“PAN Nigeria Limited, being one of the few surviving auto plants in Nigeria, needs primarily two things from government; patronage and protection.”
These were the words of the minister of trade and investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, during the commercial launch of Peugeot 408 at the recently-concluded Abuja International Motor Fair which took place at Eagle Square, a stone throw from the National Assembly where a counterproductive decision was reportedly taken last week to procure 360 Toyota Camry cars worth 2.5 billion Naira for members of House of Representatives despite the availability of highly qualitative indigenous brands.
Given the high premium placed on the troubled auto sector by the federal government, President Goodluck Jonathan earmarked the sum of 50 billion Naira in the 2011 budget, to revive the ailing sector; though the sector is yet to access the fund.
The expectation in this regard therefore is that the National Assembly and other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) including states and local governments will give all necessary backing to the campaign and lead by example by patronising locally assembled vehicles.
Hiding under the shadow of a so-called technical advice, the National Assembly said it opted for Camry model instead of the more durable Peugeot brands. PAN also used the avenue to call on the Kaduna State government which is the home of Peugeot manufacturing plant and which holds 5 per cent stake in the company, to join other well-wishers to patronise the company by purchasing its quality products that are of international standard.
Going by the unfolding drama on the reasons for the unprofitable choice of Camry by the members of the House of Representatives, LEADERSHIP learnt, it is obvious that some vested interests are taking the advantage of the controversies that trailed the purchase of Peugeot brands for the members four years ago.
But, this issue has since been resolved and interestingly the transaction did not result in capital flight.
Observers also believe that rather than aiding the gradual killing of the industry, the legislators should see their role as that of salvaging the ailing auto plants in the country by making laws that will make it difficult for any public sector not to patronising the local assembly plants except in the case where specification of models required cannot be sourced locally.
“It is time to stop this back and forth confusion about the campaign to revive the nation’s troubled automobile industry. It is time to stop paying lip service and put all the assurances and promises from government into action, for a sustainable change in the sector. The National Assembly, states and local governmentsmust not shy away from the realities of the time,” one of the stakeholders added.