April 17, 2018

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‘NADDC will transform Nigeria into an automotive manufacturing hub in West Africa’

The National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) is one of the institutions that are being transformed to key into the diversification drive of the federal government so as to harness the potential of the nation towards self-sufficiency in the production of vehicles.  In this exclusive interview with BASHIR IBRAHIM HASSAN (GM, Northern Operations), the Director General, NADDC, JELANI ALIYU, outlines the stages the nation has to pass through to attain this lofty goal. Excerpt…

Please tell us about your background

I was born in Kaduna State but I grew up in Sokoto State. I attended Capital School, Sokoto from 1971 to 1978.

In 1978, I was admitted into Federal Government College, Sokoto, and graduated in 1983 with the best award in Technical Drawing.

In furtherance of my study, I went to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for my A-levels. I had an ultimate vision of what I wanted to achieve and I saw the polytechnic as an avenue towards that goal, So, I transferred to the Birnin Kebbi Polytechnic in Kebbi State, where I graduated as the best all-round student and earned a degree in Architecture.

After graduation, I was approached by General Motors, an American multinational corporation that designs and markets vehicles. That was how I began my career as a design staff at General Motors in 1994.

I went there in the middle of winter, coming from the hottest place in Nigeria to the coldest part of the world. One night I saw the moon and I said to myself this was the same moon I used to see in Sokoto so whosoever put that moon in Sokoto is also with me here so I felt I was at home.

I worked for GM from 1994 as a design staff for some years and was sent to Germany for two years where I worked for Opel the number one seller for GM.

When I came back, I was with G6 to draft a new course for a particular brand. That vehicle brought a new era for the brand.

I have worked on a number of programs but the most magnificent is the Chevrolet Volt which is powered by electricity and that vehicle really set a whole new era for the industry. I have also worked on a number of vehicles especially Chevrolet. I left Nigeria not to run away from it but to develop myself and my talents so that one day I can come back because there is no greater magic than in Africa and Nigeria has the greatest magic.

We all come from great cultures that recognise the worth of each and every individual. Everyone has a magic inside that must be brought out. There are so many opportunities in each part of the country as each individual in the country is a player in the success of the country.

What is your major achievement in this career?

It will be the Chevrolet Volt. This is a vehicle that has taken into account where the whole world is going with emphasis on environmental sustainability, using alternative fuel and it is an electric car. Since the Volt came out, a lot of companies have come on board to produce their own electric or hybrid vehicles. As someone who is driven by sustainability and natural environment around us looking at the ways in which we can maintain the natural world, Volt is more than just a vehicle to me, it is really a great honour and opportunity for me to have

the chance to design that great vehicle because I truly believe that a lot can be done by humans to protect their environment and create a safer and more efficient environment and dwelling for all.

How do you see the public sector?

I believe that the main trust of what the NADDC needs to achieve and the main trust of the automotive industry is the private sector. One of the reasons I took this job is because of the business potential that exists. It is not just about running an agency, it is about enabling businesses, working with stakeholders to make them bigger, so it is really the business aspect of it that really fascinated me including the ability to change lives, create jobs, come up with the best innovation.

Have you accomplished your vision of coming into the industry?

It has been very good moment, in terms of working with stakeholders to set up shops in Nigeria and also getting the local automation components manufacturers in good operation.

In places like Nnewi, we have a number of assemblers around the country that can put a vehicle together. We have people that can manufacture a vehicle and put it together so there is already a momentum in the country to assemble vehicles, that is a great achievement.

What needs to be done now is to further energise it by making these stakeholders stronger players, and eventually getting them the necessary support so that they can manufacture the kind of vehicles that we need.

But another aspect also is that we cannot just manufacture vehicle but we need to be part of the conceptual and developmental phases.

I have seen kids in Sokoto who designed and produced cars and there was a gentle man in Lagos who designed vehicles that moves both on water and on land.

There are some talented youth that must be empowered to become part of the developmental phase. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to travel outside Nigeria to become a car designer.

I just had the vision and I was fortunate enough to have support from family and friends. I am looking at discovering who these kids are and give them the necessary support, which is why we are looking at organising a design competition open to all youth in Nigeria for them to showcase their talent. And we shall support them towards production and commercialisation.

In general, what is your vision as the leader of the agency?

Our vision is to make NADDC an agency that makes Nigeria an automotive manufacturing hub of Africa starting with West Africa. We can only do that by protecting local production, giving the stakeholders all the necessary supports to be successful. It is my objective to see that the stakeholders here are successful in terms of providing the needed vehicle and bringing in new potential from around the world.

To achieve this, we need to provide a suitable business environment for them to operate in. We must design vehicles ourselves and the other objective is to set up a dedicated institute of design and automotive development which will be a hub where anyone with a passion for automotive designs can come to become a professional. All of this is for us to be able to provide a good and affordable vehicle for the people, empowering the common Nigerian with cars to solve the transportation problem and make life as easy as possible.

How do you plan to achieve this vision?

Working with the stakeholders, investors from within and outside the country, one of the major challenges faced in Nigeria is finance. In other countries, you don’t have to pay 100 percent to buy a vehicle because there are financing schemes that you can use to get a vehicle

but we don’t have much of that here. So, we will work with stakeholders to see how easier it can be to purchase a vehicle.  It takes more than one person as it will require my team and a number of stakeholders to make it happen. I think the biggest obstacle so far in Nigeria is how we utilise our resources because the things we want to achieve have already been done in other countries. My message to Nigeria is that we can bring back the glory of this nation with our talent. It is more than just agriculture or any other sector it is about everyone being

successfully carried along to understand that together we can make the difference.

How do you make others support this industry to bring out its potential?

It is not about getting people excited on what can’t be done, our mandate deals with developing the motor industry which is not just about producing cars but also maintaining those cars.  So, we talk about professionals who can maintain the vehicles and about energising and empowering stakeholders and manufacturers by creating industrial hubs.

So this is getting everyone involved, putting together strong business projects, things that excite people and I believe it is not just about setting up industries or creating jobs but if we can bring up the passion for success in the young people.  If we can get a banker excited in the project, he could fund that project.

We tend to be too practical and sometimes forget that if we fall back on the passion that makes us human anything can be possible. It was the same passion that took Americans to the moon. If we can do that all these projects will be a success.  We must never underestimate the significance of human imagination expressed through our ability to envision a dynamic and great future. Look at our country we have crude oil, agriculture and other resources but the greatest resource is the inner spirit that makes us human. We must see ourselves not just as Nigerians but as part of the global community sharing constructive ideas and coming up with solutions for the betterment of humanity. We cannot be described by our problems because we are bigger than that. We must be defined by our dreams and aspirations as well as what we can achieve because nothing is impossible but only a better Nigeria to build.

Are you planning to work directly with the private sector?

Yes, we are here to provide an enabling environment but you know government is not in the business of doing business. But we are going to energise the private sector by giving them support.  We are ready to work with any serious investor to find a way to fund projects. The government cannot do everything, the driving force is the private sector, and they must lead the investment drive.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

I would like to leave two legacies behind.  First is, to ensure we have good vehicles that are safe and reliable to the common man to make life easier and better and secondly to see a vehicle on the road that was designed and produced by a Nigerian.

Culled From: businessdayonline

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