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Nigerians spend N12bn on armoured vehicles as demand shoots up 20%

Nigerians spend N12bn on armoured vehicles as demand shoots up 20%

Security concerns and unbridled obsession for status among the super rich, have been identified as reasons for the ever rising spend by politicians and other affluent Nigerians on armoured vehicles.

Politicians, clerics and other affluent Nigerians spent an estimated N12 billion on the purchase of bullet proof vehicles last year.

This constitutes a 20 percent rise over the N10 billion spent for the same purpose in 2013.

Many high net worth individuals, government at various tiers, as well as the military and others, currently own state-of-the art bullet-proof vehicles.

Experts attribute the rise in the purchase of armoured vehicles to the surge in insecurity in some parts of the country, as well as heightened political activity attending the February elections this year.

As at last year, the market value for armoured vehicles imported into the country, translated into $60million or N9.7billion. About 1,000 units of the  vehicles are said to be on Nigerian roads. The figure does not take into account those imported by quasi-government parastatals .

Armoured vehicles are classified into two categories – special purpose vehicles (SPVs) and passenger vehicles (PVs). The SPVs are bought mostly  by banks and security operatives, while the passenger vehicles are for private passenger car owners.

The specialised vehicles, which range from the armoured Mercedes Benz S600/S550 to the Cadillac Escalade and Toyota Land Cruiser, among others, do not come cheap. The Toyota range is the favoured by most Nigerians.

Jason Forston, executive vice-president of Texas Armoring Corporation (TAC),  said that the heavily fortified Cadillac Escalade, which has its floor, roof, pillar posts and window overlaps armoured, sells for about $400,000 (about N60m) per unit.

Read also: Nigeria gets $11m armoured vehicles from US to fight Boko Haram

Aminu Jalal, director-general, National Automotive Council, said before the latest policy review on importation of cars by 2012, Nigerians imported 200,000 used-vehicles and 80,000 new ones, at an annual cost of N400bn.

Adetokunbo Ogundeyin, group managing director, Proforce Defence Limited, Ode Remo, Ogun State, makers of armoured vehicles in Nigeria, had last year decried the uncontrolled importation of vehicles, saying it was detrimental to the economy. Ogundehin said: “By importing all these cars into Nigeria, a lot of foreign exchange is being wasted, job opportunities that should have been created for the citizens of the country are not being created, because job opportunities are now being exported.”

Okoroze Chibuike, a security expert, linked the closeness of the 2015 general elections to the upsurge in orders for heavily fortified anti-ballistic vehicles, coming from Nigeria.

With a yearly importation of between 600 and 1,000 armoured vehicles, Nigeria comes behind only Iraq, Afghanistan and Latin America.

Dmitri Khazanski,  vice-president of Inkas Armoured Vehicle Manufacturing, which is the parent company of Inkastrans, assures that the position of Nigeria on the armoured car importation world chart is no exaggeration.

Khazanski says that the first time his company received a request for an armoured car from a Nigerian was in 2005 and that since then, the number has increased steadily.

Jason Forston, says about 30 per cent of his company’s market was from Nigeria and added that, close to 800-900 armoured vehicles are being imported into Nigeria.

While the position of Iraq and Afghanistan as the top two importers of armoured vehicles is understandable because of the war situations in those regions, Nigeria’s fourth position as the largest armoured vehicle importer in the world, according to market watchers is linked to insecurity and the unbridled obsession for status among the super rich. 

Security experts say that quite a lot of politicians and wealthy Nigerians have expanded the internal security around their residences and offices, for fear of being kidnapped or assaulted.

The high rate of small arms proliferation in the country may be another reason armoured cars have become a common sight in Nigeria.

What makes the bullet-proof cars more attractive to the owners and would-be buyers is that they cannot be differentiated from regular automobiles.

It would be recalled that the purchase of two bullet-proof BMW cars for N255 million by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) last year, sparked an uproar across the country, culminating in part, in the controversial removal of Stella Oduah, the then aviation minister.