Senators’ lip service to Made-in-Nigeria goods

The Nigerian Senate has been in the forefront of promoting made in Nigeria products. The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has, since assumption of office about a year ago, become an advocate of the #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira campaign. In addition to actively promoting the campaign on social media, the Senate President promised to support legislation to back the patronage of Nigerian goods.

On March 2, the upper legislative chamber went a step further by adopting a motion calling on the federal government to initiate and implement what it called ‘First Option Policy’ on purchase of locally manufactured goods. It said such policy would boost the economy as was the case in 1960s and 70s when local manufacturing companies were doing well.

The decision followed a motion sponsored by Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP), Abia South Senatorial District, who declared that the Nigerian economy was irrevocably going down and in serious deficit as a result of over dependence on foreign goods, which he said had suffocated local industries out of existence.

“Today, Nigeria consumes what it does not produce and the resultant effect has been a negative balance of trade, the shutting down of textile companies, battery, wood processing, cocoa and oil palm companies”, he said.

In his contribution, Ben Murray Bruce urged his colleagues to purchase only locally assembled cars. But to the chagrin of many Nigerians, the same legislative institution, barely a month after its #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira debate, spent over N1.3 billion to acquire 36 exotic Toyota Landcruisers which were not assembled in Nigeria.

Many Nigerians condemned the lawmakers’ imprudence especially at a like this when the country is battling with very lean resources.

The Transition Monitoring Group, which is a coalition of civil society organisations in the country, described the Senators’ action “ungodly” and “criminal”.

“TMG is incensed that at a time Nigerians in many states are grappling with the difficulties of living life without salaries, and the dire economic conditions biting so hard, it is provocative for Senators to be living in criminal opulence.

“Ironically, this is the same Senate led by a character currently standing trial over weighty allegations of false and anticipatory declaration of assets. It is the same institution that has been hijacked by shady figures, including their leader who has also been mentioned as one of those hiding suspicious assets in offshore tax haven, as revealed in the leaked Panama Papers.

“In defiance to extant procurement laws and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Senators have gone ahead to acquire the cars at prices that are twice the actual market value,” the Group said in line with the views of many Nigerians.

The truth is that at this difficult point in time in the history of Nigeria, it is the patriotic duty of Nigerian leaders – be they the president, ministers, governors, senators, representatives or heads of parastatals – to use made-in-Nigeria cars as their official vehicles. They have no business using foreign cars as official vehicles.

Let us look at a few foreign examples: In the US, the traditionally used presidential car is a Cadillac One made by GM, the US car company. In the UK the traditional Prime Ministerial Car refers to a number of British manufactured vehicles used by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The vehicles currently used are armoured, custom-built Jaguar XJ Sentinel supercharged 5.0-litre V8 models built by Jaguar Landrover of Britain.

The French president chooses from Peugeot or Renault, both French carmakers and the German Chancellor chooses between, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen and BMW, all German carmakers. The Emperor of Japan uses a Toyota Century, while the Prime Minister of Italy uses a Maserati.

It was very disheartening to many Nigerians that their elected representatives would spend so much public funds on the unbridled acquisition of foreign made cars while vehicle assembly plants in the country suffer lack of patronage This predilection and indeed bias for foreign cars cannot be said to be as a result of a lack of made-in-Nigeria cars.

Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company, the only indigenous vehicle manufacturing company in Nigeria for the time being, could easily have provided its SUV brand, the IVM 6490A for the official use of the government, boosting employment and stimulating the economy.

Olusegun Obasanjo, as military head of state used assembled in Nigeria Peugeot 504 as official vehicle, after which President Shehu Shagari dropped the policy. Since then leaders (including Obasanjo in his second administration) have shunned the use of locally manufactured or assembled automobiles while in office.

An important benefit of the use of locally made automobiles as official car by government officials is that it immediately raises the profile of the brand in the eyes of the public – making it more attractive to consumers – which can lead to a jump in orders, job security and job creation. But by not using locally made cars, the government sends a message that it is only paying lip service to its National Automotive Policy and the buy Nigeria campaign.

Security and the need for armoured plated cars can be cited as reasons for going for foreign made cars as opposed to locally made cars, but that is something that customization of locally made cars can easily take care of. If the Defence Industries Corporation (DICON) is not a white elephant project there is no reason for it not to be able to properly amour the official cars of top government functionaries. Alternatively, there are private armourers that render such service today in the country that could be contracted to do so by the government. Charity must begin at home.


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