[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he incessant foreign exchange problem affecting many auto assembly companies in Nigeria seems to have taken its toll on Boulos Enterprises, a company with over 95% Nigerian workforce, as the organization has laid off 150 trained workers twice in the last four months.
The company’s General Manager, Mr. Julian Hardy, who broke the sad news to Motoring World in an exclusive interview early last week, attributed the mass retrenchment to inability of the company to secure enough foreign exchange to source imported kits and accessories.
”We are currently bringing in just 10 to 15 % of what we were importing as result of lack of foreign exchange,” Mr. Hardy lamented. “And we had to lay off 150 staff, because of that.
“We had two retrenchments over the last four months. We retrenched people that we trained, because of the policy. We have no option than to do that, because we have to survive as a company. That is because we can’t import enough.”
When asked if he was aware that the Federal Government has created a process through which manufacturers can access foreign exchange, he said, ” they are not counting automotive manufacturer within that. So, we can’t access. We go to the parallel market and buy at a high rate. So when we have to cost our vehicles, it pushes up the prices. The market has been very tight anyway. It is very hard to sell.”
The Boulos boss stressed that the Federal government’s manufacturing regulation is not recognizing automotive manufacturing, because the company is still assembling and not manufacturing.
”However,” he said, ”we have local content and we have Nigerian workforce.”
According to him, Boulos has reached out to Motorcycle Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), a subsidiary of Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) and they are both canvassing the government to change course, but all to no avail.
” For now,” Hardy stressed, “ the only way we access foreign exchange is through the parallel market. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) rate is around N350 to a dollar. So there is a huge difference.”
He, however, expressed optimism that the sacked workers would be recalled, if things improved.
He explained: ‘What we will do is that as soon as things get better, and we are able to import right number of motorcycles, super carriage trucks and tricycles, we will be in shape then, because these are people that have worked for us for years and we are very loyal to our staffs. So, absolutely, we will bring them back.”
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