• Thursday, April 18, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Why Nigeria may remain a poor country – Local tractor manufacturer

20240316_201232_0000

…Says, country can’t stabilise naira with wrong mentality

…Niger State missed big chance by not buying Nigerian-made tractors

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bobtrack Tractors Nigeria, an Ahmadu Bello University (ABU)-trained Engineer, Ibifiri Bobmanuel, has expressed fears that Nigeria may continue in its handshake with poverty and underdevelopment for a very long time to come, unless there is a sharp mindset shift on the part of its leaders.

Bobmanuel made the observation in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Read also: FG solicits $5m grant for agric value chain project

He explained that Nigeria had no business importing tractors from the United States, since there are home-made tractors that could even serve better in-country, because they were specifically manufactured with local environment in mind.

“I was weeping when Nigerians were celebrating the Niger State adventure,” he said, explaining that Niger State was wrong to have ignored made-in-Nigeria tractors that he said have emerged as world-beaters that come with a lot of advantages.

“I really weep. In a country where we have few jobs and you got the opportunity for 1000 tractors, and you took that money to another country to buy tractors that are not built for your environment, and you come to celebrate.

“I think that is why Nigeria will remain this way. I commend heroes like Paul Kagame of Rwanda and other African leaders that are looking at creating jobs at home instead of exporting value and importing items. That money might have bought more tractors if they had worked with a local manufacturer. Also, the maintenance package would have been great. This would have deepened the mechanization and tractorisation process in Nigeria and probably fetched many more tractors for them,” he said.

Read also: Revitalising Nigeria’s agriculture: Confronting food insecurity challenges

He said that Bobtract tractors have become world-beaters and once sold out in few minutes at an exhibition in China. He also said that the company exports Nigerian tractors to Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, among others.

Stating the advantages made-in-Nigeria tractors have, he said much time was spent trying to correct all the reasons why imported tractors failed in Nigeria over the years, and that sharp climatic differences make foreign tractors not to work in Africa.

According to him, while most people clapped for the Niger State feat, that he saw it as rather a challenge.

“If you go to America, you will find that we are two different worlds. Their tractors are designed for their environment and not for our land. If you bring theirs to our environment, how do you expect it to work? Countless governments in Nigeria have spent billions of dollars on tractors that packed up soon after. Most of the huge debts recorded against Nigeria are from such loans especially on tractors. They were used to procure tractors they knew would not serve us. They just dumped them on us. It cannot serve us because it was not built to serve us.

“We have ours that are designed and built to serve us, create jobs for us, etc. So, as a government leader, you should rather be marketing your product from Nigeria here to America. You should be telling them to buy some of your tractors. We are exporting tractors from Port Harcourt here to Kenya, to Rwanda, to Ghana, and you are importing tractors to Nigeria, and you say you want to stabilise the naira, how? You cannot stabilise the naira with this kind of mentality,” he said.

Bobmanuel, who is the president of a group of investors in Nigeria based in Port Harcourt (Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum, REIF), said for hard-nosed African countries that have deep affinities with western countries to decide to buy Nigerian tractors (Bobtrack), it means there is a huge difference.

He recalled records that indicated that Africa has 70 percent of arable land in the world, and that Nigeria has 60 percent of it, meaning that only massive tractorisation will till that massive land, not humans anymore.

“This means that Nigeria is a potential global agric powerhouse. That amount of arable land means that the chunk of world arable land is in Nigeria,” he said.

Bobmanuel said he believed that the present administration was working round the clock to see that they made ends meet and turn the trajectory in Nigeria.

“The first step is that the government, be it the president, governors, or local government chairmen, they need to identify those businesses within their domains and see them as their number one priority and partner and make themselves as the number one marketing agents of those businesses. This way, this kind of flaw would not happen,” he said.

He said that China where things are difficult to export to, once bought up all the tractors his company took there for exhibition.

“Governments would have known that they had tractors from Nigeria that are global beaters. Our tractors (Bobtract) were taken to China for an agric exhibition but they sold out in minutes. We were working the papers to bring in more but government officials there got the wind and stopped us. That is why China is like this. That’s why they in trade war with the Americans. What stops Nigeria from promoting Made-in-Nigeria. You are travelling to America to buy tractors; you should carry the representatives of Made-in-Nigeria tractors along.”

He said: “You have Innoson Motors doing vehicles; you have NOD doing cars; Bobtract is doing tractors. When have you carried Innoson, NOD, and Bobtract on your delegation to your trade meetings. Those other countries come with their real manufacturers or investors but we Africans come empty-handed to the table with our cheques. That is why we worry. At any opportunity you buy home tractor, you have created opportunity for jobs, for taxes, etc. We must begin to get our leaders to see the dream of our country, which is when we begin to see these things happen.”

He however, commended the Niger State government for the mind to invest massively in Agriculture or tractorisation but on the other hand, said, “I weep over the opportunity lost to boost local mechanization and investment. Many other countries are buying made-in-Nigeria but you are buying from outside. If we didn’t have any tractor company in Nigeria, you would ask them to come and invest in Nigeria. You will tell them that since there is no other manufacturer here, that they would have the exclusive market. That’s how it is done. It works. That’s the way to go.”