There are indications that the Federal Government is working on a plan to give legal backing to the nation’s auto policy as a way of guaranteeing the huge investments being made in the automobile industry.
The Director-General, National Automotive Design and Development Council, Mr. Aminu Jalal, gave the hint in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Wednesday.
Nissan, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Kia are among about 30 automakers granted approval by the Federal Government to have rolled out Nigeria-assembled vehicles.
Jalal spoke in a reaction to the condition given by Mercedes-Benz that it would only set up a vehicle assembly plant in Nigeria as soon as there was legislation backing the automotive policy.
The Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz Centre, Mr. Benson Uwatse, had said in Lagos at a press conference to mark the 25th anniversary of Mercedes-Benz Automobile Services, 30 years of four-wheel drive system developed by Mercedes-Benz (4matic) and 90 years of Bang & Olufsen, that the firm was ready to start assembling mini-buses in the country as soon as the condition was met.
Jalal said although the bill to this effect was passed on the last sitting of the seventh Senate, it was not clear if the former President, Goodluck Jonathan, assented to it before he left office.
He said the agency would check with the Presidency the present position of the bill with a viewing to accelerating the process of giving the policy a legal backing.
The auto policy introduced in September 2013 involved an increase in import tariff on cars from 22 per cent to 70 per cent, and zero tariff on vehicle components (imported by local assemblers) to encourage local production of automobiles.
“We may have to send another bill on the auto policy to the National Assembly for passage if the previous one has not been assented to by the President,” Jalal said.
He expressed optimism that the process would be given accelerated treatment.
The NADDC DG admitted that there was a need to give assurance to all investors who had bought into the auto policy, noting that the business was capital intensive.
Uwatse had said, “Mercedes-Benz Centre, as a major dealer of the brand in Nigeria, was never opposed to the auto policy; neither is Mercedes-Benz, but the precipitous approach by the previous government is what I have issue with.
“It took South-Africa almost 15 years to develop its auto industry. The country made sure all ancillary industries were put in place, but the reverse is the case with Nigeria. No stable power, no ancillary manufacturers, all the tyre companies have left the country, and yet, we are introducing a policy which hiked the tariff on vehicles by more than 50 per cent and making it effective within one year?”