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Fawehinmi: Why Senate can’t compel FG to sack Magu

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Mohammed Fawehinmi, scion of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi law dynasty in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, speaks on the Senate, Presidency’s face-off, rejection of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, former Adamawa state’s governor, Bala Ngilari’s post-conviction bail, democratization of SAN award and sundry issues

    There seems to be a crack in the Senate, Presidency relationship over the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu’s rejection as the agency’s czar by the Senate. What does this portend for the nation’s fledgling democracy? The issue of face-off between the legislature and the executive will definitely slow down a lot of things in the country and it will heat up the polity unnecessarily.

In my view, I heard the Senate said it will suspend the confirmation of the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) which is highly desirous at the moment because the president has refused to sack Magu. In the first place, where is it written in the Constitution that the Senate can give the president orders he must comply with? You see, this 8th Assembly, I don’t know where they got their ideas from and I think they should talk to the lawyers amongst them for proper advice.

The best they can do is to advice the president with regards to some of their actions. For instance, on their stand over Magu’s nomination, they can talk to the president and give their reasons.

If the president looks at it, he can discuss with the Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister for Defence, Minister for Internal Affairs and others that are relevant. They put heads together and come up with something.

If the president still believes that Magu can continue to act, then, so be it. But, for the Senate to now make it mandatory, I think they have no right to do that.

They are not in a position to instruct the president. It’s an insult and they have gone beyond their bounds already. With this, they want to hold the whole country to ransom.

These are people who earn N36million each a month; a salary which is not even accorded to either the president or the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who does ten times the work they are doing.

First and foremost, I think that they should not be earning more than N4million a month. That is sufficient for them. Many ex-governors used the Senate as an enclave for hiding out. They don’t give any meaningful contributions and from my view personally, I don’t see why the Senate is still there.

The Representatives with all due respect, are more responsible, more concerned and more attentive to the needs of Nigerians in terms of doing their duties as legislators and also carrying out their oversight functions.

The reverse is what is happening in the Senate, they have always been given us problems. So, I believe that the Senate can be scrapped. We can only have the House of Representatives as they are more widely spread.

We can convert the Senate building into something more meaningful. Let’s forget about these people as doing away with them will not be tedious. It can be done through a referendum where people will have to decide whether the Senate goes or stays. If majority says Senate should go, so be it. Then, an amendment can then be carried out on the Constitution.

What is your take on the postconviction bail granted a former Adamawa state governor, Bala James Ngilari?

I am impressed with the fast speed with which his case was concluded. When he was in power, he was not sick. But he became indisposed when he was convicted of corruption.

How can the court grant him bail after been convicted? I am sorry for the judge who granted him bail. Some of these judges need to go for re-orientation.

This is because I cannot fathom a situation where a man that was convicted was later granted bail on health reasons by the court; it’s nonsense. The judge involved should be punished seriously for that affront on the judiciary.

The best thing the judge ought to have done is to grant the convict access to proper medical care which he must pay for. My late dad had many cases on that issue.

What is your assessment of the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) since its inauguration? Well, the committee has tried.

I also heard when Prof. Sagay said even if the Senate failed to confirm Magu, he can go on as Acting chairman. Well, in that view, if it suits the president, it’s a good advice.

But Prof. Sagay must do something for us. He must liaise properly with the EFCC to help them clean up the evidence it have so that convictions can be easily attained.

Overall, I will give the committee 50 per cent but they still need to offer advice to the anti-graft agencies of government. Prof. Sagay is well respected and I believe a man like that advising the president will do a lot for us.

What positive impact would you say the fight against corruption of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has had on the polity?

It has given a lot of drama because it is mostly in newspapers and the Television. But we need to secure convictions like it was done in the case of a former Adamawa state governor, Bala James Ngilari.

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice should take a proper look at some of these cases and fine-tune them. This is because if we don’t achieve anything meaningful at the end of this year and have some of the high profile cases determined on time and people convicted, it’s useless; it will just be mere propaganda.

You also know that one-third of the people in the Senate have case with the EFCC. Magu too should do his job; he must be more aggressive. It is his sluggishness that has put him in this trouble.

What I am saying in essence is that I have not really seen any positive impact the current fight against corruption has had on the polity. In fact, a lot of people are now looking at it as just a programme of entertainment.

