Nigeria: Jonathan commissions Innoson auto plant in Nnewi

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The plant of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited, Nnewi, was commissioned last week by President Goodluck Jonathan during his maiden official visit to Anambra State.

Chairman and chief executive of the company, Innocent Chukwuma, said the company uses 60 per cent local raw materials to manufacture all of its brands, which include 14, 26 and 35-seater buses, double cabin pick-up vans and sports utility vehicles and employs 1,600 Nigerian workers.

Chukwuma told the president at the commissioning of the plant that the mission of the company was to reduce the prices of vehicles and cut down the country’s dependence on imported vehicles, adding that the company’s mission and vision tallies with the aspiration of the Federal government geared towards making the country one of the top 20 industrialized nations in the year 2020.

He said his factory could boast of the same equipment as the ones overseas and that his technical partners are experts who know so much about vehicle manufacturing.

One major aspect of the encouragement Chukwuma pleaded for was contained in his address, which was that home-made goods are patronised by all agencies of government. “We want to appreciate the example of the Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime (who ordered hundreds of buses and refuse disposal vans from Innoson) and pray that every tier of government from Federal to Local Government and government parastatals, should emulate this patriotic act.”

He also prayed Mr. President to quicken the process of fulfilling the promise of boosting electricity in Nnewi, adding that efficient power supply will energise the hundreds of industries that have made Nnewi the Taiwan of Africa.

Other requests by Chukwuma were soft loans with not more than five per cent interest “to enable us achieve our production target”  and  tax holidays for a period of 10 years “to enable the automotive plant stabilise.”

He said: “Mr. President, we want to assure you that if these requests are granted, in two years’ time, such things like motor engine which we still import, we shall begin to manufacture them locally.”

President Jonathan lauded the plant as one that is creating employment, giving boost to government’s efforts towards economic growth and development, as well as contributing to the drive to catch up with, and possibly overtake, other countries who gained independence same period Nigeria was weaned by Britain.

“I am indeed happy that Innoson is not just assembling parts that are imported from other countries. From all indications, it is only the engine that is imported. Apart from that, every other thing is manufactured in Nigeria,” he said, praising Chukwuma for meeting the challenges of earlier time that looked insurmountable.

President Jonathan wished that many more Nigerians would emulate Chukwuma to help frog leap the country in its ambition to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Meanwhile, the manner the concept of a motor manufacturing plant came to Innocent Chukwuma, chairman and chief executive of the company in 2006, could best be likened to the vision of the man who saw a hidden treasure in a farm land, went home and sold everything he has and bought it, for when he came up with the idea, he sold everything he had and went into the venture. Even when men of Customs and Excise delayed his equipment and some sensitive materials meant to be used in production for reasons best known to them, he never gave up.

What informed his vision? Daily Independent asked. His response: “It is simply this: I was into motorcycle spare parts business originally. And when I was dealing on motorcycle spare parts, time came when people could no longer afford new motorcycles. And I discovered that new motorcycles were becoming too expensive. Then, a motorcycle was being sold for N180, 000, and I was worried. On investigation, I discovered that those who import new motorcycles did so in units in 40- feet container. By this, the cost of importing the motorcycle was higher than the cost of the motorcycles themselves. So, I traveled overseas and devised a means of dismembering motorcycles into Completely Knocked Down (CKD) parts for purposes of importing them into the country. When I did this, I got 240 pieces of motorcycles in one 40-feet container. As soon as my consignment arrived, the price of motorcycles dropped drastically because I sold at cheaper rate.

“This is the effort I made that crashed the price of motorcycle till today. I found the same thing in motor vehicles.  Everybody now go for a second hand car. Even some government offices buy second hand vehicles. The cause of high cost of vehicles is the high cost of importing them into the country. In other countries where motor vehicles are produced, vehicles are cheap. So, I decided to take a cue from what I did in my motorcycle business. I ordered those parts my factory cannot readily produce now and add them when I am assembling the vehicles. That is why I also have assembling plant just like you have them overseas. We use the parts we can produce here locally with materials I bring in from overseas to assemble the vehicles and they are of the same quality as the imported ones.

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