•If only FG would support us, Nigeria don’t need to import auto parts
David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Nnewi, a popular city in Anambra State, is a thriving industrial hub. It is fondly referred to as the home of billionaires.
Indeed, not a few of the town’s indigenes are self-made billionaires who started their businesses from the scratch and turned them to flourishing empires.
But many of these industrialists, who sited their companies in their hometown of Nnewi, are not happy. They insist that they have been left to their fate by the federal government, as the unfavourable storm pummelling the Nigerian economy persists.
Recently, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), in conjunction with the National Automotive Design and Development Council, held the Nnewi Automotive Industrial Park Stakeholders Roundtable and Trade Fair. Part of the reason for the event was the need to make Nnewi the best industrial hub and investment destination east of the Niger, and also to enable the town to live up to its appellation as the “Japan of Africa.”
The industrial fair, which was promoted by the member representing Nnewi North/ Nnewi South and Ekwusigo Constituency, Hon. Chris Azubogu, was adjudged successful by many, as it attracted all classes of industrialists from Nnewi and beyond. They all showcased their wares at the expansive premises of Kings Palace Hotel Extension, Nnewi.
Expectedly, makers of various products, ranging from automotive to edible items, exhibited their wares to attract patronage. But the industrialists also enumerated a lot of complaints militating against their business.
At the event, the Nnewi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines Agriculture (NCCIMA) made a case for the industrialists, insisting that more has to be done in the overall interest of Nnewi’s business environment.
President of the NCCIMA, Linus Ilozue, explained that most of the industries and commercial activities in Nnewi were owned by individuals. He expressed dismay that, in spite of the presence of the Technology Incubation Centre (TIC), the Nigeria Engineering Design and Development Institute (NEDDI) and Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NIBRI), no strong federal government presence was being felt within the industrial sector in Nnewi.
The NCCIMA boss said that was why the stakeholders were happy to welcome any initiative aimed at attracting federal government presence and assistance to Nnewi’s business community. He made it clear that the aim of the roundtable discussion was for the realisation of the Nnewi automobile industrial park and exhibition of micro auto parts and allied products made in Nnewi.
“As you may have known, Nnewi is home to many industrial activities, especially auto-related ones. From complete motor assembling to production of brake pads and lubricants, Nnewi has tried to promote the growth of the auto industry. Apart from Innoson Motors Assembling Plant, which uses a substantial part of made-in-Nigeria parts, the town is dotted with over 50 mini plants, assembling cars, light trucks from imported completely disassembled parts of fairly used vehicles. This is aside from motorcycle assembling, which has been on for over two decades now. Many industries in this town produce automotive parts to complement these works.
“Automotive parts like fan belts, cables, headlamp covers, wheel covers, brake light covers, engine blocks, piston and rings and virtually every other automotive part, all made in Nnewi. And the trend has led to the rise of other support industries, including hospitality facilities,” Ilozue said.
The industrialists lamented that, in spite of all the group and individual efforts to industrialise Nnewi, with the attendant creation of many employment opportunities and contributions to the economic development of the nation, many of these producers are still neglected. They noted that there was no enabling environment while the facilities needed for business to thrive were lacking.
One association that has continued to cry for government attention is the Micro Scale Auto Parts Producers (MSAPP), Nnewi auto cluster zone. These micro auto producers have been doing their business in Nnewi for over two decades.
Chairman of the association, Mr. Emeka Iwudo, told newsmen during the industrial fair that members of the group had suffered abject neglect, operating with no incentive from government. From what he said, the main problem of the micro auto parts producers in the industrial community was funding. He stated that micro auto producers expect assistance to come as grants from government, or as interest-free loans to inject more life into their various small and medium-scale production firms.
Iwudo explained that there were no auto parts that members of the group could not produce in commercial quantity, if they were financially empowered. He said that members of the group would also like government to set up a technology village on about 10 acres of land for them in Nnewi, where they would have amenities like steady power supply, water and other things that would make manufacturing a hitch-free experience.
The micro auto producers also expressed surprise that nobody from the Anambra State Ministry of Trade and Industries attended the industrial fair to see what the auto producers had at their stands and for the ministry to have reasons for intervention.
“We appeal to even the National Automotive Design and Development Council in its backward integration policy to remember that we are here. It is time to interrogate the core values of these government agencies whose responsibility it is to ensure that the growth and advancement of these industrial ventures are assured. Why are we neglected?” he queried.
Iwudo noted that there was no way government could talk about promoting industrialisation when this class of industrialists was left to fabricate some of their machines, produce moulds with the training they had, source their funds under excruciating bank conditions, even as they could not afford the stipulated bank collateral, and still make it. He wondered what would be the fate of products of technical colleges churned out every year, if the situation did not change.
Iwudo emphasised that, if the producers received the expected assistance from government, Nigeria could compete favourably with China and would have no need to import bolts and nuts, washers, battery terminals and other micro auto components from other countries.
At the event, Azubogu told the audience that the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, had three policies that, if implemented, could increase the industrial and commercial capacity of Nnewi.
He named the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan 2013, Nigeria Automotive Industrial Policy (2014 to 2023) and Development of Special Economic Zones through the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017 to 2020) as some of the measures put in place by the federal government to increase Nigeria’s capacity for production, especially where the country has comparative advantage.
“Nnewi is a growing commercial and industrial hub with existing industrial clusters. It has the potential to become a pilot case in Nigeria’s quest to develop indigenous capacity for competitiveness, especially in the local manufacturing of automotive components and ancillary industries,” the lawmaker said.
Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, was represented by his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke, who gave his nod for the industrial park project for industrialists in the Nnewi zone.
The governor said this had become necessary, as it would attract some basic amenities needed for investment. He lauded the ingenuity of Nnewi industrialists and noted that what the community needed was adequate power supply to transform it to a world class industrial zone.
“We need more people to join in this investment revolution in Anambra State and Nnewi in particular. We need to come together and work as a group. Industrial park is highly needed in Anambra, and there are roles to be played by the federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector in this direction,” Okeke said.
He called for encouragement and patronage of locally-made goods, asserting that this could be done through increase on import duties or outright ban on commodities that could be produced locally.