So, the president must be serious with it. It’s good to fight corruption but we must get people who can do it because this is the last chance for Buhari to do any meaningful thing in Nigeria, if he loses this chance, God forbid what I am thinking should happen in this country.

Some lawyers are rooting for the democratisation of the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), do you share their view? Well, I may not agree with the call for the democratisation of the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria because it is a priviledge and not a right.

In judiciary, there are certain things that are considered before any lawyer is awarded SAN. Apart from the lawyer being brilliant and meeting the criteria, there are certain other things involved.

These include the lawyer’s outlook, his or her relevance to the society, whether the person is competent enough to advise a state governor and make the state very rich or advice the president and just turn everything around.

Someone like Fashola is a Senior Advocate of reputable standings. Look at what he did in Lagos. It was on that basis that he was made the Minister of Housing, Power and Works by the president.

Despite this, we still have a number of SANs who have questions to answer pertaining to how they become silks. So, I do not agree with the democratisation of the award of SAN which when awarded is only a priviledge by the Priviledges Committee of the legal profession.

Apart from the politics of old where someone like my father suffered for about 21 years before he was given, if you study the politics of judiciary, you will understand why the award is like that.It’s more like a political appointment where people are selected because of certain qualities.

PDP is embroiled in intra-party crisis which has hindered the party from effectively playing the role of an opposition party in the true sense of it. What do you think will be the implications of not having an effective opposition party in the nation’s political land scale?

Well, we have always had a one party state, even when PDP was in power.

Don’t also forget that APC was formed by politicians that dumped PDP. It is only when a party like the National Conscience Party (NCP) comes up as a formidable opposition that either the APC or the PDP can be challenged.

I don’t know what Sherrif and Makarfi are fighting over and for them to be fighting like that shows that PDP is truly dead. I think it was Obasanjo that killed the party from the day he asked one of his aides to tear his membership card.

I have a lot of respect for the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun, but he has a lot of work to do. There are two camps in APC, the Tinubu and the Atiku camps. This did not augur well for the party.

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Mass production of local products’ll curb smuggling’

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Mr. Ralph Osayameh is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GF Investment Group. In this interview with BAYO AKOMOLAFE, Osayameh insists that mass production of local products will reduce cases of smuggling in the country, stressing that economy diversification into agriculture and mineral resources hold the ace for economic recovery, among other sundry issues.

 

What is your take on the Federal Government’s Export Expansion Grant (EEG)’s modification?
It is a good step in the right direction. We need to stimulate export. From the way it is being executed now, both Nigerians and foreigners can benefit from it and don’t forget that the creation of the free zones are intended to leverage on the perception of government as well. I think it is a step in the right direction.
Nigeria is an import-driven country. We even import fuel when we have the crude to be refined. Government is making efforts to stop importation of rice and other products and it has not deemed it necessary to stop fuel importation by focusing on local refining. And we need to ask ourselves: why has it been impossible to refine fuel locally? It is one of the unfortunate developments in our political system. I read recently the amount of money being voted for the usual turnaround of the three refineries, which have refused to perform. Sell these so-called gigantic national assets and diversify. You can even do quite manageable refinery at less cost with less problem. But part of what government has done, which is quite possible, is what they have done to Dangote. The Dangote refinery will do quite a lot in this direction.

Has Nigeria come out of recession as claimed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)?
Technically, yes. We have got out of the economic recession with a very small margin. But in practice and with regard to what we have and the potential of what we have to do for the future, we are really not far from where we were before. It is a very slim margin and many economists are worried that these indices that you are flagging do not support the fact that we can be out of the woods for a very long time. We are still on mono product economy, we have a much-bloated expenditure profile and the projection does not even support the indices.

If the current economic level cannot be sustained, what other ways would you suggest for us to overcome this fragile economy?
Let me state clearly that the projection for 2018 budget tends to stipulate that we are going to have oil output of 2.3 million barrels. That is not sustainable, given the kind of oil cut that is now predominant in oil market and other oil climes. But having said that, the agricultural sector that we have been drumming support for over the years, which can take us out of the doldrums, is not being vigorously pursued. I must commend the present minister of agriculture, who said we are going to be self-sufficient in area of rice production in the future. But we need to do a lot more in the area of mineral resources for which this country is so richly blessed and which can re-order our pattern in revenue profile. We have not done much in that direction. What are we doing with limestone? What are we doing with gold? What are we doing with many other mineral deposits we have in this country? The truth is that we haven’t done much at all and these are being left to ordinary artisans. I think we need to articulate this better and until we re-direct the economy from the current apathy towards major products, I don’t think it is not sustainable.

