By Chukwudi Enekwechi
THE recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between Nigeria’s first indigenous auto maker, INNOSON, and Nigeria Air Force (NAF) for the fabrication and manufacture of spare parts signposts a new dawn in our quest for technological development.
After several years of depending on wholesale importation of operational equipment, the Nigeria Air Force has now taken the lead among other government institutions to look inwards in solving some of its problems.
With the paucity of foreign exchange and the glut in Nigeria’s oil sales, it is indeed commendable that the Nigerian Air Force has decided to close the gap created in the servicing of its fighter jets by patronizing INNOSON Vehicles Manufacturing Company at Nnewi, Anambra State. For a very long time, Nigeria has depended on the importation of virtually all equipment, vehicles, and plants from abroad, until INNOSON broke the jinx by venturing into automobile manufacturing. The result is that it was able to manufacture the first Nigerian vehicle, utilizing local engineers and technicians.
Obviously, the credit goes to Chief Innocent Chukwuma, who many consider a genius on account of his ingenuity and creativity in spearheading the manufacturing process. While he has received eulogies and acclaim nationally and globally, INNOSON has successfully emerged as a Nigerian brand that has made the nation proud.
By venturing into a sector that was hitherto considered the exclusive preserve of the white man (Europeans and Americans) and their Asian counterparts, INNOSON has elevated the position of the average black man among other homo sapiens. It is also gratifying that out of necessity, the Nigerian establishment, and indeed the entire nation are beginning to appreciate this singular, but gigantic effort on the part of INNOSON.
Lest we forget, INNOSON led the revolution that is currently unfolding before our very eyes in the automobile sector, with many foreign companies now setting up factories in Nigeria. The concomitant effect is that jobs will be created; the elusive foreign exchange will be conserved, and the possibility of technology transfer is high.For clarity, let me cite examples with PAN, Toyota, Hyundai, BMW, Nissan, Honda and others that have set up their assembly plants in Nigeria, or in the process of doing that. On the whole, INNOSON was the catalyst that showed the way, and practically demonstrated that it is possible.
Therefore, to sustain the tempo, there is the need for all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies at both federal and state levels to emulate the good example of the Nigerian Air Force by patronizing INNOSON vehicles which range from cars, buses, SUVs, trucks and other high-capacity vehicles. Such patronage will enhance the company’s capacity to create more jobs for Nigerians. Already there are over 10,000 Nigerians in the employ of INNOSON.
As we await the implementation of the 2016 budget, it is necessary that all MDAs adhere to the policy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in patronizing locally made vehicles. The era of waste and total dependence on foreign-made vehicles is over. Nigeria as a country can only realize its vision of great nation and a giant in Africa by leading the way in promoting locally made vehicles. The reason is that the benefits accruing from this sector are numerous and multi-dimensional.
Today, INNOSON vehicles are in high demand across West Africa and Nigeria, as country of production, must showcase its pride, – INNOSON. Perhaps, government must enunciate a clear policy for MDAs to patronize locally made vehicles like INNOSON, by issuing a directive mandating all MDAs to buy their vehicles locally.
Even in the case of standards, INNOSON vehicles have been proven to be durable, aesthetic and in compliance with the best world standards. Additionally, the vehicles are designed to withstand our tough terrain, whereas most imported vehicles are designed to suit the climatic weather conditions of Europe, Asia and America.
It is regrettable that in our country today, we have thousands of imported vehicles that our technicians are not able to maintain or fix due to lack of requisite knowledge. This has equally led to massive loss of foreign exchange, and value – deficit. The only way to stem the tide is to look inwards, reorder our priorities, and demonstrate patriotism and love of country by patronizing INNOSON vehicles. Once again, the Nigerian Air Force deserves our accolades for taking the bull by the horns, by realizing the need to patronize Nigeria’s first indigenous automobile manufacturer – INNOSON.
With NAF having set the pace, the Ministries, Departments and Agencies are expected to toe the line, as that is the only way to walk the talk in terms of realizing our vision of becoming a great power under the sun.
•Enekwechi writes from Abuja.