The Federal Republic of Nigeria gained independence from British colonial rule on October 1, 1960. As the British Union Jack flag was being lowered in Lagos to herald the coming of the independent country of Nigeria, that very day, another historical event was taking place in faraway Nnewi in the eastern part of the country. It was on that day that a son was born. A child that would change the business face of Nigeria, nay, Africa and the world at large. He was named Innocent.
Today, that child has become a man and his acumen in business and social engineering has become a phenomenon.
Chief (Dr.) Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, OFR, has for the past two to three decades bestridden the automobile industry of Nigeria like a colossus, with innovations and creativity only geniuses could muster. A native of Uru-Umudim Nnewi, Nnewi North LGA of Anambra State, Nigeria, Chief Chukwuma started his business career quite early in life in 1981, trading in tyres, motorcycle spare parts and accessories for mainly the Honda brand. The business did not only expand into importation of motorcycle products, but started the local assembling of motorcycles in Nnewi, Anambra State.
He made a huge success of the business such that, by the turn of the 1990s, Innoson products had become a well known brand and in high demand in Nigeria and the West African sub-region. Thus it became the first indigenous company to fully assemble motorcycles in Nigeria and, subsequently, started producing some of the motorcycle parts. Within a short span of three decades, the trading company has metamorphosed into a giant organisation and given birth to the Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Limited, the first wholly indigenous and leading vehicle manufacturing company in Nigeria. There are many other subsidiaries of Innoson Group that thrive in various capacities. Some of these companies are: Innoson Tech Industries Co. Ltd., Enugu, manufacturers of high quality household and industrial plastics, health and safety accessories, storage containers, fixtures and fittings, electrical components and accessories, General Tyres and Tubes Company Ltd., Enugu, manufactures of high quality tyres and tubes, Innoson Communications Ltd, manufacturing of set-top boxes for digital television, etc. Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing (IVM) Nnewi, manufacturers of high quality capacity bus, safe and cost-effective mini and midi bus, pick-up trucks and garbage collecting vehicles, Innoson Wood Industrial Ltd, producers of wood and processing for local use as well as for export, Innoson Oil and Gas Ltd, exploration and distribution of hydrocarbon energy products and services.
At the age of 60 years, Innocent Chukwuma has achieved what many people cannot achieve even if given a thousand lives to live. He has garnered both national and international awards, recognition and honours, among which are Nigeria Centenary Honour Award by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, in recognition of his role as the first indigenous local vehicles manufacturer in Nigeria and employer of labour in March 2014. Also conferred on him the National Honours of the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in November 2011 by President Jonathan. In December 2008, the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, GCFR, conferred on him the Officer of the Order of the Niger. In 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan conferred on him the prestigious national honour of National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM). He was also a distinguished member, Vision 20:2020 Business Support Group under former President Yar’Adua in 2009. In terms of academic awards, he has his bags full of them. Installed as the Chancellor of Imo State University, Owerri, in March 2016, he bagged a honourary Doctor of Management Science degree from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, in October 2016. The University of Science and Techonology, Enugu, gave him a honourary doctorate degree in Business Administration in November 2011. Another honourary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) came from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) in January 2014, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, equally awarded him a doctorate degree in Technology in 2017.
Dr. Chukwuma, in recognition of his services to God and humanity, has received a lot of awards from professional bodies and institutions, among which are: Honourary Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, with No. HF.0021, on the 17th of November, 2015. Eminent Person of the Year, by Heads of Federal Establishments and Parastatals Forum, Anambra State, for implementing the auto policy of the Federal Government by producing the first made-in-Nigeria cars in December 2014. Grand Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Strategic Management, in July 17, 2014. For his outstanding contributions to the economic development in Nigeria by providing job opportunities to numerous Ngeirans through his chain of businesses, he was awarded the Fellowship of Rocana Institute of Technology, Enugu. On the 30th of August, 2014, Nigeria Arise made him the Entrepreneurial Ambassador. For his outstanding promotion of peaceful coexistence and support for God’s work, he was given an International Merit Award by the International Communion of Charismatic and Evangelical Bishops/Apostles Incotporated of Nigeria in November 2013. He is honorary life vice-president of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA). The Guild of Motoring Correspondents made him the Auto Personality of the year in December 2013, while Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) named him the Most Outstanding Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Manufacturing Sector in January 2012. He became a national council member of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria in 2012. For his contributions to the development of commerce and industry in Nigeria, the Nnewi Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture gave him a Special Merit Award, in September 2012.
On June 7, 2012, the Commonwealth Business Council gave his company the African Business of the Year Award in London, U.K. He received the maiden Platinum Award by Ndigbo Lagos on November 8, 2012, for his massive investment and development of Igboland. The Nigerian Society of Engineers conferred him with the Special Presidential Merit Award 2011 and the Industrialist of the Year award by the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture in December 2011. The NACCIMA gave him the Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award for Indigenous Excellence in Automobile Manufacturing and Granted Award for Excellence by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in October 2008, while the Nigerian Society of Engineers gave him a Meritorious Award in 2008. In 2006, the Enugu chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) gave him the Industrialist of the Year award.
As a media-friendly businessman, he has also received a lot of accolades from the fourth estate of the realm, among which are: Leadership Newspaper Business Person of the Year 2018; Manufacturer of the Year by DAAR Communications Ltd, 2018; Leadership Newspaper Business Person of the Year 2017; Vanguard Newspaper Most Innovative Entrepreneur, by Vanguard Media Limited March 2014; Silverbird Extraordinary Award, Silverbird Man of the Year Award, 2014; Conferred with Nigeria’s Young Global Champions in Manufacturing by THISDAY Award in 2011; Winner of The Sun Business Person of the Year Award for 2011, by the Sun Publishing Limited.
For his remarkable achievements in commerce and industry in 2011, the Anambra State Government conferred on him the Special Honours Medallion, and from Enugu State came the title of Justice of the Peace. The icing on the cake came on February 12, 2020, at the Martina Chukwuma Event Centre, Owerri Road, Nnewi, Anambra State, when the MANCAP certificate by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) was conferred on his company during an elaborate ceremony that saw the presence of the director-general of the SON, Barr. Osita Aboloma (Esq), personally to present the award.
This tribute will not be complete without mentioning the great strides Chief Chukwuma has taken in terms of human capital development, especially as it concerns youth employment and empowerment. It would be recalled that Innoson Group was one of the first establishments to partner with the Nigerian authorities to stamp out militancy in the Niger Delta region, through the introduction of the C Kiara-Academy, where a lot of repentant Niger-Delta militants were trained and some are still being trained in motor assembly and manufacturing, welding, mechanical and electrical engineering and other related fields.
To push the Innoson brand further, Dr. Chukwuma has acquired 1,250 square metres (250 plots) of land at a strategic location in Nnewi and is poised to be the star attraction of IVM activities. Already, work has been going on at a very fast pace and captivating structures are alreading springing up. It promises to be a state-of-the-art modern motor plant that will boast of fascinating facilities that will make it the biggest in Africa.
Dr. Chukwuma has no doubt proved to all and sundry that his coming into this world on the 1st of October, 1960, was not a coincidence but a point to be made. Though born on the same day with Nigeria, he has continued to soar high and higher; whether Nigeria will follow suit is a question and answer still in the womb of time. (Food for Thought).