How do you think government can suppress smuggling of rice in order to attain self-sufficiency?
By the time we over-supply, based on the abundance of evidence that we have, we can then crash the prices and smuggling will become unattractive. By the time the strategy is formalised in the next two to three years, Nigeria will become net exporter of rice and even if we don’t become net exporter, we will satisfy our local demand and consumption. Then, tell me what will be the urge to bring some quantity of rice through smuggling. That is not to suggest that even if we produced adequately for our use, we should create a situation whereby we manage all these influx of things that are not desirable. Now that people are eating local rice – the Ofada rice – then, the foreign taste will go down. Some of us are now patronising local fabric. If we do that, the message will be clear that this is a new initiative. Patronise what is Nigeria and, at the same time, boycott foreign products. I am not concerned about smuggling. You cannot even eliminate smuggling totally. By the time you have increased internal production, you will totally wipe off external products.

How has the policy of Single Treasury Account (TSA) and foreign currency restriction on certain imported items helped to grow the Nigerian economy?
Well, if there is any sector that has done well, it is the banking sector, particularly the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). We are totally dependent on import and that is why the exchange rate went beyond the roof to almost N550 to the dollar. But because of so many cries and exercises, we have been able to get it back to normal.
The Treasury Single Account (TSA) has done very well also because a lot of leakages came up. One government agency will have as many as 200 bank accounts without any control. Now, they have been able to centralise these, to a large extent, not totally. So, wastages have been controlled. Also, you can have complete control of what is available by way of disposable revenue in a more transparent manner, unlike what it was before whereby accounts were kept all over the place and with the TSA, a lot of money had been earned.
Don’t forget the Bank Verification Number (BVN), whereby CBN limits cash flow by way of ‘corruption money’. If anybody has to open an account now in three to four different places, the BVN can now do a summary of all of them. So, it limits corruption and if it is sustained, it will be better for us. So, with the exchange rate management, foreign exchange will no longer be granted for certain import items. The effective implementation of BVN and TSA in the country will be better for us all.

So, why are people evading tax in Nigeria?
Well, my own submission on this is that there is nothing good in moving money from your own domain to a place where you can avoid tax. If you legitimately move money for investment purpose from one area to another, based on universality of money, there is nothing bad in it. But for you to move money from one area to another, just because you want to hide it or because you don’t want people to know about it because you want to avoid tax, I don’t think there is anything good about it. But, unfortunately, it has become a universal phenomenon. The rich will always be richer and they discuss among themselves to find out how to avoid tax. It is the ordinary man who cannot hide his income that bears the brunt. One thing is that whatever is not desirable is not desirable.
I am not against free flow of fund all over the world. It is universal; money can flow. After all, we were talking of direct foreign investment. If money can flow in to do business here, why not? Legitimately, they bring it in; it is recorded at CBN that foreign money had flown in. If they want to repatriate, they can, if they want to have dividend, they can repatriate it. That is good money. But it is bad if it is for the purpose of avoiding tax and laundering. This can be termed as corruption in another way.
The banks today are declaring jumbo profits even when they have mountain of bad debts, which should ordinarily eat up their profit going by the prevailing financial reporting standards. Despite their huge profit, their interest rate is high. Some experts have accused them of window dressing.

Do you think Nigeria has capacity to address economic challenges?
It is a question of perception. There is an economic team led by the vice president and they are doing a good job. It was very visible during the regime of Obasanjo because we had a dominant president and a dominant minister of finance who doubled as chairperson of the economic team, which was Okonjo Iweala. You know the vice president has brought intellectualism into governance. They are doing a lot of things quietly. Everything cannot be fixed in one day. The only thing I want them to do really is that they should be consistent and they should find solution to the problem of power supply.
Permanent solution to the problem of power supply is a major variant in any development programme for any country. If we cannot even have supply within the economic sector; particularly the manufacturing sector, that is not good for business. No foreign investor would want to start investing in generators to power his or her business. I remember that somebody said some time ago when he was making sarcastic comment that Nigeria is the best economy in Africa and one of the best in the world. For a generator-based economy to be one of the best, then something must be wrong. We must find a common solution to the power problem. There are so many opportunities these days. We can have a modern system that is solar-based; we can have organisations that are within some geographical location that can have something like that. I think it is one of the issues that government must look into. State governments don’t need to spend money to get power supply into the grid and if any state government can do it, let them do it and let them face competition for the survival of the fittest.

