BY MIKE OCHONMA.
In what can be described as the first in Africa, the University of Lagos has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NORD Automobiles Limited to set up a auto assembly plant on the campus.
The signing of the MoU is a bold step in the right direction that is positioned to further intensify the university’s quest to equip students with all the necessary skills before graduation, said Oluwatoyin Ogunleye, vice chancellor, University of Lagos.
Ogundipe said that this would also stimulate research and development activities in the area of automobile among members of staff, adding that any nation with the quest for development must look inward.
“This is the first time any university is bringing an automobile company into its campus in Africa. What this means to us therefore is that they will start assembling the car in this University of Lagos, putting into consideration the economic situation of this country,” he said.
Ogundipe expressed delight that with the coming of the auto plant, Engineering students of the university woukd be able to gain first-hand experience, but also students of Architecture, Finance, Marketing, as well as those in Creative Arts.
The VC said in the process, some students who do well could also be employed with NORD Automobiles upon graduation and that will expose them at the international level in the area of automobile engineering. It will assist the academic staff in the area of research, maybe in the area of energy or fuel consumption, and also be a thing of pride for the university, the community and the country at large.
Oluwatobi Ajayi, chief executive officer, NORD Automobiles Limited, expressed delight at the development, noting that it was his little way of contributing to the development of the country.
According to him, there is the need to continuously encourage the youths, especially students in tertiary institutions, by making them understand that they have a future in engineering especially.
The NORD boss said that in two months’ time, the company will be establishing the assembly plant, as well as an ultra-modern showroom, to be commissioned by the vice chancellor.
“I have always believed in Nigeria and in the great talents and natural resources therein. I will not stop at doing anything within my disposal to make Nigeria a pride before the entire world. It is time for us to come together to return Nigeria to a producing nation and not a consumer nation,” he said.
Ajayi said that one of the things needed in this regard was to start from the school, catching them young and equipping them, noting that engineering was critical to nation building and economy.
“We cannot just continue to import what we are capable of producing by ourselves. We must create the jobs, make our own cars and this is what gave rise to my conceiving the idea of approaching the university, those in the academia, to see how we can encourage our students to create a future for themselves and work together towards a better Nigeria,” he noted.
Obinna Chukwu, deputy vice chancellor (management services), University of Lagos, described the collaboration as a thing of great joy.
He noted that the signing of MoU between NORD Motors, an indigenous automobile firm, and UNILAG was a giant step that had brought joy to both the students, staff, management and the council.
Chukwu admitted that the relationship was predicated on the fact that NORD would open an assembly plant in the university.
He said that the assembly plant would not only produce vehicles on campus, but also boasts of a showroom. Describing the initiative as a bold move in entrepreneurship, he said that it would also impact research and development and other areas.
“First, our students will be able to have first-hand knowledge in a car assembly plant. They will also have an opportunity of taking advantage of all the supply chain logistics that accompany automobile production,” Chukwu said.
“Secondly, it is not just about the engineering, there are lots of other branches, some administration, some financing and others that would benefit the students. So that exposure is quite important.
“Thirdly, when we were speaking with the chief executive officer of the firm, we said we need to change to a newer model. And for you to change to a newer model, in the past, we used to travel to Germany to meet experts who will sit down and get a concept design for a new model.
“That development of the newer model of NORD car, A3 specifically for instance will now be formed at the University of Lagos. That is, involving members of staff and our students. You can see that this will go a long way in stamping our feet in our quest to at least, do something in the area of automobile,” he said.
The University of Lagos started off such move a long time ago, under late Ayodele Awojobi, a professor and an engineering genius. He designed a bit directional armoured vehicle called Autonov. Autonov 1, 2, and 3 is still available at the Faculty of Engineering. The vehicle has the singular specification of being driven forward and backward.
During its last convocation, UNILAG also showcased what it called its own electric vehicle designed in a way that will assist the SMEs, as well as those that have micro enterprises on campus, to enable them to shuttle around using the vehicle.