25 July 2014

Nigeria: Auto Imports Indecisions


NEXT month, the National Automotive Council, NAC, would be 21 years old. Its mandate in Act 84 of 25 August 1993 is to ensure the survival, growth and development of Nigeria's automotive industry using local human and material resources.

NAC was to drive employment generation, technology acquisition, and effective utilisation of local raw materials in Nigeria's automobile industry. Ultimately, NAC was to fund research in the making of the Nigerian car, an automobile that would have most of its components from local materials, and the artistry of Nigerian engineers in order to save Nigeria money - and jobs that are lost to imports.

The best part of the 21 years has seen NAC officials complaining about the failures of the industry, allusion to inability to produce the Nigerian car, which accounts for the policy flips on vehicle importation. Without a local car manufacturing industry, importation becomes the only option.

Few would remember the politician Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, an electrical/electronics engineer, and a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic, Owerri, who made prototypes of his first ever all-African car which he named Z-600 in 1997.

BBC's Hilary Andersson described it as the all-African dream machine, made for the family market with a top speed of 140km (86m) per hour. Ninety per cent of its parts were sourced locally. It would have cost $2,000 to own one, which would have made it the cheapest car in the world. In 2005, South African authorities wanted Izuogu to build the car in their country.

NAC never looked Izuogu's way. Armed men stole all the manuals, designs, engine blocks and completed prototypes of Z-600 from Izuogu's workshop in 2006. The dream died.

According to Section 9 (a) of its Act, NAC earns, "Two per cent of the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value of all imported, Fully Built Units (FBU) auto component spare parts, Completely Knocked Down (CKD) and raw materials brought in for the automotive subsector."

NAC Director-General Mr Aminu Jalal once lamented that Nigeria imported about 50,000 new and 150,000 used vehicles yearly. "Nigerians spend an average of N400 billion on importing passenger cars and by the time you add trucks and other vehicles, the amount Nigerians spend on imported vehicles will be running to N600 billion annually."

An annual expenditure of N600 billion on vehicle imports translates to N12 billion annual revenue for NAC. How much revenue accrued to NAC in 21 years? Was the money invested in research of the Nigerian car? What has NAC done in 21 years?

Last year Jalal said the Made-in-Nigeria vehicle in 2017 was no longer realistic. It would be a belittling anniversary for the prototype launched 20 years earlier.

NAC should worry about its relevance.


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