This is the biography of Dr. Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, most widely known as Innoson. He is the brain behind the popular vehicle manufacturing and assembly plant in Nigeria known as Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing Co. Ltd, the first indigenous vehicle manufacturing plant in Nigeria.
Innocent Chukwuma was born in 1961 in Umudim, Nnewi, Anambra State, Nigeria. He is the last of six children born to Mr. and Mrs.
Chukwuma Mojekwu of Uru-Umudim Nnewi, in Anambra State. After his education, he started trading in spare parts under the name Innoson Nigeria Ltd in 1981. His vehicle manufacturing company ranks alongside the likes of Leventis and Boulos Enterprises in assembling branded motorcycles in the country.
Over time, his business has expanded into four manufacturing companies namely: Innoson Nigeria Limited Nnewi, manufacturers of motorcycles, tri-cycles, spare parts and accessories; Innoson Tech. & Industries Co. Ltd Enugu, manufacturers of Household and Industrial Plastics, Health & Safety accessories, Storage containers, Fixtures & Fittings, Electrical components & accessories; Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) Nnewi, manufacturers of Capacity City bus, Mini & Midi buses, Pick-Up trucks and Garbage Collecting vehicles; General Tyres & Tubes Co. Ltd Enugu, manufacturers of Tyres and Tubes.
The vehicles in IVM fleet range from cars, trucks, SUVs, compactors, etc . Presently, the company has made in-road into some African countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Chad, Niger, Togo.
As the first indigenous motor manufacturing company in Nigeria, he says he wanted to prove that Nigerians can do it. This he says has been proved. According to him, the inspiration to go into vehicle manufacturing was drawn from a desire to see Nigerians drive new cars. According to him in an interview with Vanguard he says “Nigeria has become a dumping ground for second hand cars. I know it was the high price of new vehicles that made Nigerians resort to patronising old vehicles, but since we decided to manufacture the vehicles here, the price is affordable, and our people can drive new vehicles again,”
When the car manufacturing company began, he faced a lot of challenges because some people felt it will not work, but today, he is the first black man to embark on such a venture.
Due to his group of manufacturing companies, he has ensured employment of more than 7,400 Nigerians who work in the company’s factory and are all on his payroll.
Due to his outstanding contributions to the development of Nigeria, he has been given several awards both locally, Nationally and internationally.
In November, 2013, Innoson was made Deputy Chairman, Board of Trustees, National Coalition for Jonathan/Sambo Presidency. He was made the honorary Life Vice President of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (NACCIMA) on November 23, 2013; Ambassador for Peace by St. Andrews Anglican Church, Trans Ekulu, Enugu, April, 2012; Entrepreneur of the Year by Wesley University of Science and Technology, Akure, Ondo State, March 2012.
He was also given the Most Outstanding Indigenous Entrepreneur in the Manufacturing Sector by Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) in January 2012; National Council Member, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.
He was Conferred the National Honour of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) on November 2011 by His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan; Awarded Doctorate Degree in Business Administration (DBA) by Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu in November 2011 amongst several other awards.
During an interview with vanguard, he recalls how the whole success story started. This is what he said: “I started as a small business man dealing on spare parts at Nnewi. At that time, people were bringing only second hand motorcycles to Nigeria, and I felt there should be a way to reduce the price of the new ones, so that people will be interested enough to buy new ones, rather than the second hand motorcycles.
“I travelled overseas and found out that there were four companies importing motorcycles into Nigeria. First was Leventis that was bringing the Honda brand, the second company was Yamaco that was bringing Yamaha, the other company was Bolus that was bringing Suzuki and the fourth was CFAO.
“These were the companies that were dealing on motorcycle in Nigeria, and my company was the next one. So when I went there, I discovered that when they brought the motorcycles in crate and each crate contained one motorcycle which took a lot of space and you can put about 40 units in one 40ft container. In one container with 40 units of motorcycles in a 40ft container, the motorcycle will become expensive. So after evaluating it, I went to overseas and packed 200 units in one 40ft container and my price came down by 40%. Of course, this was cheaper.”
This feat he was able to achieve because he discovered that if he disassemble the parts and brought them in different parts to be manually assembled here, it reduced the initial cost of packing the fully assembled machines.
This ingenuity on the part of Innoson brought down the initial cost of Motorcycles from N150,000 to N60,000.
It was in the course of motorcycle importation, that he discovered that there are a lot of plastics in a motorcycle, and that is one of the reasons he set up a plastic plant to produce the plastics components locally. These are some of the things he did to bring down the cost of motorcycle to about N60,000. Today, nobody thinks of buying second hand motorcycle anymore in Nigeria. Everybody wants to buy a new one because a new one is cheap, and he had promised that he was going to do the same thing with motor vehicles.
Today however, his promise has become reality as his company is now into full time manufacturing of new vehicles in Nigeria and at a very cheap rate.
On March 30, 2016, the Nigerian Air Force, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company, IVM, Nnewi, Anambra state for research and production of spare parts for its fighter jets. According to Vanguard, The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, further represented by Air Vice-Marshal James Gbum disclosed that the collaboration between Innoson and the Air Force had kept its jet fleet running for some months. He further said the MoU would further solidify the collaboration, improve local content and engineering as well as save the country a lot of foreign exchange used in importing the expensive parts. Vanguard further reported Air Vice-Marshal James Gbum of saying the following in his own words:
“Our war efforts will be in vain if we don’t do something to ensure we get spare parts because some of our fighter aircrafts that have formed the back-bone of our struggle against Boko Haram, were once down due to lack of spare parts and mainly the break assemblies of these aircrafts. “The Air Chief immediately ordered our research and development cell in Kaji to start to research into this break assembly overhaul. They went ahead and carried out the research. However, the first proto-type they brought couldn’t pass the test.
“The Nigerian Air Force later discovered that Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company at Nnewi, Anambra State is very capable of collaborating with the Nigerian Air Force to achieve the required standards of overhauling our break assemblies.”