By Ben Agande
Abuja — The Federal Executive Council, yesterday, approved a new national automotive policy to check the country’s spending of over N550 billion in importing cars into Nigeria.
The council meeting which was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan also approved N41 billion for the development of infrastructure for the Federal Capital Territory.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku said government has identified and designated automotive clusters in Lagos/Ogun, Kaduna/Kano, and Anambra/Enugu states as the locations for the manufacturing of the new vehicles to enable them share resources and reduce cost of investments.
According to him, the development is expected to revive, expand and develop the petrochemical and metal/steel sectors which is expected to culminate in the return of tyre manufacturing industry to support the automotive sector.
Mr Labaran Maku, who was joined by the Minister of Trade and Investments, Olusegun Aganga, and FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, said the success of the policy will also mean a gradual phase out of fairly used (tokunboh) cars imported into Nigeria.
Speaking on the policy, Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegum Aganga said the national automotive policy will further encourage local manufacture of vehicles, adding that car import takes the biggest share of the country’s foreign reserves followed by other machinery.
He added that the Industrial Training Fund, ITF, is working with car-maker, Cena of Brazil, to open automotive training centres in Nigeria while two Nigerian universities have agreed to commence degree programmes in automechanical engineering to bridge the manpower challenge in the sector.
He noted “Council also approved that government should direct that all vehicle purchased by government should be from the local assembly plants unless it is specialized nature and NAC have certified that it is not produced in Nigeria”
“The Council approved that the approved recommendation should be backed by appropriate legislation to give comfort to investors that there will be no abrupt change in policy”
He explained that the policy was drawn over the last nine months and had the input of the National Automotive Council and foreign car manufacturing giants like Toyota and Nissan that are expected to soon start announcing their specific investments in the country.
The minister said “Banks will be encouraged to operate vehicle purchase schemes to enable Nigerians purchase cars on easy terms and the FRSC will kick off a new vehicle car registration/tracking system in the next two weeks to check the smuggling of used cars into the country”
“A transformed automotive industry will realize its potential as a major driver of economic growth and diversification , job creation, local value addition, and technology acquisition. These recommendation were adopted at various fora conferences and consultations with stakeholders including some original equipment manufacturers, OEM”
Council also appoved the memo seeking approval for the rehabilitation and expansion of the outer Southern Expressway (OSEX) from villa Round About to the OSEX / Ring Road 1(RR1) junction including five interchanges.
Minister of FCT, Bala Mohammed who addressed correspondents at the end of the meeting said “the existing segment of the OSEX from the villa roundabout to RR1is only partially developed with a 2-lane main carriage way and one 2-lane service carriageway as against the 10 lane expressway provided in the Abuja Master-Plan. The OSEX is an expressway that bounds the city on the eastern fringe and provides the major access to the city”
FEC also approved the provision of engineering infrastructure to plot 4075, Asokoro extension (comprising 50 plots), Abuja
The project employment generation opportunity that would emanate from the construction activities following the implementation of the project is expected to be in the neighourhood of 450 employees.