By: FEMI OWOEYE
Given the number of auto assembly plants now operating in Nigeria, coupled with the federal government’s resolve to pump funds into power generation, the nation could be on its way to industrialization.
But, sadly, unless Nigerians, including government functionaries and individuals kill their silly tastes for imported new and used vehicles, it would never reach there.
Of course, locally assembled vehicles are more expensive than imported used vehicles. But compared with imported brand new vehicles, they are cheaper and better. For locally assembled vehicles are adapted to suit the nation’s tropical weather and rough terrain. No need asking a mechanic to remove thermostat, when you buy one. Today thousands of Nigerians are employed in Nigerian assembly plants. That means, every locally assembled vehicle purchased by a Nigerian or government functionaries is protecting thousands of jobs for Nigerians of today and future, which is why I can’t understand why all Nigerian government officials are not cruising about in locally assembled vehicles. Or has the part of Nigerian law that forbids government functionaries from buying imported vehicles that are assembled in Nigeria been expunged? I don’t think so.
By now, the federal government ought to have placed a ban on importation of used vehicles to protect the assembly plants that are springing up in the country. The fear is that such move would affect average Nigerians. Balderdash!
About the same period, when Nigeria started the likes of Peugeot, Volkswagen and others in the 70s, South Korea started Hyundai manufacturing plant. Our Peugeot plant went moribund. Our Volkswagen plant died and resurrected recently. Hyundai of South Korea did not die, because the then patriotic government functionaries of South Korea banned importation of all vehicles that could compete with Hyundai vehicles. As a result, the brand survived. They were able to produce enough for local consumption. Prices of the cars dropped. It sold locally and started earning foreign exchange for the country. Hyundai and its sister brand, Kia are all over the world today. Why buy from foreign lands what is being produced at your back yard? It has to be a bit costly at the moment, because the entire brand new car market in the country is about 50,000 units per annum, compared to imported used vehicles, selling almost 400,000. Paying more for the locally assembled vehicles by instalment or outright payment (if you can afford it), even if they are a bit expensive is not stupidity. It is called patriotism.
To make things work, the federal government recently requested the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) to find a way of making it easier for Nigerians to buy locally assembled vehicles, especially via auto financing tied to reasonable interest rate, as it is done in advanced nations. NADDC has taken steps along that line. Certain auto assemblers have signed auto financing arrangements with banks.
Unfortunately, certain government functionaries and many Nigerians, who can afford the locally assembled vehicles, are not seeing the developmental picture. They still feel proud riding in vehicles made in Britain, China or America, which is silly. And I mean that.
It is no use spouting these sycophantic words: “Oh! Nigeria is beautiful, Nigeria is good; Change…Change…Change”, when government functionaries don’t set an example. I’m talking about Federal government, state governments, local governments and parastatal. Unless it becomes imperative for government functionaries to buy only locally assembled vehicles and also invest in a national “BUY NIGERIA” campaign, billions of investments being sunk into the nation’s auto industry will end up in the toilet pit, which is not what we want.
To really exhibit the CHANGE promise, Nigerians need to see President Muhammadu Buhari riding in only locally assembled vehicles. After all, you only see the Queen of England cruising in Rolls Royce or Range Rovers, all adapted for her security. Not in any other foreign assembled or manufactured machine. Or are we saying Inoson, Ford, Kia, Hyundai, Nissan and many more local assemblers cannot make a vehicle that is secure enough for Nigerian president? Of course they can.
It’s time to eschew this strong taste for foreign goods, all because you think they are cheap. Some even think imported vehicles are higher in quality. Sorry, they are not. In reality, vehicles assembled in Nigeria are actually tropicalized, that is adapted to run smoothly and safely in the hot climate and rough terrain like ours. And you know where they are made.
President, ministers, members of parliaments at all levels, governors, commissioners, local government chairpersons and management of government paratatals, need to know that, Nigerians have had enough of talking tough or digging boreholes or buying grinding machines for the “locals” or foreign made buses for associations and religious organizations. From 2016, they need to show support for Nigerians by deeds, not useless words.
Or what do they need? Bulletproof or armoured vehicles, buses, SUV, saloon, pick-ups? They are now assembled in Nigeria. BUY NIGERIA! Britain did same, when it faced economic difficulties in the 1960s. Government in power mobilized its citizens, using all communication channels available, to buy MADE-IN-BRITAIN.
Nigerian assembly plants today have 1000s of Nigerians in direct employment. Inoson alone employs about 10,000. When you buy a made-in-Nigeria vehicle, you are indirectly solving unemployment problem. When you buy foreign made vehicles, new or used, you are feeding other people’s children in other nations at the detriment of yours. Think about this!
Or are government officials saying they think so little of Nigerian products that they are only fit for local use? Wrong. Show your support for this country. Get off your high horse and show that you truly care about Nigeria instead of empty words and sabre rattling. The only way to encourage others is to do it yourself.
State Governors, commissioners, ministers and all Nigerians, voted or appointed, occupying government positions, it is time to get off your backside and Promote Nigeria. It’s NOW. Wishing you a Happy Nigerian New Year.