Ritchie EjioforFriday, February 7, 2014
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have pondered since I stumbled on the web, the "Made in Nigeria vehicle" by an indigenous manufacturing company, based in Nnewi, Anambra State. I was initially excited and elated at the prospect of having a vehicle DNA, originating from Nigeria in my lifetime. My mind quickly raced through my teenage soccer playing days at Volkswagen training soccer camp in Lagos, where very arrays of talented, untapped resourceful teenagers and youths of diverse background sweated hard every Saturday morning and Sunday to engaged in soccer marathon round robin trials and training in hope of working eventually for Volkswagen Nigeria while plying the soccer skill. It was not until the news broke out that late Abiola and Pat Utomi took over ownership and management of the assembly plant that it went into abeyance and cosigned to the dustbin of invalid history, and the rest of the story is too well known to deserve further information.

I do remember with nostalgia, the era of P.A.N (Peugeot Assembly plant) Kaduna, where they assembled the very popular udoji award purchase (Hire purchase) vehicle, the Peugeot 504's (ososmagana, and 505's) with their distinctive very loud air conditioning noise in the 1970's through the 1980's. I also recalled vividly, the failed attempt by Engineer turned politician Izeogwu whose fabled attempt to build made in Nigeria car failed, not forgetting others who have attempted and got nipped at the start of such venture. The Biafra war produced war-time remedies and innovation, including armored makeshift vehicles which the cash strangled Eastern region produced with scrapped metal.

The Nnewi miracle no doubt needs be applauded for having taken the leap from the dust of previous failed efforts and also for tackling the bull by the horn. But my initial excitement when all the euphoria cleared bring to fore, pertinent questions. I would not categorize myself as an automotive mediocre, having spent the last 8 years of 11 years automotive experience so with Toyota, North America, besides my earliest forays in early 2001 with Hyundai / Mazda Motors. I have attended numerous and extensive training from university of Toyota, California from 2006 when I became certified in addition to continuously maintaining Expert & Master Certification status till present till. I can comfortably without prejudice, make an assessment on Nigerian foray into the process of automotive production and make a constructive critique of the process and the regulatory compliance outcome thereof.

The preparedness for a made-in-Nigeria vehicle should trigger in our minds serious safety concerns and issues pertaining to the overall preparedness to meet globally acceptable standard of care. Of particular importance is periscope of with our lackadaisical government regulatory compliance system or absence of it thereof. Nigerians have an avalanche of inventors who are capable of competing with the best out there, and am very confident, that given the necessary tools and guidelines, they can surpass their peers. My worries primarily is, I found no nowhere on the web or from the made in Nigeria website which that stated or addressed, what the safety rating for the Made- in- Nnewi vehicle is, I am uncertain what other safety mechanism, like airbags, crumple zones, crash test rating, roll over rating, gas mileage, traction control, stability control, seat restraints, seat belts safety of the proposed made -in Nnewi vehicle. To get to the level of final production, so many proto-type model of such vehicle must be destroyed for testing and a tool for improving or checking the accuracy of mechanism before final production is embarked. I am not sure if there are any government regulatory agencies, geared towards consumer protection and safety check list done. If there are, I am yet to peruse any in-depth studies or test outcome or extensive crash testing or basic standard of safety on the proposed vehicle. It is not just the exterior beauty that defines the vehicle desirability, it is normally whether, the vehicle is safe enough to be driven in other countries? Is the manufacturing company insured in the event of defects, accidents resulting from safety non conformity or standard not met?

If the safety condition was met let's assume it is, the question is, does there exist another overseer agency for regulatory purposes? Most people who buy and purchase, generators in Nigeria, always remember how they are given the option- original or Taiwan? The question is how did both get cleared and allowed to be sold in Nigeria without warranty? This is the Nigerian factor in regulatory standardization that seems to bother me a lot.

The automobile manufacturing industry provides a platform for the growth and emergence of other industries such as battery, tires, leather, electrical suppliers and other component parts manufacturing, including creating of retail sales outlet (franchises/dealerships) to sell their products and a financial services arm to provide loans for their vehicles. In addition, there must be a service and parts department to repair their products and to sell parts. Next to this is the issue of warranty to buyers/customers which provides peace of mind for their investment.

When the entire picture is comprehended viz-a-vis Nigerian preparedness, I guess someone out there will understand clearly my apprehension and anxieties with the news of intended launch of the First ever made in Nigeria vehicle is made.

The solution is very simple and the process that have been tested and used globally become the guiding principle. The local content for the vehicle must be above 60% percent sourced in Nigeria. We as a people must embrace the culture of due diligence and follow through with minor details. The DNA of the vehicle is symbolic with the National identity of the producing country-Nigeria. The regulatory agencies will ensure that the various parts, accessories and locally source parts and imported component needs strict standard procedure. It should be devoid from politics and the revenue potential and employment contribution to the country is enormous. This may just be the beginning of the bigger picture, but we must lay a solid foundation.

Issues like these are what should draw the attention of the House of Representatives and senators and not who joins A.P.C or who defects to P.D.P. The average Nigerians who are going to buy this vehicle need to be protected from a failure to properly legislate safety. Somebody, some agencies should be held responsible.