A Dream Come True

Innocent Chukwuma
Innocent Chukwuma

Innocent Chukwuma, chief executive officer of Innoson Group of Companies, puts Nigeria’s name on the list of vehicle manufacturers with his manufacturing of various types of cars, buses and tricycles

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Dec. 10, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

HIS journey to success in business is a typical grass to grace story. Innocent Chukwuma, chief executive officer, CEO of Innoson Group of companies, needs no introduction to a lot of Nigerians. Chukwuma is a young man from Nnewi, the manufacturing capital of Nigeria, who has, successfully built a vehicle manufacturing plant in the country. Before this period, he had established a motorcycle manufacturing plant and a plastic plant in Nigeria.

The 46-year-old businessman, who started business about 30 years ago with selling motorcycle spare parts and later to importation of motorcycle spare parts and complete motorcycles has today, built a vehicle manufacturing company in the country. By so doing, Chukwuma has successfully enlisted Nigeria among vehicle manufacturing countries in the world.

Chukwuma said he decided to go into car manufacturing when he discovered that Nigeria is among the biggest consumers of automobiles in the world without manufacturing its own car. He also wanted to make affordable cars for Nigerians. According to the business mogul, when Mercedes Benz car was in vogue, Nigeria was, perhaps, one of its highest consumers, and today the country imports more Toyota, Kia and Honda cars than many other nations in the world. “Therefore, if Nigerians can be patriotic enough to patronise made-in-Nigeria vehicles, all the money being wasted on importation of vehicles, would remain in the country. We will have more money in our hands to develop the country,” Chukwuma said.

The company manufactures different types of vehicles like pick-up vans, buses of different kinds, sports utility vans and tricycles, popularly called keke NAPEP. The company only imports the engines used on its vehicles, while other components are sourced and manufactured in Nigeria. Besides, the vehicles are built with the state of the Nigerian roads in mind.

When President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned, Innoson Motor Manufacturing Plant recently, he commended Chukwuma for the industry and sense of patriotism. “It gives me joy to note that Innoson Vehicle Plant is not just assembling parts that are imported. But from all indication so far, it is only the engine that he brings in from his partners in China, and every other thing is built here. And even abroad, no particular company produces everything, whether aircraft or even turbines,” Jonathan said.

Innoson Buses
Innoson Buses

Chukwuma said during the commissioning, his goal, apart from putting Nigeria on the map of vehicle manufacturing countries, was to stop Nigerians from buying fairly used vehicles, popularly known as Tokunbo. And with the commissioning of the plant, Nigerians can now beat their chest and say, “this is our own,” just like the Americans, the Chinese, the Germans and the Japanese do.

He urged governments to lead the way by patronising made-in-Nigeria products like vehicles and others. This, he said, would make Nigerians stop feeling that made-in-Nigeria products are of inferior quality compared to their imported counterparts. “If the president, governors, senators and other dignitaries begin to drive in Innoson vehicles, it would go a long way to build confidence in other Nigerians to begin to patronise us. It would also inspire other Nigerians to go into manufacturing. The fear of most potential manufacturers is government’s preference of foreign-made goods. But once they begin to see government officials making use of made-in-Nigeria products, it would inspire them to bring out their best for their fatherland,” Chukwuma said.

Despite his success, Innoson does not seem to enjoy a cordial relationship with the media. Recently, the Nigeria Customs Service seized some vehicle engines worth millions of Naira imported by the company. When Realnews visited the corporate headquarters of the company in Enugu, to verify the information, the CEO directed the reporter to meet Andrew Udeh, senior public relations officer of the company to book an appointment with him. But Udeh did not allow the reporter to get access to him. He frustrated the reporter’s effort to get some vital information concerning the imported engines, saying he needed to take permission from the boss before giving out any information.

Innoson Group of Companies was incorporated in 2002 and many of his operations are done in Nnewi, Anambra State and Enugu, Enugu State. Innoson Nigeria Limited, is based at the industrial city of Nnewi, while Innoson Technical and Industrial Company Limited, which manufacturers all kinds of plastic and allied products, is based at Enugu. Its General Tyres and Tubes Company Limited, Enugu, and Innoson Motor Manufacturing Company Limited, Nnewi, employ more than 3,000 staff.

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