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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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Nigeria’s fish deficit hits 2.2m tons

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Despite smuggling and abuse of import quota restrictions, Nigeria is currently facing 2.1 million tons of fish deficit.
The Director of Federal Department of Fishery (FDF), Muazu Mohammed, said this in a chat with New Telegraph in Lagos.
He said that the country still depends on one million tons of fish annually as against the 3.2 million tons demand.

Statistically, the country’s total demand is estimated at 3.2 million tons, while it depends on 1.12 million tons of domestic production from aquaculture, artisanal and industrial fisheries.
The FDF boss added that 80 per cent of fish produced in the country are catfish, while other species account for only 20 per cent.
This newspaper gathered that the restrictions have not yielded any positive result because of abuse of quotas and large scale smuggling.

Fish farmers who spoke with this newspaper noted that some of the local farmers government was trying to protect were already out of the business due to lack of fund and other challenges.
Speaking on the development, President, Fish Processors Association of Nigeria (FPAS), Chief Wole Omole, blamed the deficit on government’s policies, which had created uncertainty in the fishery industry.
He said that some members of the association had been facing challenges of finance, debts and smuggling in the business because government had not done enough to protect their investments.
Already, Omole noted that many of the local fish farmers had closed down their fish farms since they have run into debts.

He said: “Let me say this to you, government is just paying leap service to farmers operating in the industry. Money does not get to real farmers who are willing to expand their fish ponds. Also, fish feeding is very expensive in the country. As I talk to you now, I have diverted from fishing business because the profit is not there and this has to do with the cost of feeding the fish.”
Omole explained that investors were finding it difficult to break even in the business even in the long run.

The FPAS president added that lack of political will by the Federal Government had stifled the growth and development of fishery in the country.
“Look at the importation of frozen chicken and turkey the Federal Government banned, but you still found them in the marketplace,” he noted.
According to him, importation of foreign fish, lack of capital, strong smuggling network and inadequate feeds had crippled the ambition of local farmers to meet national demand. This is why the country is facing such a huge deficit, he said.

Omole blamed government for allowing influx of fish imports into the country despite its import restriction quotas.
Echoing him, the President of Fishery Association of Nigeria (FAN), Rasaq Adefowoju, decried the high rate of smuggling and importation of fish to the country.
He said that without government assistance to local fish farmers, the current fish deficit would continue to widen.

Adefowoju also stressed the need for government to create an enabling environment for local fish farmers operating in the country.
The president added that only the solution was for government to provide a bailout fund or loan for the farmers from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable them embark on massive production at single digit or at six months moratorium.

Adefowoju said: “The problem with us in the association is finance. We have enough local fish farmers in the country that can produce fish but there is no financial assistance from the government.”
It would be recalled that since 2014, when the Federal Government introduced the import restriction, exporters from Norway have been finding it difficult to bring fish into the country due to lack of foreign into the country due to lack of foreign exchange to order for supply.

However, finding revealed that some fish are being smuggled through the neighbouring Cotonou Port to the country by fish merchants.
Last year, the Federal Government complained that about $700 million was spent on importation of fish into the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, lamented that it was no longer sustainable for government to continue to spend such huge amount of money on fish importation.
Consequently, he said that funds would be made available for research institutes to scale up research work into the local production of other fish species, aside the regular catfish and Tilapia.

The minister said: “We need to start looking inwards to see how Nigeria can produce some of these fishes both for local consumption and then importation. We will also encourage massive investment in artisanal fish production, to meet the protein needs of Nigerians, because it has been discovered that lack of protein in some women have made them to developed fibroid

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Dangote: Businesses, residents lose N86bn daily to Apapa gridlock

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Businesses and residents are losing N86 billion to Apapa-Wharf road gridlock daily, Africa’s richest man and President/CEO, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has said.
He stated this in Lagos while condemning the challenges posed by traffic jam and heavy presence of different types of taskforce, including the Customs, on the major route leading to the nation’s largest port.
Dangote, who was on an inspection tour of the on-going reconstruction of N4.3 billion Apapa-Wharf road by AG Dangote recently, stated that businesses and residents are losing 20 times the project’s cost daily.
By calculation, N86 billion is being lost by business owners and residents on daily basis.

He said: “People don’t really understand how much money businesses are losing because of the gridlock here; if you quantify it in billions, it is 20 times the cost of this project every single day.”
Consequently, he urged the Federal Government to move the taskforce, including Customs, away from the route to ease traffic.
The reconstruction of the road that leads to Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports is being undertaken by Dangote Group, Nigerian Flour Mill Limited and the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), which are together committing N4.34 billion to the project.