You said the vice-president and his economic team are doing fairly well when we have not witnessed inflow of foreign direct investment through the campaign for the ease of doing business in Nigeria. How will you justify your comment about the economic team?
You saw the classification of Nigeria some time ago. From about 120 rating, the country has moved 24 points within two years circle. If this is sustained, it means that even by projection, in another five years or 10, we are going to move by 50 points. This country is still a very fertile ground for investors to come in. In which country in the world do you think you can have a return on investment of about five to 10 per cent? In the developed economy, you will be lucky to have modicum of investment return. But here, you can have five to 10 per cent returns. Despite all the challenges such as lack of power supply, poor infrastructure, the investors are still willing to come because they know this is a fertile ground. But we must put our house in order. This is a regime that started well. If they can continue like this in another five years’ time, the story will be quite different. So, we are on the right track and I suggest that if it is maintained, we can get better.

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Olateru: There’s no reason for aircraft accident probe delay beyond 1 year

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Akin Olateru is Nigerian, United Kingdom and United States licensed aircraft maintenance engineer. In this interview with WOLE SHADARE, he speaks on factors that have elongated the release of accident reports, plan by his agency to release six more crash reports before the end of February and the turn around of AIB to meet challenges of modern accident

 

 

 

The recently concluded accident investigation report writing course is an eye opener and critical aspect of accident reporting, what is the essence of the summit to aviation investigation?
This is end of the training session for accident investigation report writing and this has been conducted by (Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA). BAGAIA is Africa’s accord group represented by seven countries. The whole idea is training of accident investigators to make sure we develop regionally and that is the whole essence.

This is why the commissioners from BAGAIA; the CEO for BAGAIA Caj Frostell, is the one that took this training on accident report writing. Report writing is very important. When I came in 2017, we found out that more than half our investigators had not been trained and training is one of the key pillars of my administration. It is training training and training. You can’t have it better. The essence of report writing is if you are speaking and the other person does not understand, it means you are not communicating.

To ensure that we communicate, you ensure that reports cannot be faulted anywhere in the world. This is why we strengthen our capacity in terms of report writing. Because you investigate accidents, you come up with your safety recommendations and you present your report to the world.

Our reports can be assessed anywhere in the world. Since November last year; even on your phone, you can download our AIB App, you can see or download reports of accident investigation and this is the essence of it and also we make sure we extend this course to other stakeholders.

Nigeria Air force is represented, Nigeria Navy, DSS are represented in this training because when there is a crash and it is a breach of Annexe 17, which deals with aviation security, the practice is that we involve the Directorate of State Service (DSS). DSS are our own Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and this is purposely to join us in investigating accidents that have elements of breach of Annexe 17.

This is the first time in the history of AIB that the DSS is engaged in this type of training. It is very important for them to understand what we do for them to be able to marry it to their mandate. It is not when there are issues, that we start informing them. They need to be informed. I look forward to bigger and better coordination within all security agencies and AIB to the benefit of mankind and to the entire aviation industry.

What other benefits are there for Nigeria?
For Nigeria, we just had a team of accident investigators – about 18 of them. They have not had a five day training course since they were engaged in 2013. It is a very good way to move forward. They have not been trained on the basic function accident investigation in accordance with Annexe 13. The five day course that happened about two months ago, ICAO came to train us. Now we have gotten BAGAIA to train on report writing, which is a very important component of accident investigation.

Report writing is a very important function because normally, it is the sync of the accident investigation’s basic training and for people who investigate, they become very good investigators. The objective of the whole accident investigation is prevention of accidents and incidents to prevent more and the need to have safety recommendations and then you need to take safety actions to correct those deficiencies .

The safety recommendations, that is the whole objective of the investigation because those are the ones that leads to safety actions. So, how do you write effectively so that deficiencies are clearly known and proper actions are taken? The essential part is the report writing. You see, at times when you do a proper investigation, the report writing is lacking with the problem not being understood.

