In this piece, Senior Correspondent, NGOZI OBOH, writes that the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) and the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) have developed capabilities to contribute meaningfully to the development of the Nigeria’s automotive industry.
Globally, the automobile industry is believed to be making tremendous impact on economy and has contributed to the growth of other industries with direct impact on transportation of people, goods and services, manufacturing, defense, agriculture, among others.
Vehicle manufacturing as at today, accounts for over 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the gross domestic product and 10 per cent of employment in countries with developed automotive industry.
Nigerian automotive industry started with the establishment of 6 assembly plants during the period 1970-1980.
Today however, due to its heavy reliance on foreign inputs in form of completely knocked down (CKD) parts, largely unrealized local content programme, and government’s adoption of strict monetary policies, and collapsed domestic market, the industry's overall capacity utilization dropped to about 10 per cent for vehicle assembly and 30 per cent for components manufacture.
Government's intentions at inception of these plants include local raw materials utilization, and so target dates were set when the industry will be self reliant. It was hoped that this would reduce foreign exchange expenditure on vehicles, create many downstream industries and acquire technology with the attendant creation of employment for skilled and unskilled workers.
The local automotive assembly plants, except in a few cases, are not supported by parts and components from local manufacturers.
The automotive industry requires raw materials from the following industries: metals (steel, aluminium, copper, etc), plastics, rubber, paint, glass, electronics, textile, wood etc, and is widely acknowledged as an engine of growth and development because of its potentials for forward and backward linkages.
It has therefore become imperative to draw attention of the stakeholders to the need to provide locally made parts and components to the assembly plants.
Acting director general of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) Dr. Mohammed Haruna said the agency has the capability to produce most of the automobile component required in the sector through original conceptual design and reverse engineering methods.
They could deploy computer aided design (CAD) using Pro-engineer software, material selection using granta design software, design optimization, modeling and simulation using comsol multiphysics and e-manufacturing using pro- manufacturing software under the original conceptual design methods.
Others are rapid prototyping on actual fabrication material (tool steel), production on induction furnace and die and mould production on EDMs and CNC Machines.
Equally, because many of the machines required for a functional engineering infrastructural base are already in existence outside the country, the acting director general said NASENI can reverse engineer and domesticate these technologies.
“Modern reverse engineering application involves coordinate measurement or 3D scanning, rapid prototyping or 3D printing in wax, mould making for investment casting” Haruna said at launching of investment profiles on automotive components organized by the National Automotive Council last week in Abuja.
Equally, director general of Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Peter Onwualu said Nigeria has adequate raw materials in place for local production of automobile components.
He cited that the automobile industry is a major guzzler of basic industrial raw materials consisting of steel sheet and alloy forms, cast Iron, non ferrous metal e.g copper and aluminium, non-metallic materials e.g glass and asbestos and organic high molecules materials e.g rubber and plastics.
But “there is a lack of basic facilities for the production of primary and intermediate components necessary for the engine and transmission systems,” he said.
He regretted that automobile assembly plants in Nigeria are not making any strong efforts towards local sourcing of raw materials.
All the assembly plants were strictly to assemble finished components; no serious thought was given to fabrication of the vital components, hence the lack of effective policy on support for local fabrication of automotive components. The local content materials or unit as claimed by the auto-assemblers, are in most cases imported into the country by enterprising businessmen, thus bastardizing the meaning of local content.
On some of the challenges faced in fusing local technologies into the industries, he said the auto-assemblers seem to give ‘impossible’ specifications demanding materials components that are not locally available even though substitute materials are possible and have been used elsewhere.
Furthermore, prototypes produced locally, when submitted for testing and approval take longer than a year to receive attention and feedback to investigators thus purposely causing disaffection, and discouragement in efforts to locally fabricate components.
He said that there exists capacity and capability for mould and die making in the automotive industry that is not known to the end users.
“These capacities exist at DICON, Kaduna, DuPont Lagos, and NASENI in Abuja. There exist raw materials at Eleme Petro-chemical Company for use in the making of engineering plastic parts for the automotive industry. DuPont company is prepared to partner with any investor in producing composite parts at no cost to the organization.”
On the way forward the RMRDC boss said that for our country to achieve any meaningful progress in the area of technology acquisition and manufacturing of vehicles in Nigeria, local content development needs to be addressed very seriously.
While NASENI boss suggested the need for the development of endogenous human resources to produce more local content (up to international quality standard) in the auto manufacturing sector.
This according to him might involve targeting 10 entrepreneurs in each of the six geopolitical zone of Nigeria (60 entrepreneurs) and identifying and selecting potential entrepreneurs to nominate two technical staff for training (2 X 10 =20 trainees in each zone = 120 trainees)
Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mr Samuel Ortom, said a lot of benefits will accrue to Nigeria if the automotive sector is developed.
“The importance of the automotive industry to the national economy cannot be over emphasized. It is a vital industry in a developing economy like Nigeria. One of the major benefits accruing from the automotive industry is large employment generation particularly when automotive components and parts manufacturing are fully developed.
“It should be viewed as one of the corner stones for establishing a self-sustaining economy, job creation and upgrading the standard of living of Nigerians. The automotive industry gives an opportunity to diversify into sophisticated, technically demanding activities that supports higher rates of economic growth.”