THE plan to ban the importation of vehicles into the country, which is being currently canvassed by members of the House of Representatives, on paper, is a good one. It has the immediate and long-term effect of stimulating the local vehicle industry as well as the capacity to build wholly Made-in-Nigeria vehicles, which will have positive effects on the economy and overall development of the country. But, we urge caution in the implementation of this policy.
We recall that the automobile lobby has articulated claims of what it has achieved and what it can achieve if given the needed incentives and enabling environment to operate. But, our experiences so far, have not been so palatable. We recall the adventures and misadventures of some of the pioneers of the local content initiative in the automobile industry.
The exploits of Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN) in Kaduna, the Volkswagen Plant in Badagry, Lagos, Leyland in Ibadan, Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company (ANAMMCO) in Enugu and lately, INNOSON Motors in Lagos and Nnewi are already well known. But, the attempts to provide local content in the automobile industry have not been very successful. Apart from the high cost of locally manufactured vehicles, the quality of their products could not be vouched for.
But, that is the path some of the advanced countries, which have achieved local capacity in vehicle manufacturing, passed through. For the country to ban importation of vehicles, there must be adequate support for the local vehicle industry. Government must muster the economic and political will to assist the local vehicle industry develop. As we have cautioned earlier, it must be done in a manner that is devoid of deceit and undue politicking.
Our politicians and lawmakers must resist the temptation of being seen to be playing to the gallery with very important legislations which can potentially have very far-reaching effects. Have they, for example, contemplated the full implication of this legislation on the automobile industry? Are they ready to walk the talk? Are they ready to work with all the stakeholders to provide the enabling environment? Do they appreciate what it would take to have truly local automobile manufacturing companies, rather than the mere assembly plants we have had in the past?
The legislators should purge themselves of the penchant for foreign and ostentatious goods, if the local vehicle industry must be given a fillip. In the life of the 8th National Assembly, orders have allegedly been placed for many exotic and foreign vehicles for members. So, where is the seriousness of purpose for the new policy to work? Or is the intended law, as some cynics have argued, meant for the ordinary man on the street? That would have a dire outcome if that were to be so.
Rather, the legislators should make the proposed law to be complementary to the Executive Order 5, which President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed into law. The Executive Order is meant to promote the local capacity and more local participation in the oil and gas industry. It is also destined to boost the local economy and promote harmony and equity in the workplace with the overall goal of engendering peace, prosperity and wholesome development in the country. Although the law came out late, we still believe that working with the relevant government agencies such as the Nigeria Local Content and Monitoring Board, government is making a huge mark in the oil and gas sector.
This is the kind of impact we expect the new law by the federal legislators to have. But to have it, they must fix the problem of lack of adequate and sustainable power supply and issues in the steel sector. Though some progress has been made in both sectors of late, the financial outlay required to bring both sectors to function optimally is enormous and presently beyond the capacity of the nation. The new policy would require enormous sacrifices and disciplined planning by our political leaders for it to work. Unfortunately, we have not seen much of that yet.