The other side of the policy was focused on those who import various categories of KNOCKED DOWN CARS. (This is where the issue starts – Knocked down cars?). Anyway, these guys will get tax exemptions ranging from complete exemption i.e. Zero tax for completely knocked down cars, 5% tax for Semi-knocked down part 1 and 10% for semi-knocked down part 2. This is related to the first policy in that to import a KD car, you must have an assembly “place” where you can put the cars together and hence what is being referred to as a “Made in Nigeria Car”.
But who will buy Nigeria assembled cars? The fact is that we already buy so many machines and equipment that are assembled in Nigeria without our knowing. Do you use generators – if your answer is yes, then you definitely will use Nigeria assembled car. For over 10 years, no one has been given license to import whole generators into the country, no matter how complex. Every generator in Nigeria is imported on a Completely Knocked Down basis, and then assembled in Nigeria and sold. From the small “I better pass” to the big 1000KVA, all are assembled in Nigeria, as well as 80% of the Motorcycles and tricycles (keke Marwa) on our roads.
How easy is it to build –up or assemble a car in Nigeria? Ask “ngbuka” people in Onitsha or Lawanson in Lagos. They do this every blessed day. I happened to have lived around Ngbuka in Lawanson within my first few years of marriage, and every day these guys offloaded container loads of used car parts at different levels of “knock down” – engines, body parts, then they proceed to make their own seats and interior etc., and within a day or two, they are cranking the engines, lifting and fitting and in 3 days a full car is up, and painted. That quickly!
Sometimes I feel like we have several unrecognized geniuses walking around in dirty overalls on our streets in Nigeria. Otherwise how do you categorize these mechanics, Oyibo has to put your car on computer to tell what is wrong; these guys can tell you what is wrong by just listening. Oyibo has to use robot to join the cars, these guys use bare hand and next to nothing tools to do the same. Oyibo specializes, they too specialize. On a daily basis, teams of mechanics, upholsters, electricians, panel beaters, painters, vulcanizers and Igbo boys selling spare parts from “tokunbo” to “follow-come” to “Nnewi” to “China” and original parts, work together to resurrect cars that are completely accidented and supposedly written off, to sparkling brand new, cars that in other clime would have been considered write-offs, these guys give a second lease of life and even a third and fourth. Truth is whether we recognize them or not, these mechos as they are popularly called are geniuses next door, and they don’t even know it.
Everyone patronizes them including the super-rich, except you are willing to throw away your G-Class or Range because it got into an accident. These men in oil and dirt covered overalls place a hand on your car and before a week, your accidented vogue looks like brand new, every single software inside it working. These guys fix any car, name it, no matter the brand or the technology, bring it, call your mecho and panel beater and see them work their magic. The better part is that they don’t use any particularly high tech robots, just bare hands, skillful minds and a work area to ply their trade. They take the car apart and re-assemble, no matter the state of the car.
I have seen them fix a condemned car, and at a point all we saw was the wrinkled skeleton everything else had been stripped and this panel beater started work and before the day was over, they had reconstructed all the skeletons and began to re-arrange the parts, then the mecho came in and before you could say “jack”, all the wheel elements, the engine, tubes, tank and all had been completely repaired and reassembled. Then the upholstery guys, these unassuming fellows with bundles of skills to work on all forms of seat and leather, they can re-cloth any interior, they are so skilled sometimes they could as well have been trained in an Armani plant. They come and next thing, they’ve fixed all the interiors with top quality bespoke leather works. Followed by the electricians, the guys charged with the task of ensuring everything works – from the ignition to your automatic doors. Then the final men, the miracle working panel beaters and painters who bring the zest back to your would-have-been-written-off car. In 3 days you have a brand new looking car that was presupposed to be a “write off”. The most interesting thing is that most of these guys may not have a senior school certificate results, most can barely string together a complete sentence in English and almost none had ever attended any international training, yet they are the go to guys should anything go wrong with these cars.
If you have ever repaired your car at the mechanic's place by the side of a street, you are driving a Made in Nigerian car – whether you agree or not. The only difference is that when they finish, they still put your Range Rover Vogue, Mercedes or Toyota emblem on it. The truth is that we are all so close to made in Nigerian cars than our egos can allow us imagine. In fact a lot of us in Lagos drive made in Ladipo cars, made in Ajah cars, and some made in Abule-Egba cars. Should you have said you will never drive a made in Nigeria car, think again.
Space will not permit me to write about Innoson Limited. The Nna got tired of selling spare parts and assembling Ngbuka vehicles, and decided it was time to backward (or forward) integrate and start assembling brand new cars somewhere in Nnewi. Now he doesn’t just own cars, he makes them, how about that! He buys completely knocked down parts at zero tax, gets his Mecho, Panel, Foka and Painter to pull the magic together, he buys the other spare parts from his Nna brothers in Nnewi and he sells his jeeps to whoever cares at a cheaper rate, emblazoned with his name INNOSON. How do you think TATA or even Honda started? And by the way the guy does not have a University education. How hard can it be?
For me, I have a dream that one day; we will be competing in Nigeria on the basis of who has the best designed “bespoke” Naija built car, the same way Nigerian musicians compete now with Naija beats. I have a dream that one day, I am going to assemble my own brand new high tech car in Nigeria, and put my name on it. It’s been on my mind for a while, I will do it surely. I hope you will buy my car – ZUBILINCOLN or make yours (by the way, Innoson is already living my dream . . . lol).