In a time of great despair in Nigeria, in a time of very bad economic stories heard and seen, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company has emerged as a signal that no matter what happens to crude oil, we can survive if we make the right efforts.
For when we hear of scores of our unsold barrels of oil we are very saddened. When we hear that the Dollar has risen to new heights against the naira, we are filled with trepidation. When we go out to buy things and are told of the new unbelievable price of the item, we wonder begin to wonder where we are heading to. Is it a bottomless pit?
The promises the government gave us before they were elected now seem so hard to fulfill, and they were our last hope…It is as if nothing is working. Then we hear of how one diligent hard working company in Nnewi is doing things that so many racists have said blacks would never be able to do – we hear of Innoson, an indigenous vehicle manufacturing outfit, and at last, we have some course to smile in the midst of our tears.
How Innoson started
Inoson is the brain-child of Innocent Chukwuma, who hails from Nnewi, that town known for producing industrialists in Anambra State.
When he started importing motorcycles, he devised a way to import them in a more efficient way; by losing the motorcycles into spare-parts, packing them up in the containers and then reassembling them in Nigeria. That way he was able to import more motorcycles than his competition and crash the price of motorcycles in Nigeria. Thus, when tokunboh motorcycles were selling for N100,000, he was able to offer Nigerians brand new motorcycles at N60,000.
When he moved into motor manufacturing many thought he would not last long, because there was no precedent of a black man manufacturing vehicles. They thought he would fold up, but the man kept surprising them.
The Ghanaian government, seeing the enormous economic possibilities that would accrue to them if they could lure this visionary to establish his manufacturing base fully in their country, sent a delegation to lobby him to do so.
Support From Jonathan Administration
We must thank the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan Administration for really supporting Innoson, buying vehicles from the company and giving them funds in the billions of naira to help them expand.
We also thank the Redeemed Christian Church of God for buying several buses from IVM.
Growing Support Under Buhari
Then came the second coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, and people said that the new administration would neglect Innoson for political and ethnic reasons. They opined that the Buhari Administration would ignore Innoson; or even shut down the company.
But rather than being shut down the company, has indeed been growing in leaps and bounds in the Buhari era. Last month a delegation from the Presidential Committee on Defense visited the company at Nnewi to inspect facilities at the vehicle manufacturing plant and see how the Nigeria’s defense sector in could benefit from the company.
One of the chairs of the visiting delegation, Professor Isaac Olawale Albert. said, “We saw at the factory, pick-up vans that can be used by the police, army, air force, navy, customs and immigration. We also saw buses that can be used to convey officers and men…“Our observation is that Nigeria can produce her own armoured vehicles for carrying out operations.”
On the 22nd of January an Army delegation also visited Innoson. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was also full of praise as it lauded Innoson for supporting its operations with its technological prowess.
A statement from the force read in part; “The Company, at a time when the NAF would have been forced to ground its entire fleet of Alpha Jets due to lack of brake assembly, had helped to locally modify and overhaul the brake assembly of the MB-339 aircraft for adoption on the Alpha Jets. This ingenious effort by IVM is instrumental to the continued operation of the Alpha Jets, and had helped to save the day when help was not forthcoming from abroad.” The Air Force also expressed hope for more the collaboration with Innoson in other areas of mutual interest.
Ben Murray Bruce of SilverBird, a high profile Senator and entrepreneur just bought a couple of Innoson cars a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and a sedan and plans to buy a bullet proof version of the SUV in the next few months. Senate president Bukola Saraki has also introduced the founder of Innoson to the head of the procurement Department of the National Assembly, possibly to facilitate the purchase of Innoson cars as official cars for National Assembly members.
Some disappointments can indeed be blessings in disguise, and it is no doubt that with the two pronged challenge of the high price of the US dollar and the ever-plummeting price of crude oil, Nigerians have begun to realize the values in diversification, looking inward and digging our wells before we get thirsty. But we must not rest on our laurels. This is just the beginning of what we must do to get full value from Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing.
The Buhari Administration needs to encourage as much as possible, the purchase of Innoson cars as official cars of all the ministries, departments and agencies within it. The President needs to make Innoson the official car within the presidency. The National Assembly not only needs to make Innoson cars the official cars of its members and staff, it also needs actively consult in order to enact favorable laws to help Nigeria’s cottage industries grow to maturity.
President Buhari needs to even go further. He needs to become the salesman-in-chief of Innoson cars as well as other Made-in-Nigeria products in his visits abroad.
What stops the president from negotiating with other countries to have them buy Innoson armored cars for their armed forces? What stops the president from negotiating with these countries to get them to lower tariffs for Innoson vehicles?
The answer is Nothing. Presidential negotiations for to sell their country’s products to other countries is the bread and butter of international politics. It brings foreign exchange, jobs and robust economic activity to their countries. That is why you’ll see the French President traveling out to negotiate the sale of Airbus planes with other countries. That is why the Russian President would go to Iran to negotiate the sale of a nuclear reactor or two to that country.
President Buhari is indeed fortunate that he has such products as Innoson vehicles to pitch. He shouldn’t waste this opportunity. If President Buhari and Innocent Chukwuma play their cards well, Innoson can become a great foreign exchange earner and job creator for Nigeria, the way Nokia phones earned real money for Finland for many, many years.