By Chukwudi Enekwechi
FOR many decades, manufacturing of automobiles seemed to many Africans a mystery which only the Whiteman could understand. The excitement that usually accompanies the sight of a new car imported from overseas was in most cases exhilarating and wondrous. With the arrival of INNOSON Vehicles Manufacturing plant on the scene, all the myth surrounding the invisibility of automobile manufacturing was shattered.
The credit goes to Chief Innocent Chukwuma whose ingenuity, hard work and enterprise have placed Nigeria on the global map of vehicles manufacturing countries. Today, Nigeria ranks among the countries that can boast as a manufacturer of full-range of locally -made vehicles at the INNOSON vehicles manufacturing plant in Nnewi, Anambra State.
The company was able to achieve the rare feat following the single – minded resolve of Chief Chukwuma to brace the challenge and prove that a black man can indeed achieve, if not surpass the white man in the area of automobile manufacturing.
Since the company was established, thousands of vehicles ranging from cars, sport utility vehicles, garbage trucks and military vehicles have been rolled out from the factory in Nnewi, Anambra state.
This has also resulted in the creation of about ten thousand jobs for Nigerians. Additionally, the INNOSON Kiara Academy, a subsidiary of the INNOSON GROUP has been serving as a centre for capacity – building, skills acquisition and on-the job training for many Nigerians, including the ex-militants from the Niger Delta.
In fact, it can be said that INNOSON has been in the forefront of answering the clarion call of the federal government on the private sector to play their part in solving the perennial unemployment problem in the country.
It is therefore mind-boggling that despite the efforts of the INNOSON group to lift Nigeria to an enviable height as an automobile manufacturing country, as well as alleviate the problem of unemployment in Nigeria, some detractors are bent on thwarting their noble efforts. The deliberate attempt by some vested interests and importers of foreign made vehicles to sabotage INNOSON’s patriotic efforts must never be allowed to succeed.
Government must rise to the occasion and ensure that the INNOSON brand is supported to enable the company continue to fly the Nigeria flag among the automobile manufacturing countries in the world.
The shenanigans of a few vested interests to smear the image of the company and its founder Chief Innocent Chukwuma must be condemned.
As a country in dire need of industrialisation and economic growth, entrepreneurs like Chief Chukwuma remain an invaluable asset that ought to be the focal point of different federal and states governments’ incentives, as this would encourage other enterprising Nigerians to help grow the country’s economy by investing their money locally.
A situation where local manufacturers are victimised or hounded by security agents at the behest of some vested interests will only result to capital flight as investors usually factor the inherent risks prevailing in any given economy before setting up their multi-billion naira investments.
It is therefore worthy of commendation that INNOSON was able to brave it, and repose confidence in the Nigerian economy, hence his multi-billion dollars investment in automobile manufacturing and other sectors of the Nigerian economy.
The point must be made that countries that are notable in automobile manufacturing such USA, Germany, Great Britain, France, Sweden had at one time or the other formulated investment-friendly policies which enabled the automobile manufacturers to thrive. Without such policies the tendency is that the companies can outsource their production to other countries that provide an enabling environment for their businesses. For example, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorists attack on America, the George W. Bush administration offered financial grants to companies like FORD and General Motors, GM, to encourage them to remain in business and provide more job opportunities for Americans.
It is therefore expected that the federal government in its desire to support Nigerian businesses to create jobs that deliberate efforts are made to encourage companies like INNOSON to continue in their patriotic endeavours of promoting Nigeria as an investment-friendly country.
Government ought to put in place investment-friendly measures like tax relief, duty-free importation of raw materials and other protectionist measures to guarantee their expansion and unhindered production.
*Mr. Enekwechi, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.