Fuel subsidy: Jelani, Shittu, others laud FG’s priority on made-in-Nigeria CNG buses

Automotive industry stakeholders have commended the Federal Government’s plan to deploy mass transit buses that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) to the states as part of measures to mitigate the impact of petrol subsidy withdrawal.

Among them are indigenous manufacturers of buses powered by CNG and LNG (liquefied natural gas) who have assured of their readiness to match orders for such vehicles with immediate deliveries. Reacting to the pronouncement which also indicated the government’s preference for buses produced in Nigeria, the Director General of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Engr. Jelani Aliyu, lauded the initiative which he described as a very “exciting development.”

The National Economic Council (NEC) had earlier announced that the decision was part of resolutions reached at the fourth meeting of the Council chaired by Vice President Kashim Shettima, at the State House Executive Council Chambers.

The Vice President had declared at the end of the meeting, “We will also vigorously pursue the mass deployment of CNG-powered vehicles and establishment of auto gas conversion plants/kits in all states in the short-term.”

“We will also deploy electric buses and cars with charging infrastructure across the country.”

Applauding the decision, the NADDC DG said it is a re-assuring testimony to the new administration’s commitment to supporting effective transportation solutions that are highly beneficial to the nation. Aliyu said the Automotive Development Council had in the past few years been preparing the ground for the deepening of the Electric Vehicle technology and the use of non-fossil fuels, particularly auto gas, in the country.

“The NADDC has been spearheading Vehicle Electrification, and also promoting CNG as a transition fuel, resulting in indigenous Nigerian Automotive companies already producing electric and CNG commercial vehicles,” Aliyu remarked.

He listed Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Ltd (IVM), Nnewi (manufacturers of sundry mass transit buses); Jet Motors with the Jet Mover electric buses/vans; and Omaa Motors, also assemblers of buses, as some of the companies already providing CNG-powered vehicles in Nigeria.

“These vehicles, produced right here in Nigeria, are set to take centre stage in this advanced transformation of the nation’s transportation sector, to play an incredibly crucial role in providing safe and affordable public transportation,” the NADDC Director General stated.

Interestingly, as the NEC was announcing its resolutions in Abuja, the Chairman of Innoson Group, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma, was at his auto plant in Nnewi assuring customers taking delivery of some CNG-powered IVM mass transit buses of the clear advantages they have over diesel and petrol vehicles.

Chief Chukwuma said that apart from considerable reduction in the cost of operating the buses (because CNG is by far cheaper) which guarantees faster recovery of money invested in the vehicles, they also record zero emission without the usual drops of diesel that soil the interior and exterior.

He disclosed that with the benefit of foresight, he had anticipated the removal of the subsidy on petrol and diesel, and the resultant quest for vehicles that run on alternative but cheaper CNG and LNG.

“That is why some months ago,” the Innoson Chairman further explained, “we obtained bank loans  that made it possible for us to manufacture these hundreds of CNG and LNG buses lined up here in readiness for large orders from intending buyers.”

Dr. Chukwuma thanked the customers for preferring the IVM brand and informed them that the vision to find a sustainable solution to the high pump prices of diesel and petrol also motivated him to go into the manufacture of the auto gas buses.

He was hopeful that the green energy IVM vehicles would help Nigerians discover the enormous benefits of transiting from fossil fuel (diesel/ petrol) to CNG and LNG.

The Innoson Group Chairman disclosed that taking into consideration that auto gas is not yet available in many parts of the country, some of the IVM buses have been manufactured to alternate between running on CNG and diesel.

Dr. Chikwuma assured the guests that the IVM plant also has mobilised the wherewithal to produce more units of the buses if the present stock is exhausted.

Built to accommodate 56 sitting passengers with provisions for 44 standing commuters, one of the Innoson CNG bus models  – IVM 6125  –  that attracted the interest of the customers from Abuja,  is designed for operation within the cities and towns with large populations.

Joining the league of EV, CNG and LNG bus makers very soon is Lanre Shittu Motors which, it was gathered, is set to commence the assembly of the vehicles at its 2500-units- a-year plant that has been producing other vehicles for years in Lagos.

Confirming this at the weekend, the Executive Director, Taiwo Shittu, stated that a large consignment of knocked down parts and other related kits and equipment needed for the special project, would soon arrive at the plant.

Shittu commended the Federal Government for its emphasis on locally produced mass transit buses that run on auto gas, pointing out the impact would be considerably felt, in terms of employment generation and boosting of activities in the auto industry that has been witnessing a lull for some years now.

Hyundai Kona Electric has the credit of being Nigeria’s first locally made EV, having been unveiled by Hyundai Motors Nigeria Limited {Stallion Motors}. First launched at Stallion Group’s VON Automobile plant in the Ojo area of Lagos in 2020, the Kona EV is sold with five years of battery warranty and five years of vehicle warranty.

To another auto industry stakeholder, Olufemi Olafunmiloye, the priority placed on CNG-powered made-in-Nigeria buses is a step in the right direction.

Olafunmiloye, who is the Managing Director/CEO of Lafbart Innovations & Consulting Ltd, an Akure-based tricycle and automobile assembly firm and related services provider, lauded the pronouncement by Vice President Shettima even as he said it was long overdue.

He remarked: “It remains the quickest, effective, and cost efficient form of palliative input by the government.

“Extra thumbs up for insisting on made-in-Nigeria buses and other vehicles. We expect to see resultant reduction in cost of goods and services across the country soon.”

Olafunmiloye is optimistic that with companies like Lafbart Innovations & Consulting Ltd and other equally competent players involved in the conversion of vehicles from diesel/petrol to CNG, “it’s a win-win scenario for everyone.”

The automakers, however, implored the government to take a step further by ensuring that the network of electric vehicle and auto gas stations is expanded to cover many parts of the country, in order that the huge benefits will be enjoyed by the majority of the citizens. Chief Chukwuma, for instance, cited the example of Edo state where IVM and other brands of buses have been successfully deployed due largely to the presence of CNG gas stations. Other parts of the country, he advised, should also be made to enjoy the benefits as the pump prices of petrol and diesel continue to soar.

Noting that the cost of converting vehicles with diesel or petrol engines to run on CNG is very high, the stakeholders also appealed to the government to introduce a scheme to empower those technically equipped to carry out the conversion work, to render the services in a way that will be affordable to the vehicle owners.

  • By Moses Akaigwe

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