Minister of Industry Trade, and Investment, Olusegun Aganga
Yemi Akinsuyi â€¨
Contrary to media reports that the federal government has placed a ban on the importation on fairly used vehicles, popularly known as "Tokunbo", the Minister of Industry Trade, and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, Thursday said the new automobile policy was not aimed at an outright ban on the importation of used vehicles.
Rather, Aganga stated that the policy would focus on promoting investments in affordable made-in-Nigeria vehicles on the long-run.
The minister spoke in Abuja, while intimating journalists with the content of the new automobile document.
The document, which is tagged: “New Automobile Industrial Policy Development,” was on Wednesday approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
But less than 24-hour after the policy framework was unveiled, there have been public outcry that it would lead to an outright ban on the importation of used vehicles into the country.
Clarifying government's position on the matter, Aganga said: “This policy will not result in the banning of the importation of vehicles in Nigeria but focus on promoting investments in affordable made-in-Nigeria vehicles that will in future minimise the importation of vehicles.”
The minister explained that what government had done was to raise tariff on importation with a view to discouraging the influx of used vehicles into the country, while also encouraging local manufacturing.
According to him, no responsible government would ban importation of used cars without putting in place viable alternative.
“The importation of Tokubo cars will not be a major threat to the plan. Production of vehicles is in stages and involves a long process. You do not remove a thing without providing a viable alternative.
“We must also continue to make sure that we educate Nigerians to understand that it is cheaper and better to buy a new car that can be serviced locally, than importing a car that after one or two years, you cannot maintain and you lose your money. We are determined to provide alternative for them,” he explained.
He lamented that while at present, the total contribution of the manufacturing sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remained at all low 4.5 per cent; auto industry alone in South Africa contributed seven per cent GDP.
On the expected benefits, Aganga added: “In many countries around the world, the automotive industry plays both strategic and catalytic roles in economic development, particularly in employment creation and wealth generation; small and medium enterprises developments (as it relates to auto parts components and services); skills development and technology acquisition."
Also speaking, the Director General, National Automotive Council (NAC), Mr. Aminu Jalal, said the policy would help to open up the industry to many international automotive manufacturers.
For instance, he said Toyota, Nissan, Renault and GM had indicated keen interest to invest in Nigeria following the development of a comprehensive automotive development plan.
He said: “These companies are now conducting a feasibility study on vehicle assembly in Nigeria, assuming that a comprehensive automotive plan will be in place. The elements of the plan, which will ensure competitiveness and increase productivity of the sector, are: industrial infrastructure improvement, skill development, standards, investment promotion, market development and ant—smuggling measure.”
In his remarks, PAN Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ibrahim Boyi, commended the federal government for the new initiative, but urged it to map out strategies for a gradual banning of importation of used vehicles.
In his words: “It is something that we have been clamouring for and something we have been hoping for. When you look at the performance of the industry, it has been a very unfortunate situation for the country.
“Apart from the environmental effects, importation of Tokunbo cars has remained a great challenge to the industry. Most of the vehicles that are being shipped into the country fall short of the stipulated environment standards of the exporting countries.”