…As NADDC Boss says Completing Ajaokuta steel coy will revive Nigeria’s automotive industry***
The ongoing closure of the nation’s land border got a critical appraisal on Thursday as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams highlighted the gesture as posing grave economic implications on people of South-West in particular, and Nigeria as a nation.
Adams stated this at the 2019 Olokun Festival at Suntan Beach, Badagry, Lagos State, pointing out that the border closure largely affects the Southwest people, far more than any other regions.
“The Federal Government had ordered the closure of the border, but unfortunately, the closure seems suspicious to me.
“This portends grave danger to us, because the economic implications of the border closure will largely affect us more in the South-West than any other regions.
“Let me express my worry over the closure of the Nigeria-Benin Border,” he said.
The Aare Onakakanfo also decried the deplorable state of road to Badagry, saying it had hindered the socioeconomic development of the town.
“For the past seven years, Badagry had been abandoned with no facilities. I have said it severally that this road is bad.
“The road has become a death trap for commuters plying the route daily.
“For instance, travelling between Badagry and Mile Two has always been an unpleasant experience these days.
“Imagine the kind of impression this would have on foreigners and tourists coming through the West African Coast to Badagry,” he said.
On Olokun Festival, Adams said it was interesting to say openly that Olokun is usually a blessing in disguise for Badagry and its environs.
“It is a deity that brings wealth to any society or state that celebrate it. Olokun remains the harbinger of peace and tranquility.
“Olokun deity has a strong foothold, it cuts across religious borders.
“Both Muslims and Christians as well as the traditionalists always respect the spiritual relevance of Olokun and Olosa deities.
“Badagry has a rich cultural history. It is usually a centre of attraction for tourists and travellers.
“As an historic town, Badagry has the first storey building in Nigeria. This is where the point of no return is located.
“Apart from that, we are all aware of the serene environment, and the peaceful atmosphere in Badagry is not accidental, but spiritual,” he said.
Many traditional rulers, chiefs, and important personalities graced the festival and they included the Akran of Badagry, Aholu Meyi Toyi 1, Oba Oluyemisi Ajayi, the Alado of Ado Awaye, Oba Alabi Adeyemi, the Onikoyi of Ikoyi.
Others include Jagun of Oyo Kingdom, Chief Ayoade Adewuyi, and the Basorun of Oyo, Chief Ayoola.
In the meantime, the Director-General, National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Mr Jelani Aliyu on Thursday applauded the Federal Government over moves to ensure the completion of Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill.
Aliyu made the commendation at the annual conference of Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN), in Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, on Wednesday agreed to put Nigeria-Russia relations on a fast track to ensure the completion of partially completed and abandoned projects initiated by both countries.
Buhari’s request for the return of Russia on a government-to-government relationship for completion and commissioning of Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill was accepted by Putin.
The agreement was reached at a bilateral meeting held in Sochi on the sidelines of the ongoing Russia-Africa Summit.
Aliyu said that if revived, the steel rolling mill would help to revive the automotive industry by encouraging local production of vehicles.
“Majority of the vehicles have steel body, so it will help in their production locally,’’ Aliyu said.
He also noted that completing the mill would encourage increased private sector involvement in car production.
“It is therefore, imperative to leverage on the moves by the Federal Government to produce cars at cheaper cost,’’ Aliyu said.
While identifying that the automotive sector had a critical role to lift Nigeria out of poverty, Aliyu said that 4,782 persons were currently employed in the sector.
“This means that 40,000 to 50,000 people are indirectly employed,” he added.
According to him however, it is worrisome that Nigeria spends eight billion dollars annually for the importation of about 400,000 vehicles.
“Unfortunately some of them are very old cars. In the 1970s and the 1980s, we had brands like Peugeot and Volkswagen and we produced between 40,000 to 100,000 cars annually.
“The drop in crude oil price from 27 dollars to 10 dollars affected the automotive industry, forcing many car manufacturing companies to shut down and leave the country,’’ Aliyu said.
He said that NADDC was pushing for a 10-year tax holiday to encourage the production of new vehicles in the country.
According to him, the production of new cars will attract 30 per cent discount while assembling will offer 10 per cent discount.
“Already NADDC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Volkswagen to establish its plant in Nigeria; and excitingly Peugeot just manufactured its Pick-up so many years after its last production.
“We are working out modalities to ensure that what Volkswagen wants is put in place, and as soon as we give them the conducive environment, they will set up a high capacity industry,’’ Aliyu said.
He added that the council would soon launch an application that would register all the vehicles manufactured in the country.
“This will discourage smuggling; so, when you go to smuggle a car into the country and want to register it, it will reflect that it is smuggled,’’ Aliyu said.