Positioning Nigeria as a vehicles manufacturing country

By Kingsley Jeremiah   |   21 April 2017   |   2:47 am  

Jelani Aliyu

The emergence of General Motors’ Senior Creative Designer, Jelani Aliyu, as the new Director General of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), may in many ways be encouraging, as the country battles to boost local assemblage of vehicles and become a vehicle manufacturing country.
  
But considering that the sector has been stagnant or witnessed series of challenges that sunk the projections of the Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP), introduced four years ago by the Federal Government, the arrival of Aliyu could only be best appreciated if the plight of the Nigerians masses and investors in the sector are addressed.

What Nigerians envisaged in 2013, when the government launched the NAIDP was to see an enabling environment for manufacturing of Nigerian made vehicles, which will be of international standards. There were also expectations that the vehicles will be made available to ordinary people at very competitive prices since local human and material resources would be used.

  
Aliyu, born in Kaduna in 1966, hails from Sokoto. He was “best technical drawing student” from Federal Government College, Sokoto. He declined admission offer to study Architecture at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, and opted for a related course in Birnin Kebbi Polytechnic, Kebbi State. Afterwards, he was hired by the Ministry of Works, Sokoto State because of his outstanding performance.

The Sokoto Scholarship Board sponsorship aided his education at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A., and upon graduation in 1994, he launched his career as a design staff of General Motors. Aliyu, who designed the remarkable Chevrolet Volt, replaces Aminu Jalal.
      
The auto sector is crucial as former president Goodluck Jonathan’s government saw the need to design and implement policies, programmes, and strategies for an effective, competitive and diversified private sector led industrialisation process to boost non-oil revenue, considering the pressure on the nation’s revenue.
  
Indeed, if the forecasts of many analysts and the tenets of the automotive policies were feasible, the volume of local assemblage would have significantly increased to attract component builders. This will help the country drive backward integration, which in turn will generate employment, and push down prices of brand new automobiles, which are currently out of the reach of many Nigerians. But inherent challenges, particularly the current economic outlook, the disparity between naira and dollar as well as the inability of government to address key challenges made the projections elusive.
  
On the importation of fairly used vehicles, while investors see the trend account for the larger chunk of vehicles being imported into the country as a curse to growth of the sector, Nigerians, who buy used vehicles, expect a sustainable option that matches with the current economic realities.

It is therefore imperative for government to finalise plans on the automotive finance scheme that would grant a single digit loan to Nigerians willing to drive brand new vehicles. If this happens, experts expect an increase in the demand for new cars while the country can generate its own second hand vehicles.
  
Stakeholders like the Managing Director, Truckmasters Nigeria Limited; Tony Arenyeka, insisted that just like any other policy, fear of investors have to be assuaged by way of signing the current Automotive Bill awaiting legislative approval.             
  
“There must be assurance that there won’t be a change, and the only way to do such is to move such policy from intention to law. The process of repealing a law is cumbersome; if government wants a policy that will last, we need to assure global operators that Nigeria is ready,” Arenyeka said.

   
Although automakers in the country, the Nigerian Automotive Manufacturers Association (NAMA), envisages the creation of over 4,000 direct jobs and much higher figure for indirect jobs in the sector, but the fact that the sector cannot yet boast of local content left the targets hovering. Therefore initiatives that will drive local content in the sector needs to be prioritised.
  
While the shortage of foreign exchange doubled the plight of the sector, organisations such as Nissan that started production in Nigeria in 2014, could only turn out 3,050 vehicles as of June 2015, despite installed capacity of 15,000 vehicles, infrastructure dearth must be death to ease cost of operation.
   
Most Nigerians also expect a sustainable programme that will help build local capacity, particularly in the areas of automobile maintenance and repair using latest technology.

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