How do you ensure that accident reports are well written and fast/tracked and ensure that investigations are concluded in good time?
There are guidelines. Major investigations ideally should be concluded within a year. Sometimes, there are technical reasons that may make it take long. But ideally, it is within a year but for smaller accidents, it should be within six months. The international regulatory material is very clear. It states that reports should be made public and publicly made available.

The right way to do that is to post it on the website of the investigation agency so that anybody who so wishes can see the final reports download them for the information and use.

You talked about the laboratories that government has given approval for speedy completion. Could you let us into that project?
Thank you very much. The laboratory is called flight safety laboratory. We started the process in 2008 but the completion of the project was done in 2012, that was about five years ago. You can imagine you started this in 2008, a lot has happened. Aviation is a very highly dynamic industry. Things change by the day. Take for instance, aviation security.

Prior to 2000, the way we travelled was different. There was nothing like body scanners, nobody searches, you just go. Since 2002, things have changed. So, when you talk of aviation security in 2018, it is a complete ball game.

It is the same with accident investigation; a lot have changed. I will give you a few examples. Because of most incidents that happened, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has ruled that all aircraft must have Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and we need to upgrade the equipment we use in download to tell us the story. In the Dana accident case for instance, everybody died. In the Police Helicopter crash, everybody died.

There was nobody to tell us the story. It was only the CVR and Flight Data Recorder (VDR) that can tell us what happened as regards the conversation between the pilot and controller. This is why it is very important. Laboratory is very key to what we do. It is about the heart of our investigative activities. It is very important to us. Another benefit of the upgrade is to lead the region.
The flight safety laboratory as you aware, we have two laboratories.

The material science laboratory and the flight safety laboratory; It is where we have FDR and the CVR downloads. This contract was executed 2012. They started it in 2008 and finally executed due to whatever reason in 2012. By that time, as at today, look at it very well, the software is obsolete.

If you buy your computer in 2008 and compare it with what we have in 2018, you need to upgrade the software. There must be some upgrade. It is just to upgrade what we have and to incorporate very important component. which is the training side of it.

This is part of this contract, to continuously train people on how to use the equipment and the analysis of the data is the one that is most critical and you can’t train an expert in one week. It is an ongoing thing and that is the whole essence of the upgrade. Thank God for the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the upgrade was approved penultimate Wednesday for us to do proper accident investigation.

Just recently, your organisation was asked to investigate a crash in Sao Tome. Does that show that Nigeria has come of age in accident investigation?
Most countries in BAGAIA look up to us. We have already taken that leadership decision. We currently investigated Sao Tome accident. For the first time in the history of AIB, we were elected to investigate the Sao Tome crash. That was what happened last year. That accident report has been concluded. Prior to this training, we just concluded the final review of accident investigation.

For the first time in the history of AIB, accident investigations are concluded in six months. This has never happened before. We had accidents that happened in 2009 and are still investigating. Under my watch, accidents will be investigated and concluded within one year.

You have just spent one year in office, from the basis of this training, what is your projection going forward into 2018? How would you look back in the last one year as the CEO of AIB so far?
One year to me to the glory of God was an excellent year. I came in January 13, 2017. I did a review. We had 27 pending accident reports when I came in. Some dates back to 2005 and we were in 2017. I was wondering what really went wrong. Just like the Commissioner BAGAIA said, accident investigation should be concluded within a year.

We set everything in motion. Funding was another problem. In carrying out accident investigation, you need a lot of resources; manpower and finance. We pushed everything in motion and through the support of the Minister of State for Aviation, he gave us maximum support for that and we did what we were supposed to do.

To the glory of God, we released 11 reports by December 2017. One year, 10 final reports and one safety bulletin are some of the things we did last year. By the end of first quarter this year, we will be releasing another six and that will make it 16 out of the 27 we inherited.

That is how far we have done. Now, we simplify our processes. Now, you can download our app, AIB Nigeria app where you can report accidents. You don’t have to come to our office to file paper. We try to eliminate all these bottlenecks in reporting accidents. We were invited by BAGAIA to investigate the accident in Sao Tome. As I speak today, the final review of that accident report has been concluded. That means that we have concluded that accident investigation in six months. That is the first ever in the history of AIB to have started and concluded accident investigation within six months.

