By Chukwudi Enekwechi
BEFORE the emergence of INNOSON as Nigeria’s first automobile manufacturer, the trend was the uncontrollable importation of new, old and fairly-used vehicles into the country. These massive importations also came with a lot of capital flight and rendered our local industries comatose. Apart from the negative implications of importing all manner of vehicles into the country, the survival of local automobile manufacturing companies was heavily threatened.
INNOSON came to Nigeria’s rescue at the right time as he commenced the local production of vehicles ranging from 18-seater buses, trucks, cars and SUVs at affordable prices. The company has also offered employment to thousands of Nigerians including availing the Presidential Amnesty Office the opportunity of training the repentant Niger Delta militants at their factories at Emene, Enugu state and Nnewi Anambra state.
Today the ex-militants have acquired the necessary skills which have enabled them to be fully integrated into the society. This approach has further made them to focus on other productive ventures rather than blowing up oil pipelines and hampering the country’s economic growth and development.
On the whole INNOSON has been a blessing to Nigeria and the courage they brought to bear in setting up the first indigenous automobile manufacturing plant in Nigeria has enabled other foreign automobile companies to outsource their production plants to Nigeria, hence Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes and others are assembling some range of their vehicles in Nigeria.
It is important that no effort should be spared to support INNOSON Vehicles Manufacturing Company to survive rather than putting all manner of obstacles on its path. In some other countries, companies like INNOSON which is focussed on helping to develop the country will be given all necessary incentives and encouragement to thrive, but it seems the present travails of INNOSON are deliberately aimed at bringing their efforts to nought. With the country’s dwindling oil revenues and in line with the federal government’s diversification programme, there is no doubt that companies like INNOSON can play a significant role in making the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and other noble policies of the President Buhari administration come into fruition. A cursory look at the manufacturing activities of INNOSON will prove that they remains a viable asset to Nigeria in terms of technology transfer, job creation, reduction in capital flight and overall industrialisation of Nigeria.
We cannot afford to trifle with such innovative enterprise that is geared towards putting Nigeria’s name among the automobile manufacturing countries. We should as a people resist any conspiracy or attempt to denigrate the good reputation of the INNOSON Group for in the final analysis it represents the collective aspirations of all Nigerians in the area of technological development.
Through their efforts billions of dollars that could have gone into the importation of foreign vehicles have been saved thereby adding to the incremental rise in our foreign reserve. So the retention and survival of INNOSON as Nigeria’s automobile brand is a win win for the country. It will also serve as an inspiration for other budding entrepreneurs and industrialists to venture into manufacturing in various sectors of the economy.
The company is famous for adopting global best practices in its operations and their workforce is highly motivated and remunerated. One therefore begins to wonder the underlying reasons for the orchestrated campaign to malign the integrity and good image of the group chairman Chief Innocent Chukwuma. This is a man who has through a dint of hard work and innovativeness built a business empire estimated to worth about $5 Billion Dollars in Nigeria and all these industries have over ten thousand Nigerians as employees. It is therefore incumbent on the federal government to ensure that the jobs of these hard working Nigerians are not threatened by the shenanigans of some vested interests.
It must also be borne in mind that these companies’ employees have families and dependants to cater for. Already there are clear indications that there is a grand conspiracy to frustrate the company in its patriotic effort to save Nigeria from the stranglehold of dependence on foreign-made vehicles. INNOSON has already broken the jinx and it behoves governments at all levels to encourage the company and see them as partners in progress.
Before their emergence as the first local vehicles manufacturers, Nigeria was flooded with vehicles from all parts of the world with the attendant loss of foreign exchange, loss of jobs and lack of skills acquisition. These are the gaps that INNOSON has filled and some vested interests are hell-bent on reversing the trend. This must not be allowed to happen. INNOSON like Dangote and other big companies has made Nigeria a proud automobile manufacturing country and we have a duty to build and consolidate on this achievement.
Chukwudi Enekwechi , a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.