The nation’s auto policy as currently being implemented has led to a huge loss of jobs in the industry, the Chairman, Toyota Nigeria Limited, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo, has said.
For instance, he said the TNL was forced to disengage quite a number of its workers between 2014 and this year when the 70 per cent import tariff slammed on vehicles when the auto policy became effective.
Ade-Ojo, who spoke in Lagos with other experts including the Chief Executive Officer, Economic Associates, Dr. Ayo Teriba; and the Managing Director, Subaru Motors, Kofi Sagoe, however, said the policy could take the nation to the destination of making it a regional hub if well planned and effectively executed.
They spoke at a one-day workshop organised by the Automotive and Allied Products Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the theme, ‘Viability and Growth in the auto industry’.
But the Director, National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Lukuman Mahmud, said the policy was well thought out and that the council had duly consulted and involved everybody in its implementation.
Ade-Ojo said, “Right now, I don’t know how many people have lost jobs as a result of the new approach. But they are many. I have had to downsize because we are only one fifth about what we used to have.”
Although his company had announced its plan to establish a Toyota assembly plant in Nigeria, he said, “we were hurried and the necessary things we should have done have not been done.”
According to him, the decision was taken to meet the emergency situation as he described the current posture by some of those in the assembly plant project as pretentious.
Ade-Ojo said, “I can say that the pretentious assembly plant project that is going on currently cannot take us anywhere because it was made to just help some people.
“An industry like the automobile is not one you just wake up and start. We cannot just wake up and say within three years we should start to assemble vehicles. It needs serious planning.”
The TNL chairman said unless the auto policy was given a holistic review and properly executed with the involvement of all stakeholders, the efforts could fail again and it would hurt the nation badly.
He said, “We must therefore sit down to plan in the interest of everybody in the industry. There is room for everybody including those who have benefitted and those who did not benefit from the emergency situation.
“This is my honest view. At 77, I’m not the kind of person who will tell you lies. I’ve been in this business for 41 years having started in 1971. Foundation in anything is very important. If you put up a weak foundation, it will crumble.”
According to him, Africa is the next region for development. Adding that those who have made tons of money in America and other places need to spend it somewhere.