Jelani Aliyu

Nigeria’s Top 10 CEOs of the year, 2019 – Jelani Aliyu

Director General, National Automotive Design and Development Council

Mr. Jelani Aliyu, Director General, National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), is said to be the man who may turn Nigeria into an auto hub. He appears girded and fitted to bring to fruition the chapter of auto boom that is forecast for Nigeria. An automobile genius, he was the lead exterior designer in General Motors – an American auto manufacturing giant for many years.

He designed the Chevrolet Volt, the car that has been described as a modern-day revolutionary vehicle that would change the world, from the stable of General Motors. The design emerged the best from hundreds of entries from the auto company’s three advanced studious in the United States and the United Kingdom. He was, for many years, one of Nigeria’s best brain exports to the world.

Like Aliyu, there are thousands of Nigerian professionals who are making their marks in different fields in foreign countries. Unlike them however, Aliyu decided to sacrifice his comfort zone, the fame and the fortune to return to Nigeria, to put his hands on deck in building the nation’s auto industry. For him, it isn’t just about personal benefits but the service angle that exits in every enterprise.

NADDC is a government agency in the Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment with responsibility to implement developmental policies for the country’s auto industry. There, Aliyu has the responsibility to stimulate the growth and development of Nigeria’s auto industry. The mandate includes building local auto manufacturing capacity and reducing importation of finished vehicles into the country.

The agency isn’t a new establishment and other people have headed it in the past but Aliyu has given it a new life and a new face within a short space of time. New policies are springing up to transform the country’s automobile industry. World’s renowned auto manufacturers are changing from selling fully built vehicles to Nigeria to producing the vehicles in the country.

Volkswagen AG of Germany, reputed for the manufacture of 13 brands of vehicles, is one of these. NADDC has entered into an agreement with the company for a phased programme of production of Volkswagen vehicles in the country with a long-term plan of making Nigeria an automotive hub of which the nation has the potential.

Honda Motors has already launched a brand of its products fully built in Nigeria earlier this year. About 30 car makers have obtained licenses to set up production shops in Nigeria. With increasing vehicle assembling capacity in the country, Aliyu is gearing up on developing capacity to produce components locally.

Aliyu is driving the new auto policy with local skills development in order to give it a solid foundation. Establishment of a training academy for technical training in automotive skills is a critical part of the agreements with auto companies in the process of building production plants in Nigeria.

Apart from human capacity development, a conducive environment for the shift from vehicle importation to manufacturing in Nigeria is being created through the tariff structure. These include a fiscal regime that has placed a tariff of 35 per cent plus a levy of 35 per cent on fully built cars and 35 per cent tariff on fully built up commercial vehicles.

Capacity building for the auto industry is in process with ongoing development of automotive laboratories as provided for in the plan for safety tests. A material test laboratory is located in Zaria, a component test laboratory in Enugu and an emission test laboratory is in Lagos.

Another key element of the National Automotive Industry Development Plan [NAIDP] is on the marketing end of vehicles built in the country. Aliyu is putting in place a fund through the banks that would enable the public to finance purchases of locally built brand new vehicles at affordable costs whether for private use or commercial fleets. The purpose of the fund, he said, is to enable an increased number of Nigerians to afford new vehicles and to restrain the importation of used vehicles into the country.

The auto industry development plan was launched in 2013 and is expected to run for 10 years. Aliyu has given it the biggest drive since then in his belief in the vision of growing Nigeria’s auto industry by reducing vehicle importation. His strategy to reduce vehicle imports is to make prices of locally produced vehicles affordable.

Aliyu has a dream for Nigeria and it is big: to make the importation of used vehicles into the country a thing of the past. He is desirous to make history – to be the midwife that would bring forth an automobile industry that would design vehicles for Nigerians that would embody the history and culture of the people. He is re-inventing the auto industry to attain a status he has defined – producing “a Nigerian vehicle that is conceptualized, designed and developed by Nigerians for Nigerians in Nigeria”.

With him on board, the auto industry is headed for customer-oriented productions for the first time ever in the years ahead. He is practically re-writing the history of the industry to deliver vehicles in tune with the history, culture, environment and economic structure of Nigerians. “I think we are heading there”, he said.

Aliyu finished his secondary school education with a prize as the best student in technical drawing. He graduated from polytechnic as the best all round student in architecture. He proceeded to the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan in the United States, where he studied transportation design. He put together his love for cars and skill in drawing and joined General Motors as a design staff upon graduation in 1994.

For his great strides he has made in taking Nigeria’s automobile industry to a new level, Aliyu is named one of the top 10 CEOs of the year, 2019 byThe Top 10 Magazine.