How Nigeria killed the dream of an Igbo Engineer who built the first indigenous car in Africa.
In 1997, a brilliant Igbo Electrical Engineer and Lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Dr. Ezekiel Izogu designed and developed the Izuogu Z-600, the first African indigenous manufactured car.
BBC described the car as ‘ the African dream machine’.
With mass production planned under Izogu Motors plant in Naze Owerri, the prospects of an industrial revolution in Igbo land and Nigeria, was in the making.
The car was equipped with a self-made 1.8L four-cylinder engine that got 18MPG (Miles Per Gallons) and allowed the car to achieve a top speed of 140 km/h. Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) was chosen over Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) because a transmission tunnel, which RWD would require, would be more expensive to fabricate.
90% of the car’s components were made locally. General Sani Abacha set up a 12 man panel of inquiry made up of professionals to ascertain the roadworthiness and authenticity of the car and after several days of probing, the committee gave Dr. Izuogu’s car a clean bill of health recommending that some of the bumps on the body of the car be smoothened.
It is worthy to note that this was five years before India built their first car known as the Indi.
At a well-organized unveiling ceremony which had General Abacha represented by Oladipo Diya, over 20 foreign ambassadors, and thousands of people in attendance, the federal government promised a grant of 235 million naira to Dr. Izuogu.
An excited Dr. Izuogu is still waiting for that grant till today. No dime was released to him. In 2006, the government of South Africa invited Dr. Izuogu to do a presentation about the car in the presence of several world-class engineers.
Being impressed with his presentation, they invited him to come and set up a plant in South Africa and begin the production of the car.
Dr. