From Uche Usim, Abuja
Prince Ajibola Adedoyin, the national president, of the Association of Motors Dealers of Nigeria, has said that producing brand new made-in-Nigeria cars that would not cost more than N1.7 million per unit was not rocket science but a doable venture, if there there is commitment and sincerity of purpose.
He said that it requires leveraging on local expertise to design it and yanking off most of the luxury accessories that usually make vehicles costlier.
In the design, Adedoyin advises that the terrain and climate of Nigeria be taken into account, so that the finished product comes off cheap, suitable, serviceable and durable for both commercial and private use.
Consequently, he is not happy that transparent paths are not trod to realising one of the golden objectives of the Nigerian National Automotive Policy Act of 1993, which was essentially formulated to ensure the survival, growth and development of the automotive industry using local human and material resources.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Sun, Adedoyin explained that lack of strategy and corruption have distorted the vision of the auto policy, a sad development that has left Nigerians at the mercy of cheaper used vehicles that are imported into Nigeria.
He speaks more about the auto industry.
What is your take on the recent reduction in Customs duties on some vehicles?
It’s a welcome development. We’ve been at the forefront of this for some years now, trying to let the government know that there is a need for reduced levies on imported used vehicles. This is because they’re the most used items for transportation and considering the fact that transportation is very important to any economy, this decision is a good one. Vehicles aid the movement of persons and goods from one place to the other and if they’re not accessible, it’s a huge challenge. In fact, in this part of our world, that is the only mode of transportation accessible to over 200 million people and that is why it’s been part of our cry for the government to bring down the price of imported vehicles. Part of the moves we made in the past were to make several presentations to the legislature, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, other major government agencies and even the Comptroller-General of Customs. We want to really thank Mr President for this gesture and the CG of Customs for presenting our case to the President.
However, we feel there’s still room for improvement. Our line of argument is that whatever affects transportation, affects the economy and I think it was based on that thinking that the reduction in clearing cost was only limited to commercial vehicles.
Nonetheless, we want Mr. President to also know that a larger percentage of the so-called cars that are not captured in this reduction are used for commercial transport. That is why we said the government can do more. The cars should be included in this tariff reduction. We are not making a case for luxurious ones. Not at all. They shouldn’t have limited it to vehicles that can carry more than 10 persons. If you look at our roads, there are some vehicles that are used for commercial transportation that only carry six or seven passengers. These sorts of vehicles are widely used commercially. We are talking of Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Sharan and co. These vehicles are everywhere for commercial purposes. Even cars too. They are used for intracity and intercity transportation. That is why we said the government needs to do more and capture this category of vehicles in tariff reduction. We’re giving him kudos for what he has done so far because it takes a strong political will to do so. But we urge him to do more.
We understand some are arguing that the tariff reduction will have a negative effect on the auto policy, it is not true. That policy itself is faulty. But we really want to appreciate President Mohammadu Buhari and the CG of Customs for this laudable initiative.
What is your reaction as regards arguments that this policy will hurt the auto policy blueprint of Nigeria?
Well, in the first place, it is a known fact to those saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of the auto policy in Nigeria that there is nothing like manufacturing of vehicles in Nigeria or made-in-Nigeria cars. What they do is assemblage. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing going on in the assembly plants that they have collected grants from the government for.
What they do is what a roadside mechanic or panel beater will do. What do I mean by that? We have total knock-downs (TKDs) and semi knock-downs (SKDs). A lot of times, we have been able to establish that what they do is just to remove the side mirrors, headlamps, tyres and bumpers and they bring them in as SKDs. Who is fooling whom? We have made this presentation to the National Assembly.
In the first instance, AMDON will never stand against any sincere attempt to make Nigeria a car manufacturing country. No, we will not do that. Rather, we are for it. We want Nigeria to become a vehicle manufacturing nation. It is our dream. It is what we want.