Justifying the involvement of his company in sponsoring the project, Managing Director, Flour Mills Limited, Paul Gbadedo, lamented that it has been difficult for businesses and residents of Apapa.
Noting that the economy of Apapa is very huge, he said that businesses cannot see the traffic and road deteriorating without doing something.
He stated that 75 to 80 per cent of imports passed through the Apapa ports, noting that the road is strategic.

Dangote stressed that it did not make any commercial sense for Customs to mount check points outside the wharf after they might have checked and certified goods at the ports.
“If there should be any more checkpoints, they should be at the toll gates, not here where they are obstructing traffic flow,” he said.

Africa’s richest man said he was impressed with the progress and quality of work being done by AG Dangote, the contractor handling the reconstruction of the road.
He also lauded the palliative work going on on Apapa Oshodi Expressway and the Trailer Park being constructed by government off the expressway, pointing out that these were efforts being made to ensure that the access roads to the ports are decongested.

“My impression of this road has changed because AG Dangote is doing a great and excellent work here. You can see the quality of work being done. This is quite impressive. Even in Germany, you cannot see this kind of quality of road. This road can last at least two generations in which case you will be talking about over 60 years. It is so solid that it can take any weight and any traffic,” Dangote said.
“I can assure you that we will double our efforts to complete the project on schedule, that is, latest by the end of June,” he said.

Chief Executive, AG Dangote, Ajif Juma, stated that the company is facing a lot of challenges, citing traffic and gas pipeline as major ones.
“But now we are working hard to ensure we finish on schedule with some of our workers on night shift,” he said.

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CBN to banks: Settle customers’ complaints within 2 weeks

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Deposit Money Banks ( DMBs) and other financial Institutions have been directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to settle customers’ complaints on issues of overcharge, unauthorised deductions and other matters within two weeks.

CBN Head of Complaints management Division, Mr Tajudeen Ahmed, conveyed the Apex Bank’s directive in Abuja. He said the regulator would ensure that bank customers receive redress on issues of excess charges or unauthorised withdrawal.

Ahmed reiterated the CBN’s commitment to eradicating the culture of excess and arbitrary charges. According to him, the CBN has since issued a circular,which could be found on the its website showing all legitimate bank charges. He explained that any charge outside what is contained in the circular was not allowed and should not be charged.

“The Consumer Protection Department issued guidelines to banks dated August 16, 2011, directing all banks and other financial institutions to resolve all customer complaints within two weeks of receipt of that complaint,” he said. “Before the expiration of that complaint, the financial institution is expected to be engaging the customer on a continuous basis to update him or her on the status of the complaint. “If it is not resolved within the deadline given, then such a person is encouraged to draw the attention of Central Bank of Nigeria to find solution to that complaint.”

Ahmed enjoined customers with unresolved complaints to contact the CBN by writing to the Director Consumer Protection Department. He also advised disgruntled bank customers to visit any branch of the CBN closest to them to lay their complaints.

“The CBN continually engages the banks to find out if their conducts and practices are fair to their customers in order to stimulate people’s confidence in the banking system. “Non-adherence to that normally results to regulatory sanctions as the case may be,” he said.

Ahmed faulted banks for setting a limit on ATM withdrawals to get customers to make several withdrawals to cash large sums. “I have also observed and noted this. Don’t forget that at the beginning, it wasn’t like this. Over time, we started having this problem.

“One of the reasons is that the quantum of N500 denomination is much more than that of N1,000 denomination,” he said. “When we approached the banks about these problems, they said that the machines become easily faulty when it is set to dispense up to N30, 000 to N40, 000 units.

“However, CBN has directed that the machines that allow payment of up to N30,000 to N50,000 should be installed. “This is still ongoing. The Banking and Payment Department of the CBN is championing it.” In her remarks, Head, Consumer Protection Department, Mrs Hadija Kasim, admonished bank customers to imbibe cashless policy.

“Let’s not forget that ATM cards can also be used on Point of Sale (POS) terminals. We are encouraging people that unless it is absolutely necessary, they should reduce the carriage of cash. Cashless transactions are more convenient, safer and you will avoid the problem of overcharges,” she said. She advised bank consumers to use bank transfer channels for transactions in cases where sellers do not have POS.

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