President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday foreclosed the hope of those agitating for the reversal of the new National Automotive Policy introduced by his administration last year.
The automotive policy, according to the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, was a deliberate government effort to rescue the strategic and critical automotive sector of the economy from the strangulating grip of dumping.
He said the policy, which was introduced in October last year, was aimed at giving Nigerians the opportunity for mass employment and innovation in automotive technology.
Under the new policy, imported vehicles will attract an effective tariff rate of 70% made up of 35% import duty and 35% surcharge as against the 20% collected in the past. The high tariff was imposed to discourage importation of used vehicles and revamp local assembly.
Several interest groups including the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and car dealers among others have condemned the policy.
NLC described it as “lamentable” and capable of inflicting severe pains on Nigerians. The NLC President, Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, specifically berated the Federal Government for its penchant for initiating policies capable of inflicting pains on the working people in the country.
But President Jonathan said on Thursday that the vision of his administration to revamp the capability of Nigeria’s automobile sector to export locally manufactured cars is near realisation.
Speaking at the 2014 Democracy Day celebration held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, Jonathan, who was presented with three locally assembled Nissan vehicles – a saloon car, pick-up van and SUV at the venue of the programme, said his administration had proved doubting Thomas wrong.
The President said that when he made the disclosure in 2013 that Made in Nigeria cars would be rolled out in the country in April and that Nigeria would soon be exporting cars, he was lampooned on the pages of newspapers.
He commended Nissan Group for keying into the new automotive policy of the federal government and urged other multinational auto companies to take a cue from Nissan.
After receiving the vehicles, Jonathan took the driver’s seat of one of them while Vice President Namadi Sambo took the front passenger’s seat.
Vaswani said the vehicles which meet global standards of product and technology were produced in Nigeria in pursuant to the Federal Government’s new automotive policy.
He said the plant was established following the signing of the agreement between Nissan Motor Company and West African conglomerate of the Stallion Group on October 9, 2013.
He commended the policy, describing it as a historic step towards industrial and economic rejuvenation.
He said, “We are grateful for implementing this initiative which is part of the Federal Government’s seven point agenda to attract Foreign Direct Investments and emancipate the dormant sectors of the economy.
“The evolution of automotive manufacturing sector in Nigeria would not only encourage more FDIs but stimulate industrial clusters such as original equipment manufacturers that include steel plants, glass manufacturers, aftermarket shops and transportation service providers leading to job creation and contributing significantly to the GDP.
“The current population of Nigeria can convincingly support more than half a million vehicles annually which is more than sufficient to sustain an emerging automotive industry.”
Vaswani disclosed that Stallion’s automobile facility in Lagos State was committed to producing 45,000 vehicles annually.
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