A recent donation of special military vehicles by the chairman of Innoson Group, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, to the military and other related security organisations, brings to reality a burning desire after the abduction of Chibok school girls to contribute towards the end of the insurgency in Nigeria, writes Kasie Abone
Entering his office on April 15, 2014, a day after the Boko Haram insurgents attacked and kidnapped over 200 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State and took them on a long harrowing journey into the Sambisa Forest, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma wore a distant and pensive look. He barely said a word of welcome to my utter surprise. I had earlier secured an interview appointment for that day with this Nnewi-born innovator and entrepreneur who has continued to delight Nigerians with his ingenuity before the incident and had arrived Enugu the night before to keep the appointment. So, why wasn’t I welcome? I wondered while sitting facing him.
Looking beyond me with his gaze fixed on a TV screen fitted on the wall directly facing his desk he said, with that faraway look on his eyes “look at those innocent school children; What offence did they commit by going to school?” I was forced to look back to the direction of the noise from the TV if at least to find out what could be the cause of his concern. Right there was a live telecast of the ugly incident of yesterday on CNN news. “Those children could have been my children. I could have sent one of my daughters to that school to study. What offence did they commit just by going to school? Are they the cause of Nigeria’s problem? Are they part of the policy makers? Why would anybody hold them responsible for the challenges the country is passing through? Questions and more questions,” he asked to nobody in particular.
But what can we do? It’s all government fault and responsibility. I chipped in. His response made me shift my blame game position. In an emotion laden voice he interjected, “We can do something. All of us can do something. Kasie, you are a journalist; you can do something. We can all join hands to save these girls and stop future occurrence of this type of attack on our children.”
In fact, with that mood I felt a tinge of regret and guilt for not feeling enough the pulse of the nation at the time for keeping the interview appointment. But I had a duty. Though the interview eventually held but I must confess I traded cautiously not to irk further his already bad state of mind.
Two years down the line, Dr. Chukwuma has demonstrated that he can indeed do something to end the cankerworm called Boko Haram that has been making life miserable for Nigerians especially those from the North Eastern part of the country. His indigenous auto company, Nnewi-based Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) made history again when he delivered some military vehicles to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai at the tactical headquarters of Operation Lafiya Dole at Maimalari Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno State. His action was in response to the troubling need to address the dearth of equipment that had hindered military operations in their fight to contain the extremists. Recall that the soldiers had once threatened to down tools for inadequate provision of weapons to fight the insurgents.
In a phone conversation, Dr. Chukwuma not only affirmed the cheering news to THISDAY but added that the IVM G12 series wholly designed for military operation has the ruggedness and capacity to penetrate any part of Sambisa Forest without difficulties. “Yes, it is true that we delivered some military vehicles to the Nigerian Army.” To emphasise the singular reason for designing such vehicle he continued, “in designing the IVM G12 series we are guided by the urgent need to rescue our remaining daughters who are held captive in harrowing conditions inside the bowels of the notorious Sambisa Forest. Those vehicles can enter any part of Sambisa Forest no matter how difficult the terrain.”
Reacting to the development in a telephone conversation, Major Kanayo O. Okafor (rtd), described Innoson’s gesture as a welcome development. In his words “What Innoson did was splendid. I was excited to hear it. That is what the military needs at this time because the military is stretched because they have been fighting many wars. In the history of Nigeria’s military there is no time they have been so stretched. There are so many theatres of operations that overstretch men and resources especially with the economic recession Nigeria is passing through at this time. Apart from during the civil war, the resources of the military have never been as stretched as they are now. Again, operational zones are far from each other and so they require a lot of resources. So, what Innoson and his team have done is a welcome development and coming from no other person than Dr. Chukwuma himself, a detribalised patrotic Nigerian is not a surprise.”
Described as a highly mobile and tactical pick up van with double reinforced shock absorber, the IVM G12 series was also designed with great strength and ability to cope with military functions especially in our North-east terrain.
It was learnt that Innoson management had prior to the formal presentation, sent sample design of the vehicles to the Army Chief for test running. The military drivers who test ran the vehicles attested to their superb off road performance highly suitable for their military operations across the difficult terrain and dangerous environment they operate from.
Buratai who described Innoson boss in glowing terms, praised his company’s visionary efforts in manufacturing locally made vehicles that can serve the specific needs of the military. He assured him that the military will keep fate with the partnership deal entered with IVM in producing special purpose vehicles for their military operations.
It would be recalled that in order to successfully prosecute the war against insurgents in the North-east geopolitical zone of the country, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) earlier signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Air Force for research, development and promotion of spare parts for its fighter jets to sustain joint activities as well as maintenance of the Nigerian Air Force Air Assets and other associated Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE). Innoson is equally collaborating with the Nigerian Army authority for the manufacture and supply of armored and bullet-proof vehicles.
The latest efforts at equipping the military in the fight against insurgency was no doubt a further demonstration of Chukwuma’s uncommon passion and unshakable commitment to the unity, progress, peace and prosperity of all within the Nigerian nation by consistently researching and developing spares, tools and equipment towards providing the desired support to government in their efforts to end their devastating menace of the notorious Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east of Nigeria; a menace that has brought untold hardship, economic strangulation not just for that region by which has transcended the Northern boundaries to the length and breadth of this country in recent times.