This is what it should be. If people are up and doing, this is what it is supposed to be. You can’t have an accident and then it dragged for years and years. There is no explanation for it. Because the whole purpose of accident investigation is to come up with safety recommendations to prevent future occurrence. There must be lessons learnt.

If you don’t investigate and come up with safety recommendations, how would people learn to prevent future occurrence. This is why it is very important. Accident investigation is a very serious business and we should all support it and make sure it is a serious agent of government in ensuring that our airspace is safe.

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Aliyu: Nigeria should command respect in global auto market

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With Nigeria’s quest to develop the local automobile sector gaining momentum and receiving heightened attention from the Federal Government, the Director General, National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Mr. Jelani Aliyu, in this interview speaks on the immediate challenges and way forward. SUNDAY OJEME reports

 

 

What are the major challenges you have had to contend with since coming on board?
Well, as you are aware, this administration is very different in terms of its intensive commitment to moving the nation forward, not just a part of the nation, but from the Atlantic shoreline in the south, to the grasslands of the middle belt all the way to the northern part of the country, this administration is committed to making people’s lives better. And that is what it is all about. You talk about diversification from oil, you talk about industrialisation, you talk about better education, and you ask yourself, what are all these about? It is all about making people’s lives happier and better. Being able to make the life of that little girl or boy happier, being able to give that little one an opportunity to have a smile on his or her face, it all boils down to that; that core human aspect of us to enhance what makes us human.

So, the overall challenges in the automotive sector are similar to other challenges we face in Nigeria. I always said the problem with this country is not lack of resources, it is not the lack of human capacity or intelligence and it is not corruption. It is just that we tend to forget who we are and what we can do.
And I think that once as Nigerians we realise that each person is essential to the whole development of the nation and we all wake up and play our roles together, magic will begin to happen.

Apart from the issue of adequate skills, what other challenges are responsible for major automobile manufacturers not having plants in Nigeria?
These companies cannot justify why they are not here, and we have discussed this with them when we met in the global coalition for automotive conference in South Africa, and some of the challenges that they envisages are very real.
We have insufficient power. To run a very successful and sustainable auto industry, you need electricity continuously, because if you rely on personal power generation or local power generation, cost will just escalate. So, that’s a challenge that needs to be addressed.

The market is still here, but they are also skeptical on the protection of local production in the country. Nigeria is one of the countries that are moving forward to protect its local production. In the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), there is a part that protects the local automotive sector, and protects vehicles manufactured within the country.

The development of the automotive sector must be a two-pronged approach. Yes, we have companies like Peugeot that are already here, Volkswagen, Innoson, and now we are talking to BMW, Volkswagen and Toyota to come into Nigeria and produce vehicles, that’s one aspect.

But we must not forget it has to be ground up, we must commit to producing utilitarian type vehicles that we would use in our villages, our hamlets to get people to provide healthcare and education.
So we will do that, we will work with more both established companies that are global, and then we will also support Nigerians and other stakeholders that are providing these very low cost vehicles that will make a direct impact to people living in the most remote areas. This is important so we can approach it from both ends.

Another challenge is that in a lot of established markets, vehicles are not bought with a hundred per cent down payment. There is usually an automotive finance scheme and we are working with all the relevant stakeholders to see how we can make that happen, so, that Nigerians will be able to go lease a vehicle and put a little down, then pay over time or pay for the amount of time they use the vehicles. So, some of the instruments that are available in other developed markets, we are going to see how we can bring those instruments here in terms of vehicles sales and financing.

Where can Nigerians really feature in all of these?
When you look at these auto companies such as GM, Ford, they produce cars and sell them across the world everywhere. But when they develop a vehicle for China, for instance, they hire the Chinese to design and help them develop those vehicles. When they sell a car in Europe, they hire Europeans to design and develop those vehicles. So, Nigeria with a 180 million people should command enough presence in the market.

If for instance, our major income earner should come from vehicles, then they need to hire Nigerians to design and develop their vehicles for them. They should be able to hire Nigerians to design and develop the vehicles that are sold here. This is just one part. The other parts are that these young talented Nigerians that we are grooming, when they come out, they can team with other investors and start a whole new Nigerian automotive company.

