The Managing Director/CEO,
Why did you go for the production of armoured vehicles?
What has happened over the years is that the level of insecurity is on a very high level. When you look at armed robbery, you will see that it is on a very high level. I happened to be in
Why did you not go for importing?
Due to my passion for innovation and my training as an engineer, I do not believe that trading is the way forward. We engineers believe that trading does not build up the economy of any country but innovative manufacturing and application of latest technology. Manufacturing is the heartbeat of any economy and without manufacturing that economy will be stagnant and potentially collapse under external global market pressures. Trading is just a short-term engagement. Manufacturing is long-term, and the more companies you have manufacturing, the greater the foundation of the economy of that country because of the jobs and wealth created. So, that was why we went into manufacturing and, of course, it gives me so much joy and pride because by manufacturing, we design and build our products; and this is done by Nigerians thereby developing expertise and capacity. We are creating jobs for Nigerians. We are saving for the country a lot of foreign exchange and are even earning foreign exchange for the country by exporting. You can imagine the amount of joy you have when you see your products in other countries all over the world and it is made in
But, then apart from that, when you are talking about defence, in
But some people think that
What exactly do you produce in your Ode Remo plant, and can the quality standard be compared with similar products elsewhere in the world?
We make a lot of tactical vehicles, cash-in-transit vans; infantry combat vehicles, armoured patrol boats, Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV's) and architectural armouring. We are now putting together a prototype military tank. Majority of these vehicles are second to none when you look at the quality. We have brought in expatriates that have a combined 70 years experience in armoring, and these are people who were the top guys where they were working before. They have transferred the technology to Nigerians who are coming up seriously fast. In fact, we have a couple armoured personnel carriers (APCs) that the Nigerian team put together and when you look at the quality of the finish, you can match it in quality with the APC's the expatriate team made.
So, gradually, what is happening is that the Nigerians are taking over, and one day the expatriates will leave it to Nigerians. But I can assure you that our products are just as good as all the products that are imported into
We have independently tested most of the different parts. They are all tested in ballistic laboratories in
What is your recent MoU with the
We signed an MoU (memorandum of understanding) with DICON to build a lot of military APCs in their Bauchi plant. The Bauchi plant has been comatose for years. I think it was built over 20 years, and not much has happened there. So, they want us to make use of it on a PPP (public private partnership) basis and start building military tanks. Just as we are building here, we will be building over there too. Nothing is as good as that, because what it means is that the country as a whole will now look inward. I can tell you one thing: No army anywhere in the world goes out to fight without having its own equipment built in its own country, because if you are unlucky to have your equipment built in a country where an aggression is coming from, then you are in trouble. So, you are to have your own home-grown equipment, not equipment being built by one country and supplied to you. No. We have more than enough expertise to build these things here. We are building them in Ode-
So, we don't need any expatriate to say they want to come and start building anything again for us. Many countries have realized that Proforce is number one, that Proforce is on the move. At the rate at which we are going, we will overtake a lot of countries within a short time, and that is the drive we have.
You once tested your APC with policemen on board as shots were being fired with AK 47. Was there any incident, and how did the vehicle perform?
Yes, that was at Osun State. The policemen were inside the vehicle as it was shot times without number, and there was no penetration at all. What that shows is that we know our products, and we are confident of our products. Even I can sit down in our vehicles and have it shot at as I will be fully protected. All our vehicles are 360 degrees protected.
By that you mean that no part of your armoured vehicles can be penetrated?
No part can be penetrated. Even when you have gun shots on the tyres, what you will discover is that the run-flat that are inside the tyres can take the vehicles for over 50 kilometres and take you out of that danger zone, which is excellent and second to none. So, that is what we have done. The Policemen, the Military, the Armed Forces and the paramilitary, all of them have given credit to our products. They find it un-believable that this is happening in
Who do you make APCs for and who are those that bring their luxury cars to you for armouring?
Our clients are the Military, the Police, the Paramilitary, the Immigration, Customs and multi-national companies that bring their vehicles here, because they realize that a lot of the vehicles they imported and are having serious after-sales problems. In fact, one of the biggest companies making armoured vehicles in the US just called me for a meeting tomorrow, saying they want us to handle their after-sales in the country and they want us to handle their armouring for them here for some of their clients.
That shows you the level of confidence they have in us. Apart from that, we had an inquiry from one of the huge European countries i.e.
What kind of support have you been getting from government?
Proforce has been recognized by government. In fact, there was a time the President sent a delegation of all the security outfits within the Presidency to come and look at what we are doing. At different times, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr.
Look at financing, the Federal Government has now provided an intervention fund for manufacturing. This fund is one that is accessed easily.
But there are people who think it will not be good for the economy. For goodness sake, we have been on this for years. We have been trading for years; just importing and selling.
