‘Why Innoson plans to build auto plant in Owerri’

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By Moses Akaigwe

Nigeria’s first indigenous auto maker, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Ltd (IVM), has explained that its decision to establish a plant in Owerri is in line with its corporate policy of empowering the youth as a means of deepening auto technology in the country.Chief Innocent Chukwuma Chukwuma Gov. Chukwuma Soludo

The Chairman, Innoson Group of Companies, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma, disclosed this yesterday in an interview following a hint earlier in the week that IVM was planning to establish a manufacturing plant in the Imo state capital.

He said the sustained patronage of Innoson vehicles by Gov. Hope Uzodinma’s government in Imo state was also a major contributory factor.

The Uzodinma administration has since inauguration purchased hundreds of IVM products including the well-equipped and highly acclaimed IVM G12 special purpose vehicle already popular with the military; as well as the IVM {troops} Carrier used by many security outfits across the country..

Chukwuma further disclosed that the expansion to Owerri was part of the efforts to actualise the group’s mission to become a giant in vehicle manufacturing in Africa by serving the country’s and continent’s vehicle needs.

The Innoson Chairman also explained that empowering the youth through technical training, skill acquisition and subsequent employment in his plants {and by other companies}, not only enhances technological development, but also helps to take young minds off criminal tendencies.

He recalled that when Innoson started vehicle manufacturing years ago in Nnewi, there were many expatriates manning various sections of the factory alongside a team of young production staff assembled from within the country, adding that well trained Nigerian youths have since taken over, leaving just a few of the foreigners.

When it comes on stream, ‘the Owerri plant will have hundreds of Nigerian youths directly and indirectly involved in its manufacturing activities, and that is part of our mission in the auto industry.”

Is there the likelihood of another Innoson auto plant being established elsewhere in Nigeria, including Lagos?

“As I have said, in Innoson, youth empowerment is a matter of policy. And if we get from any other part of the country the kind of patronage Imo state government is giving us, and there is an assurance that it will continue, Why not? And wherever we set up a production facility, we take our training institute, Innoson Kiara Academy there.

NAN had reported that, while receiving members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Correspondents’ Chapel, who were on a facility tour of his plant in Nnewi, Anambra state on Friday, Chukwuma had disclosed that the auto maker would establish a plant in Owerri.

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“The Innoson factory expansion will be situated at Naze Owerri in Imo. We have already acquired about 150,000sqm land for this project and construction works are ongoing,” he said.

He thanked the media for their continual support and partnership with his organisation.

Also speaking, Head, Corporate Communications, Innoson Group, Cornel Osigwe, who led the group round the facility, expressed excitement over Gov. Charles Soludo’s endorsement of Innoson vehicle as the official vehicle for Anambra.

Osigwe said the endorsement by Gov. Soludo was a testimony to the durability and capacity of the made in Nigeria vehicle.

“Gov. Soludo is the first governor to use Innoson vehicles as official vehicle and we are hopeful that such endorsement will increase patronage from other state governments, corporate organisations and other well-meaning Nigerians.

“Presently, IVM is producing vehicles for about five countries in Africa including Sierra Leone, Mali, Congo, and Côte d’Ivoire,” he said.

Osigwe said the company was currently migrating from manual production to a fully automated production plant.

“The manual production plant has the capacity to produce about 10,000 vehicles annually but at the completion of the migration to a fully automated production plant, it will have the capacity to produce about 60,000 annually,” he said.

Earlier in his address, the Chairman of the chapel, Emmanuel Ilozue, had said the visit was to strengthen media partnership with the group.

“You are breaking grounds in the automobile industry and contributing to the economy of the state and country at large. It is commendable and worthy of emulation.

“We are here on this facility tour to see and get firsthand information on your entrepreneurial activities to help the media educate and inspire residents of the state,” Ilozue said.

Very strategic to Innoson Group’s emphasis on youth empowerment is Innoson Kiara Academy, a technical and vocational institution established in partnership with an international consulting firm with the aim of bridging the gap between educational institutions and industries in Nigeria

For instance, Innoson Kiara’s Education for Employment (E4E) programme provides courses tailored around production processes and procedures of various factories within the Innoson Group using a modern apprenticeship format linked to production units.

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