Plans to remove Lagos danfo commendable —Esan
The Chief Executive Officer, African Business and Engineering Management Limited, Oluwafemi Esan, talks to TOBI AWORINDE about his career
Please, can you give a brief introduction of yourself?
My experience as a student and professional spans 42 years. I hold a Master of Business Administration and Master of Technology Management with specialties in management, logistics and physical distribution in transport. I have worked in many capacities: as an engineer with Allens Motors, a workshop manager with Lagos Bottlers, and a service manager with Allens Motors in Kano, all in the John Holt Plc. Divisions, from 1986 to 1990.
I was forced to come back to Lagos because of threat to life shortly before the Kano riot in 1990. I was employed through the Service Advisory, Technical Services Manager and Deputy Dealership Manager (Aftersales) of Volkswagen of Nigeria, 1990 to 1994, and ended up at R.T. Briscoe Nigeria Plc., served as Service Manager (Toyota), Group Service Manager (Toyota) and ended up as National Aftersales Manager between 1994 and December 2016. Now, I manage my own business, the African Business and Engineering Management Limited, a consultancy and aftersales business organisation.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
My biggest accomplishment so far is in the development of various engineering management systems that are otherwise absent in Nigeria. My research and development are as follows: development of a proactive maintenance management system; developing for an international organisation and for the first time in Nigeria a scattered vehicle maintenance programme, using the theories of near neighbour analysis; programming vehicle valuation system that cancels guesswork on placing values on vehicles; developing a typical aftersales business plan spanning five years and tested, including financial/accounting management analysis; developing the essential matrix for productivity, efficiency, capacity utilisation and motivation scheme for the motor business enterprise; developing a buy-back scheme in insurance claims on crash repairs (yet to be submitted to NICON).
Presently, I am researching into a collective African industrial development project in automotive engineering. I was the first engineer to repair a Lexus car in Nigeria (1994). I was also the first Nigerian to repair a hybrid vehicle in 2006 (the Toyota Highlander hybrid came to Nigeria in 2006). I developed a skilled conversion programme for fresh engineering graduates from universities. I can go on and the list of achievements would be endless. I am actually a role model and a mentor in automotive engineering and have had very many engineers tutored on skills. I deliver lectures to about 25 engineers on Wednesdays and appear sometimes on radio, I tell you, it’s fun.
When did you discover your love for cars?
I discovered my love for cars in my youth in Lagos. I grew up in Odi-Olowo, Mushin, and it was common to have children build cars with Saint Louis sugar packs. Moreover, while going to school in the 60s, it was not uncommon for children to be contesting ownership of passing cars.
What differentiates Nigerian drivers from others around the world?
When it comes to driving in Nigeria, as we say, ‘your road partners can’t be better than crazy.’ No matter how good you are, you will be hit. I have been programming ethics of driving through behavioural analysis and using the Nigerian environment since 1980. I had somebody like the late Elsie Olusola (Sisi Clara of the Village Headmasters) deliver one of the programmes. I was then working with Mr. Samuel Folorunsho Idowu at Safeway Automobile Consultants. My experience in world driving patterns span the US, UK, Germany, South Africa, Singapore and Japan. Of all these places, I respect Japanese drivers mostly. The reason is that the value of life and respect for each other is absolutely great. Others just have good ethics and control.
However, my Nigerian driving experience noticeably lacks all the ethics and controls, and as a ‘Master in Transport,’ the road furniture are too bad and can easily mislead the drivers too. For instance, from Victoria Island through Ozumba Mbadiwe towards Falomo, a sign reads turn right to Awolowo. Another road was constructed from 1004 climbing the bridge; the Works Department did not remove the signage that reads turn right to Awolowo, an unsuspecting driver will tend to turn to the right to Awolowo and meet people coming from 1004. It is a typical accident factor; go and see it, it is still there. Our furniture and information systems are very bad and the third and fourth E’s of the road management project are missing. Our roads lack enforcement and situational evaluation.