The Minister seems to be caught in the cross-fire of the opposing camps on the policy. How do you see him?
This is a man that has applied a global perspective to manage massive portfolios and we all know they are long term thinkers. These are people who understand what industrialization is all about. The people who are attacking the Minister are a people who cannot see beyond their nose. Nigerians do not want to get out of their comfort zone. The people that have been opposing the policy have been making money just trading. Let me give you a typical example: Dangote those days was just trading. When Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo's government started the privatization of government enterprises, he took the bull by the horn and went into manufacturing, and today, you can see the difference. Other people who were his competitors, but were short-sighted, look at where he is and where they are today. So, people need to get out of their comfort zone. Most people prefer to have an office and just sit down and sell may be100 vehicles a month with a lot of profit. When it comes to manufacturing, it is a different ball game entirely, but that is what makes a country grow.
How will the policy and the new fiscal measures impact on your own sector of the auto industry?
In the case of Proforce, you know we import most of the things we use. We import the steel, the suspension, the glass and virtually everything that we use in building the vehicle. Definitely, by the time we start paying zero duty, the prices of our vehicles will be cheaper. We will be able to compete favourably with all the APCs and other armoured vehicles made all over the world. People will now be queing to our factory here in
How Proforce's products compare with imported competitors in terms of price?
As of now, we are able to match their prices. For instance, if you want to armour a Landcruser with us, it is about
Does your company have the capacity to satisfy local demands?
Our facility in Ode-Remo has the capacity for 40 armoured vehicles per month. It is designed and built to produce 40 vehicles per month. The one in Port Harcourt which we are starting by January can do 20 vehicles per month. So, we are talking about total of about 60 vehicles per month. We are in the process of putting up another one in
Why is armouring vehicles vehicles so expensive?
It is so because of ballistic steel. The cost of ballistic steel is enormous. We are talking about steel of about 6.5 millimeter thickness. We are talking about adding a weight of at least 1000 kilos on a vehicle. So, the suspension has to be reinforced, which comes all the way from
In that case, an armoured vehicle will certainly be too heavy. How do you manage weight problem?
That is why when you want to armour a vehicle, we suggest that the engine capacity should be a minimum of 4.6 litres; that is, Landcruiser and above, so there will be a lot of power and torque to move the vehicle very well. And apart from that, it must have a reinforced suspension. Moreover, we always advise you don't go more than 100 to 120 kilometres per hour. Above that, it is a bit dangerous, because the vehicle is very heavy and then you need to be trained on how to drive an armoured vehicle. It is not the same way you drive other vehicles. It is not the same way because when suddenly you apply your brake, it can throw the vehicle off the road completely. So we always advise that the maximum speed should be 120 kilometres per hour.
Yes. It is a major concern. Insecurity is a major concern. But one thing I will say is that
How many armoured vehicles are imported into the country evry year?
When you talk about the normal passenger vehicles, I think it is about 500 and 800 in a year. There are armoured personnel carriers imported by the Police.The Customs too. Add the ones imported by the military. By the time you add up all that, you will be talking about 1500 in a year.
What is the target you aim to hit, may be in the next couple of years?
You see, we believe that Proforce will make
You have in your plant some imported armoured luxury cars which owners brought for re-armouring. Is this an indication that the foreign vehicles were not good enough?
Definitely, that is what has happened to a lot of Nigerians. Nigerians go abroad and import the wrong things entirely. For instance, how come that you go over there and import an armoured vehicle and only six months after you start having problems with the windscreen? That is pathetic. It means that that new windscreen has to be changed. How do you explain a situation where you import an armoured vehicle and you start having electrical problem, mechanical problem and suspension problem? That means that Nigerians are being short-changed and we have a lot of people bringing in their armoured vehicles basically bought from different manufacturers all over the world and all these vehicles are failing them. The government of a particular state bought some APCs sometime ago. We got complaints soon after that virtually all the APCs were down. People usually import the wrong vehicles. Most of these armoured vehicles that are imported are built on particular brand's chassis. Most of the armoured vehicles on those chassis have parts problem, because we don't even have the parts for Ford. All our armoured vehicles, all our cash-in transit vans are built on
Do you think
We have already reached that point; the time is now. Armoured vehicles should not be imported into this county again. Proforce has the capability. We have the capacity. We have what it takes, and we are moving up, and we thank God for the wisdom of the Federal Government in putting a fresh auto policy in place.
Auto policy aside, what other kind of encouragement do you still need to get to the position you have just talked about?
All we need is the encouragement of the Armed Forces. We are not isolated. We cant work alone. With the encouragement of the military, with the support of the Federal Government which we are getting from President Jonathan and the Trade and Industry Minister, from the
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