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Home Opinion Kick Starter with Femi Owoeye Concern About Auto Sector: OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUHARI

Concern About Auto Sector: OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUHARI

Your Excellency,

As you resume officially inside Aso Rock today, I feel the need to quickly alert your Excellency that it  would be disastrous to do siddonlook with the nation’s industrial sector, as you seem to have done with the politics of the national assembly. I understand that your original plan is to drastically review President Jonathan’s automotive policy. Recent developments which led to the scandalous crisis trailing the  appointment of the Senate President makes one to worry a bit about the rest of the assignments that the Peoples General was voted into power to carry out. Notwithstanding, we still have every reason not to bin our benefit of doubt. For your past records still whisper into our inner ears.

At this point, sir, I am calling your attention to the automobile industry. Players may seem to be quiet. They may be buying lands and setting up assembly plants. Yes, things may seem to be looking up as a result of the former regime’s auto policy. I have gone round. I have tried prying into the minds of some of the major players in the industry. The truth is that the industry needs urgent help and attention.

President Buhari
President Buhari

Like I wrote recently, it was commendable that the former regime was able to put Automobile industry on front burner. If our new CHANGE regime would tamper with anything, the auto policy must be one of them. From my findings, none of the stakeholders in the industry is against a review of the policy. What they are mostly interested in is anything that would enable them to recoup back their gigantic investment into assembly plants.

From all indications, those who put the auto policy together meant well. However, the speed and manner of its implementation gave an impression that, at a point, the then GEJ government became understandably desperate, as a result of the nation’s scandalous level of youth unemployment. So the regime, under pressure, had to do something, even if it had to be a half-baked policy. But, in my personal view, taking that hush-hush step to put the nation’s auto industry on discussion table after many years of lull was a great achievement. All that your Excellency’s regime needs to do now is perfect the caricature policy on ground.

I give kudos to the likes of Dana Group and Stallion for taking steps of faith. And indeed I congratulate the nation’s veteran auto marketer, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo for not giving in. Though he felt the policy was stampeding in nature, he at last decided to set up a Toyota assembly plant in Nigeria, a step many of us had looked up to him to take over the years, but which the nation’s political and economic environment made almost impossible. I salute the courage of many more auto companies planning to mount conveyor belts at one point or the other across Nigeria, hoping that things would Change as we voted. I say well done to Mr. Cosmos Maduka, who has also acquired land for that same purpose. It’s a good omen for Nigeria’s industrial future.

But the question still remains: By the time Nissan, Kia, Toyota, Renault, Ford and the rest of the brands that are coming in get into full stream of business of coupling together imported semi-knocked Down (SKD) vehicles for sale in the country, what is the assurance that many of them would not later pack their machines and relocate to Ghana or wherever? President Buhari’s regime of CHANGE must never allow this to happen. And one way of keeping the assemblers permanently in Nigeria is to help them to rise to the ultimate level of becoming auto manufacturers, by immediately encouraging local content production. That’s the only way they can produce cars and sell at prices that imported used car buyers can afford.

Yes. Most auto assemblers are running to banks for help with credit auto buying scheme. Wonderful idea, but not sustainable under our present circumstance. Credit auto sales can only target buyers in secured employment, earning certain amount of income. And just imagine, all auto marketers and assemblers are doing just that, targeting the same people, since they have no choice.

Why?

At the moment, most average imported used vehicle buyers cannot afford  Nigerian assembled brand new vehicles, which is not the assemblers’ faults. Right now, they are setting up and operating under very difficult situation. Electricity problem is still there. All they knit together at their various assembly plants still have to be imported.

The presidency and national assembly members should realise the foregoing and give the case of the nation’s automobile industry priority it deserves. The sector is one of the world’s largest employers of labour. That was why President Barrack Obama made it a priority in the United States and David Cameron did the same in the UK. And their respective economies are getting better for it.

If your excellency want Nigerians and the rest of the world to take you serious as real political apostle of change, Automobile sector should immediately be removed from car boot and belted on the front seat for action. If not, by the time all of the assembly plants become up and running, the market will boil. And fragile brands might melt away. Then what? Consider their employees. Consider multi-million investment. Some might have taken loans from banks.  The nation can’t afford another VWON scenario. With right policy and implementation, all of them can thrive, as they do in other parts of the world.

Our nation has a strength in rubber production. President Jonathan’s regime succeeded in getting auto assemblers to set up in Nigeria. Your Excellency should get auto parts manufacturers to complement what the assemblers are doing. Encourage and support manufacturing of custom-moulded stoppers and bumpers; moulded rubber pads and end-pieces for emergency brake pads; rubber seals, radiator and other form of hoses, general rubber components, etc.

And simultaneously, do every thing possible to achieve 24/7 power generation.

Remember this, your Excellency. A single car is made with over a 2000 parts, most of which auto makers buy from parts manufacturers. Imagine how many thousands of  jobs will be created in Nigeria if just 1000 of such parts are manufactured in the Nigeria.

Above all, the nation’s auto assemblers too should be encouraged to look into incorporating some component manufacturing into what they are doing, especially ones manufactured by their parent companies.

Your Excellency, I know expectations are high. You are already fighting corruption. The economy calls for rescue, just the same way as Chibouk girls. Agricultural development is one of your priorities, all of which require huge spending, and rightly too, of the nation’s meagre resources. But to lend a hand to the nation’s auto industry mostly requires political will, taking difficult policy decisions, which do not necessarily have to be costly.

Thanking Your Excellency for taking time to look into this matter and in advance for adding the auto industry to your priority and URGENT ACTION list.

Sincerely yours,

Femi Owoeye

Motoring World International

 

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