By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The federal government’s Automotive Industry Development Plan Bill yesterday caused commotion in the Senate, following moves by the lawmakers to kill the Bill on the ground that federal government is yet to put in place structures necessary for takeoff of automotive industry in Nigeria.
Majority of the senators argued that before the Bill could be passed for second reading, the power sector and the Ajaokuta steel plant should be up and running to feed and sustain the local auto industries.
The Bill, being an executive Bill, was expeditiously treated and was about to be passed for second reading before the senators suddenly moved to kill it, but for the intervention and pleadings by the Senate President, David Mark.
However, when the question was put by the Senate President on whether the Bill should go for second reading or not, there was confusion on whether the majority wanted it rejected or passed, even though Mark controversially passed it for second reading.
This controversy in the passage therefore triggered off arguments between those that wanted it rejected and those that approved it, which lasted for a while before the Senate President was able to bring it to control.
Speaking shortly after the Bill was passed for second reading, Mark said the passage of the Bill cannot actualise the Nigeria’s automotive development plan without other necessary strictures on ground.
“The problem of Nigeria automotive industry development can’t be solved by this Bill alone. Practically on ground, we are not prepared.
No investor can put money on ground if there is no regular power supply.
“Ajaokuta is good to revive and other necessary things. There is need to put in place protectionist policy to grow our automotive industry.
Today everybody is going to China, but China has this protectionist policy we are talking about, India has it, so we must protect our local industries”, Mark said.
Meanwhile, leading debate on the Bill which is titled “Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (Fiscal Incentive, Assurances and Guarantees), the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, explained that the Bill seeks to confer pioneer status and to provide tariff incentives and income tax reliefs on automobile and automotive components.