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By NBF News
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'We are here to know if truly vehicles are manufactured or just being assembled at Nnewi. We have gone round the factory, section by section and indeed observed that the vehicles are locally produced. We are also impressed to discover that Nigerians are in charge of the production process. This is a great achievement and as engineers we are happy that sustainable development is taking place in Nigeria'.

The foregoing was how the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Olumuyiwa Alade Ajibola, summarized the essence of a recent visit to Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Limited (IVM), Nnewi, Anambra State, by a team of top engineers from the body's branches across the country who hailed the efforts of the entrepreneur, Chief Innocent Chukwuma (OON), in establishing a new auto manufacturing plant in the country.

The NSE President who was speaking after leading his members on a tour of the expansive plant on Thursday, May 12, poured encomiums on Chukwuma for exhibiting an unusual business acumen of investing in manufacturing vehicles locally; a courageous venture, which, according to him, would impact tremendously on the economy, especially in the area of employment for young Nigerian professionals.

He, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to direct its support and encouragement to the Innoson plant established with personal funds and huge facilities from banks. Like President Goodluck Jonathan and other high profile guests who had at different times toured the Nnewi plant, the visiting engineers were thrilled to discover that the small, midi and mass transit buses, as well as pick-ups and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) bearing 'Innoson' badges, are actually manufactured at the plant, and not merely assembled.

Guided by Innoson Group Chairman who took time to explain every stage of production, the NSE members were particularly impressed to observe trained Nigerian technicians in charge of production activities, which prompted Ajibola to remark: 'This is a great achievement and as engineers, we are happy that sustainable development is taking place in Nigeria through Innoson'.

Commenting further on the visit, the NSE President disclosed that his team was excited, not just because of the truly made-in-Nigeria vehicles being rolled off the production lines, but by the large number of Nigerians working and enjoying themselves in the factory. 'We saw Nigerian workers and their level of enthusiasm. The fabricators, welders, e.t.c. This is one motor factory that has opportunity for everybody'.

While assuring of his society's readiness to partner with Innoson for enhanced development, Ajibola sought government support for the Nnewi plant: 'It is now a challenge for the federal government to look towards the direction of Innoson motor factory for the betterment of the economy. This young man has made a strong statement by establishing a motor factory worthy of commendation. The NSE is ready to partner with him, and I am sure that by the time we start working together as a team some imported vehicle parts would be produced locally. Our visit here is to see the factory and equally inform him of our willingness to encourage him. We are capable of producing parts that would be beneficial to this industry'.

The visiting engineers described Chief Chukwuma as a man blessed with special attributes which outweighs that of some engineers in Nigeria, pointing out that he must be encountering enormous challenges, especially in a country where the leaders pay lip service to serious sectors like auto manufacturing industry. They, however, urged him to keep alive his entrepreneurial spirit, stressing that his name would forever be remembered in the history of Nigeria.

Reacting to the words of encouragement from the visitors, Chief Chukwuma expressed his delight that NSE would partner with him towards upgrading IVM product standards, adding that such co-operation would highly be appreciated. He also welcomed their comments and observations and assured them of his readiness to implement and inject some of them into his production process.

One of the highpoints of the visit was the donation of a brand new Innoson bus to the association by Chukwuma who urged them to use and assess its standards, which he assured is very high. 'My reason for giving out this Innoson bus to you is for you to use and assess our standards. Apart from President Goodluck Jonathan and other Federal Government officials who have visited us in the past, we have equally hosted multi-national associations and institutions and all their observations and comments were great. So, we are not expecting anything different from the members of Nigerian Society of Engineers', he stated.

Other members of the NSE in the entourage were: M.D Shehu (Deputy President) A.A Rabiu (Vice President); Engr Amshi (Executive Secretary) and branch chairmen and secretaries nationwide. Representing the National Automotive Council (NAC) was Tunde Zedoni, also an engineer.

Some local and international delegations that have visited the Innoson plant since 2009 were from the Ghanaian government, an American university, the Presidency in Abuja (apart from the President himself), the National Assembly, state governments and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), among many others.