Empowering  the auto industry

With Andy Nssien 

Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), which is in Kaduna today, was established at the same time with the one in Brazil and India. Today, the equivalent in Brazil is building ships, aircraft, armoured cars; DICON in Nigeria is producing furniture.”

The above excerpt paints a graphic picture of the dire situation which our automotive industry has become since the past years.

The grim extract emerged at the Senate recently where the upper chamber gave a nod to the second reading of the Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Bill.

Consequently, the Senate, presided by David Mark mandated the Committee on Trade and Investment to appraise the bill and send it back to plenary within two weeks for further legislative action.

The imperatives of passing this bill into law hardly require further emphasis. As the largest economy in Africa, the Nigeria needs to empower its automotive industry so as to compete favourably with other leading economies in the world.

Apart from developing a sustainable and competitive automotive industry in Nigeria, the bill when passed into law would provide the country the leverage to catch up with China, India and other leading countries in automobiles production.

However, a related bill germane to the sector, which has been left in the cooler, is that of Equipment Leasing which affects the effective operation and activities of leasing companies in Nigeria.

The Equipment Leasing Bill, now before the National Assembly, had suffered several setbacks. Passed by the Fifth National Assembly, but failed to get the presidential assent of Obasanjo’s administration on account of administrative bottlenecks, resulted in the decision of the Sixth National Assembly to retool the bill. The bill, which had gone through full legislative cycle at the previous House of Representatives, was said to have been transmitted to the Senate through First Reading before the expiration of tenure of the Sixth National Assembly. It is still cooling off at the current National Assembly.

The Equipment Leasing Association of Nigeria (ELAN), a vital player in the automobile industry, is said to be losing many business opportunities of partnering with reputable firms, not only in West Africa, but other international organisations because of the absence of this regulatory framework.

Now that the present administration is poised to re-jig the automotive industry, the efforts being made to enact a law to regulate the activities and operations in this important sector, bear approbation.

However, mere passage of the bill  is not an open sesame to transforming the automotive industry to an effective and competitive sector required to rub shoulders with other leading automobile industries in the world.

A situation where an industry operates for 24 hours or less with generating sets, would not ensure competitiveness in the global automobile space. Government’s renewed thinking and drive towards ensuring regular quality power supply is indispensability to attaining the lofty aims of this vital sector of the economy.

Although a private sector affair, there is need for government to put in place adequate policy measures to ensure that Nigerians have the necessary manpower skill to work in the automobile industry.

Needless to emphasise that policy reversals should be avoided because the country is now stewing in its own juice, becoming dependent on foreign sources for our fuel needs. A situation whereby refineries were privatised during former President Obasanjo’ administration, only to be reversed when the next government took over, readily comes to mind.

Of import, is the need for government to think less about banning used cars from coming into the country, considering the porous nature of our borders. The exercise will not only be in futility, but would result in jacking up the price of these second hand vehicles which find their way through the numerous illegal routes into the country

Also, government should give priority attention to reviving our steel and iron industry as part of the holistic approach to revamping the automotive industry.

More important, is the need for the governments at various levels to compel the Ministries, Departments and Agencies to buy locally produced cars, not only as a means of providing the market for the sector, but a launching pad for taking our youths off the streets.

Source : Independent

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