By Chukwudi Enekwechi
With the economic downturn occasioned by oil dwindling revenue, one area that has the potential to sustain the economy is the automobile industry. Some years ago, a Nigerian company, INNOSON, ventured into this area that many thought was impossible, or only reserved for ‘white people’. Indeed, the gallant move by the first indigenous automobile manufacturer, INNOSON, has been described as revolutionary, as it re-focused the government’s attention to compel its ministries, departments and agencies to patronize mainly vehicles manufactured locally.
The Federal Government also enunciated policies aimed at supporting the sector, and the result is the exponential growth being witnessed today. In this regard, several other companies like Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes have established their manufacturing plants in Nigeria.
Of course, the result is that thousands of jobs have been created for Nigerians. Additionally, scarce foreign exchange has been conserved, and Nigeria will benefit from the technology transfer that is inherent in such endeavors.
Having elevated Nigeria to this enviable height, Innoson has made the country proud as it has become Nigeria’s automobile brand, and its growth and development ought to be the responsibility of all Nigerians, including corporate organisations.
It is, therefore, expected that GTB will be on the same page with all Nigerians, Federal and State Governments in supporting the company to grow from strength to strength. To deviate from this path will not only sabotage Federal Government’s efforts at speedy industrialization, but has the potentials to hamper the company’s commitment to creating jobs for our teeming youths; imparting technological skills to the Niger Delta youths and positioning Nigeria as an automobile manufacturing country.
It is remarkable that other neighboring countries are beginning to acknowledge Nigeria as an automobile manufacturing country based on the patriotic efforts of Innoson.
Just recently, some Malian government officials visited the Innoson factory at Nnewi, Anambra State and placed order for four hundred vehicles. This is a significant milestone and a thing of pride for Nigeria, and it behooves all Nigerians to support this initiative.
Suffice it to say that the success of INNOSON as an automobile manufacturer is a win-win for Nigeria as her name will be imprinted on the global map as the first African country to begin manufacturing of vehicles locally.
Rather than the age-long dependence on Europe, Asia and America for our automobile needs, the jinx has finally been broken and the black race has a reason to celebrate. INNOSON has led the way by liberating us from the slavish mindset that only the “Oyinbo man” has the ability to manufacture vehicles.
In fact, the company has unleashed the inherent innovative mind in all of us, and other Nigerians have an opportunity to think outside the box in their various areas to make a meaningful impact in the society. Indeed, there is no limit to what the human mind can achieve if only the imaginative power is utilised maximally.
All levels of government have a responsibility to ensure that their ministries, departments and agencies comply with the directive to patronise locally-made vehicles like Innoson, for it is only by doing this that the multi-billion dollar investment will not go to waste, and more unemployed youths will have an opportunity to be gainfully employed.
It is only logical that since we have paucity of foreign exchange, local manufacturing of vehicles will help immensely in conserving it and resources can be deployed to other compelling needs. For example, Innoson was readily available for the training and impartation of requisite knowledge to the repentant Niger Delta militants and, today, many of them are utilising the technical skills in various fields of human endeavor including in the oil companies.
It is, therefore, ill-advised for GTB’s bickering with Innoson, over issues that can be amicably resolved to continue. These issues can be resolved, if the bank redeems its financial obligations to the company. Innoson has demonstrated good faith and commitment to the rapid industrial development of the country and all patriotic Nigerians owe it a duty to support the firm.
In this era of dwindling oil revenue, the policy of diversification as being promoted by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration bodes well for innovative entrepreneurs like INNOSON which has led the way in the automobile industry.
The company has also adopted an integrated approach to business by establishing the Kiara Academy which is presently training thousands of Nigerian youths in skills acquisition in automobile manufacturing.
The only way to sustain these achievements is to join hands in supporting Innoson. Such moral support will definitely spur it to continue its patriotic efforts at creating jobs for the youths and growing the country’s economy. Before it emerged on the scene, there was no made-in-Nigeria vehicles on the road, but the company has since changed the narrative and proved that such accomplishment is possible.
As the ministries, departments and agencies begin the implementation of the 2018 budget, they need to be reminded to adhere strictly to the Federal Government’s directive to patronise only locally-made vehicles as that is one of the major ways to stimulate the economy.
Enekwechi writes from Abuja