04 February 2014, Zaria – Professor Idris Bugaje is the Director General of the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria. He explains how petrochemicals and farm produce like tamarind (tsamiya) can be used to transform Nigeria’s economy, among other issues. Excerpts
Weekly Trust: How far has the NARICT gone with its diversification of its activities?
Professor Idris Bugaje: Yes, we have been able to open spin-off companies where the researches that we carried out can be moved to industries. That has been successfully done with organic fertilizer. Katsina, Ayingba in Kogi state and Anambra’s organic fertilizer plants were established successfully from that.
We are also thinking of opening outstations. They are centres that we intend to serve the industries because we believe we have a role to play in the Nigerian chemical industry. We need to support them. A company in Kano, for example, that has been producing Kunu in package form has a lot of by-products of tamarind. The tamarind seed is a nuisance to them, but when we brought them here and analysed, we found that we can extract oil, starch and other products out of the tamarind seeds.
Now, we can go into partnership with this Kunu company to establish a pilot plant that we would use to produce eatable vegetable oil and starch from the tamarind seeds. If the pilot plant becomes successful, we can now begin to think of a commercial plant, and perhaps get investment into the company. This can add value to the company.
Instead of throwing away the tamarind seeds as waste, they can recycle it to produce other products; that is turning waste into wealth.
So, we are now trying to open an office in Kano, not just for this industry but for others. There is a vegetable industry in Kano that brought us the problem of colour. When they extracted vegetable oil, the colour was not appealing to customers. For that, we have developed a very safe bleaching art which can be used for food items, and we have tested them to be useful.
We also monitor and advise the tanneries in Kano on how they can treat them before they release them into the river. There are many other large and small medium industries in Kano that would need the services of our outstations. This would help these industries to produce better products under this era of global competition.
– Daily Trust