Why has the scheme not been long implemented considering that is what is obtainable in other countries?
I wouldn’t know that, but now that we are here, we are committed to doing it. You must also understand that when you look at Africa, there have always been challenges that are counter to development. But when you have new technology, new solutions that help you leapfrog and achieve what you were unable to achieve in the past, sometimes, it happens quickly. I think that’s what’s happening. We now have the technology that we can leverage, but we must have the commitment to leverage them. At NADDC, we now have and acknowledge these technologies, new solutions, and we will now use them to attain our objectives.

In what ways would you want the government and other stakeholders to assist or partner with the council?
As a people, we are all blessed. Every individual has something inside of him, and everybody needs to know what that is to bring it out. We can only move this country forward if we come together as one nation; each person knowing exactly what is good and what to bring to the table.

For the other institutions that make up the Federal Government, I think the momentum is already gathering. I think the momentum is now there that we are looking long term and the momentum is now there where different parts of government are working together. It will take more than NADDC to make this work; it will take the financial institutions, those in charge of the land borders, those in charge of the environment, all coming together to know that we are working for the long term interest of Nigeria. There will be challenges, but that does not mean it for today or tomorrow, let’s look at what’s best for our children, our grandchildren and us.

What is your take on vehicle smuggling and illegal importation?
There are lots of substandard vehicles around and more are also being brought into the country, and that’s just not fair for the Nigerian market and people. So we have a good relationship with Customs, even though we are trying to make that relationship even closer so that issue of local production will be a priority.
There are a number of substandard vehicles being brought into the country that are unsafe, so we must find a way to stop that, and then also give incentives to local manufacturers to produce their vehicles in the country. But we really cannot overlook infrastructures. We cannot overlook the influx of substandard vehicles. We need to find a way around that, but then, I believe when a company really understands the potential in Nigeria, they can see how big the market is. The potential are enormous.

How has the experience been since coming on board as the director general?
It has been a very exciting and interesting experience. First and most important, is that it is a great opportunity to really play a role in moving Nigeria forward, and specifically in helping grow the automotive sector in Nigeria in terms of local production that is geared towards creating more jobs and obviously providing those products within the borders of Nigeria. Then secondly, it is very exciting to have a team on the ground at NADDC dedicated to this cause
As you are aware, Nigeria has a huge population, and any country with a population of over 180 million is huge and big business, because transportation, automotive, airways are all crucial to the development of any nation because people have to move and goods have to be transported from one location to another.

The role the automotive sector plays in the social fabric of any nation is immeasurable, so it is really a great honour and opportunity to be able to play a role in the development of this sector. There are a few challenges as it will exist in any situation, but I believe the commitment is there personally; the commitment is there with my team at NADDC to move forward and solve these problems and moving the sector forward.
What particular plans do you have for youths who are skilled and have some level of expertise that the automotive sector can develop and build upon?

NADDC has lots of initiatives on-going. The very first one we are working on is the automotive design and innovation competition. This will be opened to all Nigerians, especially the youths and all those creative Nigerians out there. We will have two categories, depending on the person’s interests and strength to choose a category and design certain vehicles, and these vehicles we will ask them to design during the competition will not be sports cars or luxury cars. We have identified two types of transportation solutions that are basic, rudimentary and very appropriate to human and economic development in Nigeria.

So, we will have the competition out there and the winners will be chosen from all the six geo political zones of the country. And then we will also have national winners. We will take these winners to our Zaria office; give them all the necessary support needed, bring in professionals from Nigeria and from outside and take that winning concept all the way to a functional prototype.

Once we get to that prototype phase, then it will be ready for production and we will either license it up, or go into a joint venture with the private sector. Once we get to that stage, it becomes a private sector-driven initiative. So, this competition will go a long way in identifying these talented kids out there, and give them an opportunity to showcase what they could do. That is one.

The second one is in the near future; we are looking at a dedicated automotive design and development institute very similar to the type of school I went to in the United States. But again, the emphasis on the school will be for applicable automotive solutions that are needed in Nigeria and Africa. Vehicles that is particular to us, our terrain, climate, our environment.

The reason for this is because if you look at many of the vehicles that are now being brought into our country, they have been designed and developed in the developed world. They have been developed for the streets of Tokyo or for Australia… somewhere. We need vehicles that understand us, that are in tune with our culture, climate and terrain. It is only by developing our own innovators and designers that we can achieve that.

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