ensuring that the importation of automatic ventilators will no longer be required and it will also encourage the rapid in country replications, modifications and improvements of this medical equipment in the country to meet health demands.

Similarly the Council partnered with Nova Aurora Nigeria Ltd., Abuja (an engineering company) and this partnership led to the design and development of sanitizing chambers as an indigenous solution to the World Health’s Organization’s proffered solutions in the fight against Covid-19.
This is yet another timely response by the Council to the pandemic. The project will enhance the nation’s local capacity to build WHO standardization disinfection chambers in Nigeria and conserve the much need foreign exchange which will no longer be required for importing the chambers.

Another achievement recorded by the Council in its efforts to ensure that the health sector is able to source medical requirements within the country is the development of a pulse oximeter device by the Council in collaboration with ABU, Zaria.
This is the cursor for the production of Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR), copper, silver, iron, tin dioxide, poly propylene (PP) and Polyester (PET) which are all required raw materials used in the production of the pulse oximeter.

The optimal health of a nation’s citizens especially if they’re in their productive years is closely tied to its high productivity. Having a sustainable health sector that’s driven by the nation’s indigenous industries has become paramount with the recent C19 pandemic and the opportunity it created for it to find indigenous solutions to the problem. The achievements recorded by the Council as a result of this that the nation can proffer home grown solutions to the nation’s problems.
In furtherance of this objective the Council undertook the production of pharmaceutical grade starch (a natural biodegradable biopolymer with a wide industrial application) for utilization in the pharmaceutical and several other industries.
The main sources of starch are cassava and maize both of which are natural food sources to a number of the nation’s teeming population. In order to redirect the nation’s attention from these food staples to meet the industrial need for pharmaceutical grade starch, the Council identified tacca (a false yam specie which grows in the wild as an alternative to cassava and maize) in the production of this industrial raw material.
Tacca is an economical option for this raw material because it has a natural low production cost. In order to encourage its prolific and widespread cultivation, the Council has domesticated tacca. The starch produced by this project has been used as an excipient in the manufacturing of paracetamol tablets and it has been patented, resulting in the establishment of a pilot production plant towards the commercialization of the technology.

Still in line with positively impacting the nation’s citizens with healthy and nutritious food choices through the production of low calorie healthy snacks, the Council partnered with Betamarks Nig. Ltd., Lagos State to produce a low calorie rice snack fortified with vitamins and soy beans flour as a healthy alternative snack for the nation’s consumers especially children who enjoy quick snacks with careless abandon. A healthy option is not just a healthy option but a safer option at the same time.

Closely related to the foregoing, is yet another challenge faced by the pharmaceutical, personal care, confectionery and other industries in their search for in-country sources of essential oils for their production processes. Prof. H.D. Ibrahim took this challenge by the horns and collaborating with a research institute and a polytechnic, the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria and the Federal Polytechnic Nassarawa to develop viable essential oils extraction plants.
One of the plants is located in NARICT and it has an output capacity of 0.86L/hour while the Nassarawa plant has an output capacity of 0.09L/hour. Both plants have been improved resulting in the design and development of a more efficient plant which is awaiting installation.

Yet another recorded achievement to Prof. H. D. Ibrahim’s credit is the design and development of a 54 tonnes per annum glucose syrup processing plant and a 40L/batch of ethanol plant from fermented 450L sorghum. Glucose syrup is required by the pharmaceutical, food and beverage and confectionery industries.
The plant also has the capacity to convert the spent sweet sorghum (bagasse) from the production of glucose syrup into animal feed for the beef and dairy cattle production industry. This reduces the process of wastage even at the end point of production because the waste materials are optimally utilized without leaving any (to cause environmental challenges) at the end of the production cycle.

Prof. H.D. Ibrahim is a firm believer in the statement that the economic transformation of the nation through its rapid industrialization is premised on a crop of youth who are scientifically knowledgeable. His belief is firmly tied to the three fold cord of science, technology and innovation (STI) being made an integral part of their early involvement in the nation’s transformation through rapid industrialization.
For students in Nigerian Secondary Schools to be knowledgeable about the practical application of science, Prof. H. D. Ibrahim has through the Council, worked to ensure the establishment of functioning laboratories in various Secondary Schools across the nation. Furthermore, the Council in collaboration with the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria developed a pilot plant for the production of laboratory chemicals and reagents for the nation’s secondary schools.
The pilot plant is designed to produce reagents such as ferrous sulphate, ferrous magnesium sulphate, magnesium sulphate, ammonium sulphate and other chemical reagents required for use in laboratories found in the nation’s secondary school.
The plant will also produce chemicals required by the nation’s textile industries. The completed project has in its first phase resulted in the production of copper sulphate (CuSO4) a major chemical required by the nation’s textile industries. The other phases(s) will ensure that the reagents required by the secondary schools and other industries are produced.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an increase in the demand and supply of soap in all its forms. The industrial production of soap requires the use of soap noodles. Soap noodles have been imported into the country in substantial quantity costing the nation a huge amount of forex.
To militate against this, conserve much neede foreign exchange for other infrastructural development and to boost the nation’s self-sufficiency in soap production, the Council collaborated with the private sector to design and develop a pilot plant for the production of soap noodles. The pilot plant was established to further encourage investments by large manufacturing soap industries to create an economically viable option for this raw material than its importation.

Moving away from some of the achievements made by Professor H.D. Ibrahim under the Local Content Raw Materials Development Programme to the Council’s Technology Development Programme (TDP), the RMRDC, has achieved the establishment of its Technology Development and Demonstration Complex at the National Air Space Research and Development Agency (NASDRA), Abuja.
The complex is designed as a one stop shop for MSMEs and industrialists in search of identified or identifiable machinery /equipment for the smooth running of their production cycles. This achievement is aimed at job creation through the local fabrication of much needed machinery/equipment and increase the nation’s GDP (through the utilization of these machinery and equipment which will equally promote an increase in the local content development of raw materials processing in the nation.

Professor Ibrahim has taken on these tasks without a backward glance at the constraints of finance, nor had he given thought to the enormity of the task of reengineering the nation’s industrial sector for self-reliance. But as a gad fly exhibits a can-do spirit that excoriates a heady climate of possibilities in the midst of challenges.

Inventions and innovations are the wheel and sprocket in motion, therefore, Professor Ibrahim is certainly that sprocket driving the Council’s wheels towards a dynamic and resource-based industrial and economic growth for the nation.