Onajide: Automotive Sector Worst Hit by Nigeria’s Faltering Economy

Bennett  Oghifo

The Group Managing Director and Chief Executive of R.T. Briscoe, Seyi Onajide, has said that the automotive industry in Nigeria is adversely affected by the nation’s economic downturn.

Onajide, who said the sector was rosier in the 1970s and 1980s, called on the Nigerian political elites, technocrats, and other leaders of thought “to have a deep philosophical retrospection of how the country’s economy has dipped, especially after the 1970s and 1980s.”

Addressing journalists at the R.T. Briscoe Plc headquarters in Lagos, Onajide blamed the disabled state of the economy in the past 40 years on the failure of successive political actors, policymakers, and other public office holders.

While thanking President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his efforts in trying to change the narrative, he lamented the unfavorable current exchange rate. He is certain that a collective effort is needed to rebuild the economy.

According to Onajide, “part of the decline in today’s economy is not unconnected to the weak strength of the naira which a few days ago was at N1,456 to a dollar, N1,904 to one pound, and N1,885 to one euro.” He recalled that in the past “the exchange rate was 80 kobo to $1. We were more productive in 1980 than we are currently.”

He stated that 40 years ago, the key reasons for economic growth were that Nigeria was a net exporter of refined petroleum products, but that today, the country imports all refined petroleum products. 

According to him, the automobile industry, where the company has remained a huge and very strong player with an enviable track record in the past decades, is one of the most affected.

“Nigerians rode in locally assembled vehicles. Peugeot cars were assembled in Kaduna. SCOA Assembly plant, a division of SCOA Nig Plc, assembled Peugeot 404 and 504 pickups at that time. The headlamps, wiper accessories, exhaust pipes, alternators, and kick-starters were assembled/produced at the Kirikiri plant of SCOA for PAN Nigeria, for most Peugeot vehicles assembled in Kaduna. Volkswagen cars were manufactured in Lagos, Leyland and ANAMMCO produced trucks/buses in Ibadan and Enugu, respectively.”

He also recalled the glorious days of Steyr Trucks in Bauchi which assembled agricultural tractors and produced many of the components, like the vehicle seats in Lagos, and Exide batteries produced in Ibadan and exported to West Africa.

IsoGlass and TSG in Ibadan produced windshields, and Ferrodo in Ibadan produced brake pads and discs.

Dunlop and Michelin tyres were produced in Lagos and Port Harcourt. These tyres were produced at the rubber plantations located in Ogun, Rivers and the old Bendel states.

Travelers were mainly flying the Nigeria Airways across the world, and it was about the biggest in Africa at the time.

In his submission, he recalled how Nigerians listened to radio stations and watched programmes on television sets assembled in Ibadan by Sanyo and only purchased refrigerators, freezers, and air-conditioners produced by Thermocool and Debo.

Nigerians were patriotic and proud to wear clothes produced by UNTL Textile Mills, Kaduna, and Chellarams, Lagos from cotton grown in Nigeria.

He implored all Nigerians to have sober reflections, look inward, return to our patriotic nature, and think of what we can do to improve Nigeria.

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