September 16, 2015

Buhari’s auto policy and catalyst role of Innoson

AS President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration begins to take shape, definitely one vital sector that will demand and indeed attract their immediate attention is the automotive sector.

The reason is not far–fetched considering the numerous benefits inherent in revitalising such strategic sector.

Apart from being a job creating avenue, the automotive sector will readily offer the much needed technology transfer to Nigerians, as well as have a multi dimensional impact on the overall economy.

An example can be cited with the INNOSON Vehicle Manufacturing Company which has over the last ten years led a revolution in the Nigerian vehicles manufacturing sector being the first indigenous motor manufacturing.

Before the emergence of INNOSON, all the vehicles manufacturing plants in Nigeria, including PAN, ANAMCO, VON had folded up. The closures came with loss of jobs for thousands of Nigerians, with the attendant negative impact on the nation’s economy.

In fact, it can be said that over the last thirty years or more, Nigeria has remained an import – dependant economy as far as automobiles are concerned. The implication of this is that with our ostentatious usage of foreign made vehicles, we created job opportunities for citizens of those countries from where we import the vehicles.

The countries that fall in this category are Germany (Mercedes), Japan (Toyota), America (Ford), Sweden (Volvo), India (Tata), and South Korea (Kia).

With INNOSON’S emergence as the first indigenous motor manufacturer, and the federal government’s policy of patronising locally-made vehicles, we began to witness a paradigm shift in a way that most automobile manufacturers have started setting up their plants in Nigeria. Following from INNOSON’S patriotic example was Nissan, Toyota, and the latest is Ford Motors USA.

This is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria, and while most Nigerians continue to applaud INNOSON for the patriotic venture, it is hoped that the present administration will go a step further to patronise the INNOSON Group as a way of promoting job creation, reduce capital flight and tap into the opportunity of acquiring technological knowledge in motor manufacturing.

It is gratifying to know that President Buhari has made diversification of the nation’s economy one of his administration’s major policies. One way of realising the objective is to support indigenous automobile manufacturers like INNOSON.

Of course, the federal government intends to promote agriculture as another foreign exchange earner, yet it is important that we consolidate on the advantages of utilizing the automotive sector to save scarce foreign exchange earnings, and at the same time earn more through the export of made in Nigeria vehicles.

INNOSON group has in its ten years of existence employed over fifteen thousand Nigerians at its Nnewi Plant in Anambra state, and it is a well known fact that the private sector can play a key role in alleviating the unemployment scourge plaguing the nation.

While it is acknowledged that government is the main employer of labour, but this can only be said about a country like Nigeria where government has its hands in all pies. Ordinarily, the private sector ought to be the drivers of the economy by creating jobs openings, while government provides the policy frameworks.

It is therefore being advocated that the federal government – INNOSON partnership in the area of job creation and skills acquisitions be sustained.

This can be realised by the government availing them of incentives such as tax relief, import duty waivers, access to low interest loans and outright patronage of their range of products.

By so doing, production will reach optimal level and more Nigerians will be gainfully employed. Secondly, with clear government support, INNOSON will be able to expand their manufacturing plants and this will lead to job creation and faster industrialisation of the country.

As it stands today, INNOSON is the only indigenous auto brand promoting Nigeria in other African countries; where their vehicles are being used. In most advanced countries of the world, their countries are often identified and respected based on the brand names of automobiles manufactured in their countries.

For example, USA is synonymous with Ford and Chevrolet, UK – Rolls Royce, Sweden – Volvo, Germany – Mercedes, South – Korea – KIA, India – Tata among others.

Therefore, it is gratifying that President  Buhari has undertaken to restore Nigeria’s lost glory, and one of the major ways of realising this objective is to promote Nigerian brands abroad, and INNOSON is suitable for the purpose.

Mr.  Chukwudi Enekwechi, a  policy analyst, wrote from Abuja.