By Magnus Eze
There was traffic gridlock at the Three Arms Zone of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) penultimate week as the Eagle Square, Abuja, hosted the repackaged Technology and Innovation Expo.
The report of the assessment team led by the former Director-General of Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Peter Onwualu, showed that at least 165 individuals and organisations participated and exhibited no fewer than 578 projects at the event.
By the time the programme came to a close Friday, 12 individual participants and organisations won prizes in four categories of Junior Engineers, Technicians and Scientists (JETS), Technology Entrepreneurs, Research Institutions and Tertiary Educational Institutions.
The assessment team was generally impressed with the quality of work going on in the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) sector in the country, stressing that, if nurtured and supported, “these scientists, engineers and artists can solve the challenge of over-dependence on imported products and services as well as infrastructure problems confronting Nigeria.”
Major challenges confronting the nation’s economy addressed by the projects include food and agriculture; education; health; security and defence; ICT and social media; power and energy; transportation; housing; manufacturing; software development; elections; values and national re-orientation.
It is noteworthy to say that some participants stood out as crowd pullers and attention grabbers during the expo, as their stands remained the cynosure of all eyes.
The biggest attention grabber at the five-day event, Mr. Ahmed Aliyu, who manufactured a two-seater wooden car, bagged won position in the technology entrepreneurs’ category.
Ironically, the likes of young toy-makers from Refocusing Nigerian Talents Organisation, herbal healthcare producers/dealers as well as Mr. Isiyaku Ahmed, a.k.a Baba Solar, whose solar-powered tricycle attracted enormous attention, did not make the honours’ roll.
Those who stole the show
‘Amara’ wooden car
Aliyu, a furniture maker from Bida, Niger State, stole the show at the expo as his wooden car attracted the attention of virtually every visitor at the expo. People thronged wherever it was parked and took turns to take snapshots in the car. It became a money-spinner for two photographers, who stationed themselves anywhere it was parked, to make brisk business.
In fact, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, elevated the popularity of the car as he rode into the venue in it at the opening ceremony. He also rode in the car after the closing ceremony back to his office, to the admiration of other ministers and the teeming crowd.
Aliyu told Daily Sun that his quest to build the car lasted for three years before it eventually came to fruition.
He said that the car named after his grandfather; Amara, was his contribution to technological development in the country, stressing that there was need for government to support creative minds: “It was hardship that propelled me to begin to find a way to do something that can help me get money. I started with making furniture; I didn’t learn it anywhere. But with time, I mastered the art of furniture making; then I started researching on this car before I made it two years ago.”
Aliyu confessed that the wooden car has become a source of income of some sort for him as young people in Bida pay tokens to ride it.
Solar-powered ‘wooden’ tricycle
67 years old Isiyaku Ahmed was arguably the unsung hero of the technology and innovation expo.
Ahmed who rode the solar-powered tricycle from Kano to Abuja to participate in the exhibition told our reporter that his passion for invention and innovation made him take the risks even at some serious personal discomfort: “I suffered on the road to get here, but persisted because of my interest. I have made solar-powered jeep and a big tricycle too, but I came with this one because we were asked to come with projects with not less than 70 per cent local materials.”
Baba Solar as he is fondly called in his home state, Kano boasted that he could do anything with solar; while appealing to government to engage the youth by providing them with skills in the area.
He offered to impart the knowledge in some young people if the government gave him the necessary support to do so.
On the advantages of his solar-powered jeep and tricycle, Aliyu said: “It doesn’t take fuel; no engine oil, no environmental pollution.”
He intermittently blare the tricycle siren and moved round the venue apparently to attract the attention of visitor; which he no doubt grabbed in good dose.
A group of young creative minds, mostly teenagers under the umbrella of Refocusing Nigerian Talents Organisation, popularly called RENITO engineers had a great outing at the expo.
Visitors thronged their stand to admire the spectacular miniature inventions/innovations; mostly aircraft, drones and earth moving equipment.
One of the junior engineers, Master Muhammad Abba Muhammad, a Senior Secondary School (SS1) student of Government Secondary School, Karu, Abuja, told Daily Sun that his aspiration is to become a mechanical engineers.
Initiator/Promoter of Proudly Nigeria Expo, Mrs. Jummai Ahmadu, whose organisation had been mentoring some talented underprivileged children in the FCT, said the innovations could be mass produced to assist the education of their innovators.
She revealed her organisation’s plan to source for money to procure the necessary machines that could enable them produce the innovations as plastic toys for children, but regretted that they are too expensive for her NGO.
Ahmadu said such a venture would eventually reduce the importation of toys into the country.
Herbal healthcare makers/dealers
Another set of exhibitors that pulled crowd at the expo was those involved in herbal medicine, supplements and healthcare products.
By the day two of the event, people hawking all manners of herbal products had taken over the Eagle Square; while those who addressed themselves as ‘doctors’ carried out diagnoses, their foot soldiers paraded the venue sharing leaflets and pamphlets or engaging in direct sales of the products.
Curiously, each herbal medicine maker had a range of products that could purportedly make a person superman in bed with unquenchable libido.
That many of these products did not have the National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) registration meant nothing to the large crowd that milled around the herbal dealers/vendors.
By and large, as the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and other stakeholders take stock of the just-concluded expo, many participants urge that the event be made an annual and possibly moved from one geo-political zone to another.