Nigerians may have forgotten, but the truth remains that the real concerned and well-meaning ones in their midst wouldn’t forget in a hurry on the recent move by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government as regards automobile industry.
In the same vein, this column won’t forget in haste any pledge or move made by the government, especially as it concerns technology or tech-driven measures cum policies, which remains the prime focus of the Pedestal.
It would be recalled that on Monday, 3rd September, 2018, the Federal Government (FG) under the watch of President Buhari graciously signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a German company, Volkswagen Group with a view to developing an automobile hub in Nigeria.
The two are reportedly to come up with an enabling policy framework on the proposed project. The epochal move was an offshoot of the visit of the German Chancellor, Mrs. Angela Merkel to the country.
It’s worth noting that under the bilateral arrangement, the automobile firm is expected to implement a phased approach in relation to the assembly of vehicles down to positioning the nation as an automobile hub in the entire West Africa region.
As we might have forgotten, it’s highly imperative to recall that some of these vehicles – particularly Peugeot products were being assembled here but the activity has now regrettably gone into moribund.
This, therefore, implies that the FG is required to look inwards with a view to resuscitating and boosting the aforesaid practice, which is currently considered as a lost glory. In a bid for an automobile hub, we must make frantic effort to reawaken the seeming dead foundation.
The pact equally includes raising a training academy in conjunction with the German government with the sole aim of equipping pioneer employees of the impending industry with requisite skills as well as imbuing them with the needed industrial qualities.
Definitely, establishing an academy to train the indigenous prospective workers that would kick start the hub is a welcome development as I have earlier stated. It’s thus needless to state that the MOU included the key recipe with regard to the awaited industry.
I equally opined on a sad note that such an approach is liable to collapse on arrival if the stakeholders involved failed to consider the essential factors required for its functionality. Hence, I warned that the parties in charge of the initiative must leave no stone unturned towards doing the needful.
Like I also mentioned that it’s similarly pertinent for the government to acknowledge that such an academy deserves to be sustained in the long run. In view of this idea, the institute shouldn’t be utilized only in the case of the ‘pioneer employees’.
Thus, it ought to be retained with a view to training subsequent intakes as well as upgrading the skills of those already absorbed in the system. The Automotive Policy, which was reported to be under consideration, is still awaited till this moment almost two years after.
The policy reportedly included the gradual transition from the importation of used cars to the manufacturing and distribution of new passenger vehicles in the country. It’s not anymore news that overtime issue regarding policies has bedevilled most of the activities taking place in the country.
Acknowledgement of this recurring decimal indicates that the concerned stakeholders are required to go extra mile in their move to ensure that the lofty motive of the FG is duly actualized. I have ab initio candidly suggested that the authorities involved ought to painstakingly consider all the needed parameters as they prepare the policy.
Every required factor, ranging from setting up the hub, training academy, in-service workshop/ training, to working incentives cum environment, must be holistically looked into so that nothing absolutely would be missing in the process. In view of this, the lawmakers must be meant to note the importance of the awaited policy in a bid to witnessing a wholesome deliberation.
This must not be joked over if the needed outcome mustn’t be shortchanged. At the time, an Adviser in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Bisi Daniels, disclosed that the government was committed to providing a conducive legislative environment for the production of automobiles in the acclaimed giant of Africa.
I advised as at then that such a commitment must be fully put into action if the FG is truly determined to create an industry where Nigerians as a people could boast of production of automobile machines that can be presented as well as used anywhere in the world.
The then minister, Dr. Okechukwu Emelamah, strongly affirmed that the MOU was a major step in the FG’s quest for a robust automotive industry in the country, hence assured that the government was damn prepared to achieve the tech-driven objective. I made it clear, and would still repeat it, that everything regarding the pact centres on the political will that accompanies the quest.
And as years passed by after the move, the body language of the FG has corroborated my avowal. Inter alia, for a thorough emergence and sustenance of the incoming industry, the country’s education sector must also be involved.
Hence, our technicallyinclined students need to be brought closer to realities. It’s appalling and pathetic to note that our teeming graduates in the field of Mechanical Engineering and allied disciplines cannot present the mechanism that constitute main parts of an automobile let alone manufacturing them.
It’s no longer news that in recent times, successive governments had made various lofty moves but ended up not actualizing the object of the initiative, owing to their inability to accompany the approach with candid practical steps. It’s thus unnecessary to remind the government that it’s expected to make a difference by acting differently.
As the Buhari-led administration is ostensibly determined to create a technology- driven economy, it must do everything humanly possible to separate priorities from frivolities.
The Nigerian State cannot continue to be awash with countless promises that bear no iota of genuineness. As we are gradually losing faith in the oil and gas sector, it’s needless to reiterate that time has come for the governments at all levels to pay greater and ceaseless attention to the technology sector.
There’s, therefore, no need to remind the FG that if we failed to marry the country’s tech-driven quest, by creating and sustaining the required policies, the country might be headed for a doomed state. Think about it!