What we are saying is that the way and manner they are going about it is very wrong. If we continue on this lane, just like the Customs CG noted the other time, we will be on the same spot in the next 10 years. There was a presentation we made to the National Assembly, I made that presentation on the auto policy. The new auto policy started during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. In that presentation, we highlighted that the way it was being handled wasn’t the way to go.
In the first place, when you say you have a population of 200 million people whose main means of transportation is road, and now you want to force them to buy made-in-Nigeria cars by discouraging the importation of used vehicles, you are taking the wrong path. In the first instance, the made-in-Nigeria cars are not accessible and affordable. How then do you run the economy efficiently since transportation is key? That is just one aspect of it.
The second aspect is that thank God that their name has been changed from National Automotive Council to National Automotive Design and Development Council. Now, that name has still not justified anything. And I say without any fear of contradiction that what you need as a country that wants to be manufacturing vehicles is that you will start with your own kind of car.
Look at your environment and design a car that will be accessible, affordable, serviceable for your own people. That is the way to start. That is what other countries did. It is the way to go.
Go and read the history of India. Their journey into the automotive industry started with tricycles. From there, they graduated. But in Nigeria, we have not even started manufacturing tyres. Take me to any industry that manufactures tyres. We have not started. Then you’re talking about manufacturing the whole vehicle; you’re just playing pranks with yourselves.
What I said in my numerous presentations is that the taxpayers’ money will keep going down the drain as long as we are doing things the way we are doing. After several years, we will come back to the basics. That is why we shall be calling for the probe of NADDC. Let them tell us what they have been doing with all the money going to them. What have all these huge funds been able to produce?
We told them, design a Nigerian car that will not be more than N1.5-N1.7 million. I can tell you that it is very doable. It might not be to some people’s standard but it is doable and will serve well.
What you just need to do is remove most of the luxury accessories, design a good body, get the right engine and gearbox and other vital components and you produce a good car.
Also you design a maintenance blueprint and you’re in business. We can start from there. From there, you can move into trucks that can convey heavy goods.
Recently, I was sad that despite all we’ve been crying out for and pointing the way to go, we heard that what the NADDC was going to unveil is an electric car.
In this country, we love waste and that is why we’re not going anywhere. We keep going round in circles. For God’s sake, we said design for us a made-in-Nigeria car that is accessible and affordable. If not, we will remain in the same spot.
What is the way forward?
Number one, the government has realised that waiting for the sellers of brand new vehicles to meet the transportation needs of Nigerians is a tall order at the moment. The people will suffer and the economy will be hurt because brand new vehicles are not affordable.
We have four different modes of transportation. Three are largely not available. Those are air, rail and water. The only available and accessible one is road and it’s through vehicles.
We are ready to challenge those kicking against the initiative of President Muhammadu and Customs CG to reduce the clearing cost of imported used vehicles to tell us how many vehicles on our road are used vehicles and how many are brand new made-in-Nigeria cars.
I can tell you that made-in-Nigeria cars are not up to 1%. I call anyone to challenge us on that. Just go to commercial centres in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano, stay on a busy junction, when the red light illuminates, just look at the vehicles that are there and count the used vehicles and the brand new ones made here.
You would notice that we are saying the right thing. The bulk of the vehicles on the road are imported used ones. Made-in-Nigeria vehicles are not affordable.
We’ve said, design a made in Nigeria vehicle for transportation.
We’ve gone ahead to make some moves. We intend to partner with companies like Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN) and some other vehicle assembly companies on how we can quickly design and produce a made-in-Nigeria vehicle that will be accessible, affordable, serviceable and suitable for our Nigerian roads.
What the Government needs to do is to listen. If you want to be self-sufficient in vehicle production, it is through partnerships. All over the world, there is no one company that produces all the components or accessories of one car.
We can leverage on those partnerships. But you have to sit down and design your own for your own environment and population. When it has served well, outsiders will begin to request for it. That is the way to go, if not, we will keep moving round in circles.