The Ministry of Trade and Investment has expressed satisfaction with the proficiency and quality of manufacturing operations at VON Automobiles Nigeria Limited, local manufacturers of buses, trucks and light commercial vehicles including brands such as Ashok Leyland.
The Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Dr. Samuel Ortom, made these remarks last week, when he and his team conducted a supervisory visit to the plant in Lagos.
He said: "I have inspected and seen what VON Automobile Nigeria is doing and I am quite impressed with the quality of work here as well as the capacity of the plant. I have toured other parts of this country and I am saying that what I found here is of international standards. We can now encourage people from other African countries to import from Nigeria. The products are of the best quality and can be used in any part of the world."
He further added: 'So, I am impressed with this and secondly, they are into expansion and they are not just into buses, they are looking at other lines that will produce various types of automobile vehicles."
The minister who led a high powered delegation of members of the Committee on Mass Transportation for Nigerians to VON Automobiles also applauded the vehicle assembly plant for transforming the defunct Volkswagen of Nigeria (VWoN) plant within a relatively short period of time.
The investors, Stallion Group of Nigeria, showing immense financial commitment and perseverance have led VON's successful resuscitation. VON's buses are already plying on Nigerian roads and have gained appreciation on their quality being better than imported vehicles.
VON is a subsidiary of Stallion Group which is a 45 year old multi-billion conglomerate with a presence in 18 countries, employing in excess of 10,000 staff and engaged in diversified businesses including commodities, agri-business, automobiles, industries, food, FMCG products and services.
In the automobile industry, Stallion has partnered world-class brands including Honda, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Porsche, Audi, Skoda, Ashok Leyland and others.
Following the plant tour, the minister said: "I am satisfied with what I have seen and the truth is that you can supply us with the quality and quantity we need and I want to reassure you that I will take this back to the committee and within a very short time, government should be in a position to allow you make offers to the body that requires your products."
Also adding that mass transit is a major part of economic development worldwide, Ortom said: "Nigeria can't be exception, hence the reason why I'm here to supervise and to see your capacity, quality and quantity of what you can supply to the Nigerian market."
He reassured VON Automobiles of the President Goodluck Jonathan's commitment to the progress of vehicle assembly plants in the country, saying: "Mr. President is quite committed and down-to-earth about it and he is not paying lip services and that is why you have seen me here today."
Meanwhile, the minister has said plans are underway to implement an interim policy in advance of the National Automotive Policy to enable stakeholders in the transport sector have seamless access to the products and services of local automobile manufacturers.
This, it said, would enhance the realisation of planned efficient mass transportation and increase patronage of locally assembled vehicles.
Ortom said the National Automotive Policy, which is about now being passed to the Economic and Implementation team of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), will address industry enhancing guidelines that would specify how financial institutions in the country can help stakeholders access the products and services of local plants.
The minister and his team were upon arrival guardedly shown round VON Automobiles including Ashok Leyland bus lines, VON Automobiles' prototype medium capacity bus, brake test bay, shower test bay, spray booths, CKD stores and the refectory among others.
He particularly applauded the company for its expertise and quality of work, saying: "From what I have seen so far, your major challenge isn't getting access to finances and sponsoring your production, rather it is about local patronage. Nigerians must rise up to the challenge. It is the responsibility of Nigerians to be patriotic and see the need to patronise made-in-Nigeria goods."
The minister, however, said government was ready to provide enabling environment and atmosphere for the plant to thrive noting that VON has particularly towed the right direction, and government is prepared to partner with the plant to enhance the level of employment in the society.
Also adding that "It is true government no longer buy vehicles or undergo any bankable programme because of sad experiences we've had in the past," Ortom said the private sector would be supported with friendly policies such providing enabling environment and atmosphere for the people to access their services."
The Managing Director of VON Automobiles Nigeria Limited, Mr. Tokunbo Aromolaran, had earlier told the visiting team that the plant has an installed capacity of 4,000 buses per annum and would shortly take delivery of plants to produce 36,000 vehicles per year.
He said: "One of our biggest hopes is to turn some area around this location to a components manufacturing village where automobile component can be manufactured."
Aromolaran further stated that: "VON seeks to be at the forefront of the imminent transformation of Nigeria automotive industry, making the country the regional giant in this sector. In doing so, VON is poised to launch several collaborations with world leading brands, bringing the best of technologies to the country."