In my latest transport research analysis on Africa industrial development vis-à-vis transportation, Africa has a transport assets value of $20tn for 56 countries and a vehicle population of 104 million. Nigeria has a share of $1.8tn in value, a 16 million-vehicle population and a very poor one vehicle per 12 persons, compared with Libya’s three person per vehicle and South Africa’s five person per vehicle. The transport investment in Nigeria is huge and demands special attention on the creation of a special Department of Transportation outside Ministry of Transport for all the transportation modes, each represented by a minister of state with focus on policies, engineering, enlightenment, enforcement control and evaluation of Nigeria’s situations. Otherwise, we are playing with $1.8tn investments and if the investment crashes as in railways, the economy of Nigeria will crash. Responsibilities on laxities border on the following facts: no standard, too much load on infrastructures, poor maintenance materials, no enforcement control, too many agencies, no enlightenment, no evaluation, no agency integration, spread negative attitudes, bad economy vis-à-vis predominant recurrent budgeting with no bias for development. It is too much damages. Everybody is involved.
What is your take on the recently introduced psychological evaluation of traffic offenders by the FRSC?
I don’t have the statistics for number of offences or number of psycho-analysed cases, and it all looks like lip service or a superficial threat to make drivers comply with state orders. The question is, has it changed anything? My answer is no. I can’t see any significant changes and, therefore, I can empirically state that it is not working, unless otherwise proven wrong. The emphasis is abstractive in nature.
What is the most important advice you can give to Nigerian drivers?
You shouldn’t blame the road for your mistakes. You shouldn’t blame the vehicle for your mistakes. 1985 studies by K. Rumar on UK/US accident analysis showed that 24 per cent of accidents were caused by the road, 9 per cent by vehicles and 67 per cent by man. Man in this case may be driver, (commercial bus) owner and garages. You are therefore expected to keep your vehicle in good shape — be the road manager, don’t allow the road to manage you, maintain good driving ethics, and respect and consider other road users.
Are there transport/auto policies that you feel government should discard?
I don’t know who the government contacted before making their policies, but it is obvious it was not done by the professionals. I also didn’t know if an environmental impact assessment was pre-tested to arrive at hypotheticals. I however note in the case of the 2014 Auto Policy that the cart was placed before the horse.
Firstly, an automotive assembling plant is never a production plant. Production is based in the brand owner and you can never see an African country in the list of the 20 Automotive Production Countries by the OCIA (Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles) – Production Statistics 2015. And that includes South Africa. Our first effort is to develop to be Africa’s first production state.
Secondly, a country cannot jump into automotive production without first testing the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) consumption analysis. In our case, only 20 per cent of our parts are genuine, and 14 per cent are OEM parts, 36 per cent fake of substitute parts, other 30 per cent are tokunbo (second-hand) and stolen vehicle parts. This phenomenon has to be addressed first; a vehicle is used for 10 years in the US and brought to Nigeria as a tokunbo vehicle, and it is observed that there is no smoking tendency. Eighteen months later, the vehicle starts to smoke.
That is the effect of bad materials in circulation. So, our first priority should have been to assess the minerals that we have in the country that can contribute to local content and invite OEM partnership to establish private business partnership with government encouragement. This will reduce the high cost of cheap exports of minerals and reduce high cost of finished parts imports; it will create employment, set national standards and set up plans for local Nigerian production and not an assembly plant.
Our team analysis had shown that with all close to 28 licensed (assembling plants), product derivation is a gross 32 per cent of needed automobiles, which I find really absurd. The policy has made vehicles cost to rise to 250 per cent of its original cost. Cancel the policy and start afresh. The transport policy of Lagos State on the removal of danfo from the road is the best that any government has ever done for its people. It is highly commendable and, again, Lagos has been a pace setter state. I also want the Marwa aka Keke NAPEP (commercial tricycles) removed. It is a wrong policy against mass transportation. Lagos, with a population size of Ghana, could be a country on its own. We need mass transportation and a controlled standard.
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