THE growth and development of any modern economy depends on the industrial sector, but particularly the automotive industry. From America to Japan, China, Germany and host of other developed countries, the impact of the automotive industry in catalyzing development of the overall economy of a nation cannot be over-emphasized. It is in the light of the above that many Nigerians today are gratified at the pioneering effort the INNOSON vehicles manufacturing Co. Ltd. has made in the manufacture of the first made-in-Nigeria vehicles.
At its inception a few years ago, some cynics hardly gave them a chance, but over time most doubting Thomases have come to the realisation that indeed INNOSON Company has paved the way for Nigeria to once more bounce back as an automobile manufacturing economy.
Presently, major automobile manufacturing companies are in a hurry to open shop in Nigeria, thereby making the country the true economic hub of the continent.Recently, NISSAN and Peugeot opened their factories, and in the case of Peugeot which had folded its operations in Nigeria several years ago, it was cheering news both for them and the numerous workers wasting in the labour market over the years.
This is commendable in view of the fact that despite our many challenges, there still exists a huge market for the automobile industry in Nigeria.
INNOSON has proven over time that they mean well for the country by establishing their multi-billion naira motor manufacturing plant in Nigeria. With this investment, thousands of Nigerians have been gainfully employed with the added boost to the local economy. One can easily say that their patriotism is phenomenal as they have continued to service the local auto industry by bridging the gap created by the absence of newly manufactured vehicles in Nigeria.
It can be recalled that prior to the emergence of INNOSON, Nigeria hugely depended on mere importation of new and used cars popularly referred to as tokunbo with the attendant capital flight and environmental pollution traceable to used vehicles.
Today, INNOSON vehicles manufacturing plant has offered Nigerians alternatives whereby every Nigerian can aspire to own and drive brand new cars at affordable cost. Before now, this was wishful thinking as many of our countrymen have come to accept tokunbo vehicles as the normal cars for us. The entry of INNOSON was a game changer and paradigm shift from the past.
Therefore, to help sustain the growing interest in owning brand new cars by Nigerians, governments at all levels must entrench the patronage of locally manufactured vehicles as a policy which present and future governments cannot discard at their whims and caprices. The reason for this is to continually engage our army of unemployed youths in the auto manufacturing factories, and as we all know, this will come with a multi-faceted impact on the overall economy.
Many analysts have come to the conclusion that unless we patronise locally manufactured vehicles, we may be creating elusive jobs for the youths of other countries from where we import different variety of vehicles. Certainly, to toe a different path other than supporting local vehicles manufacturers like INNOSON will greatly undermine the efforts of government to transform the economy through creation of jobs by the manufacturing sector.
This brings us to the issue of quality and durability of locally manufactured vehicles. From all available statistics, INNOSON vehicles have proven to be durable, rugged and suitable for the Nigerian terrain.
It is not surprising that the Jonathan administration has continued to create the enabling environment for the growth of this sector. It is, however, remaining for the states and local governments and the private sector to join hands with the Federal Government in ensuring the continued survival and growth of the indigenous automobile manufacturing industry.
It is no longer fashionable to continue to pay lip service to the high rate of graduate and non-graduate unemployment in the country, when people who matter deliberately refuse to patronise locally-made vehicles, whereas they spend scarce foreign exchange to import foreign made vehicles, thereby rendering our economy redundant and undeveloped.
INNOSON therefore deserves all encomiums for their pioneering and untiring effort to offer Nigerians alternatives by manufacturing the first made-in-Nigeria vehicles. Obviously, this is the highest level of patriotism and love for country. Besides, they have made their vehicles affordable to ordinary folks, as against the skyrocketed prices of the newly imported vehicles.
As a pacesetter in the Nigeria’s automobile sector, one can only hope that the INNOSON group will leverage on the existing goodwill of Nigerians and the Federal Government to diversify into other areas, and continuously use their pioneering capacity to ginger the participation of foreign and local industrialists in the manufacturing sector. This approach will no doubt lift Nigeria from a white-collar job dependent economy to an industrialised economy, in which all hands will continuously be busy for the greater well being of all.
INNOSON’s role in employment creation and skills acquisition for Nigerian youths across the country is also laudable, and government ought to use this as benchmark for the whole industry.
Through skill acquisition which the INNOSON Group is offering Nigerian youths, it is only a matter of time before the results begin to manifest. Admittedly, these attainments could not have been possible without the enabling environment created by the Jonathan administration which today is opening up a world of opportunities existing in the automotive sector of the economy.
Since government alone cannot create jobs for the citizenry, there is no doubt that the automotive industry will play a leading role in the efforts aimed at tackling the scourge of unemployment in Nigeria.
Government should also make other incentives available to the auto manufacturing sector, such as insulating them from stiff competition with the global brands being imported into the country. This will greatly enhance their chances of survival, and continue to support government in providing jobs for our people.
There is no doubt that with the huge number of unemployed people, it poses a great risk to peace and stability, hence all hands must be on deck to take our youths away from the streets, and send them to the factories. It can never be achieved by magic, but through a deliberate effort as being currently implemented by the Jonathan administration.
In fairness to the federal government, since the inception of this administration, they have spared no effort to open up the economy in a manner that today Nigeria has turned into the preferred investment destination in the world. This has also led to the re-basing of our Gross Domestic Product, which placed Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy. One can only hope that the tempo is sustained for the benefit of all Nigerians.
CHUKWUDI ENEKWECHI, a journalist, wrote from Abuja.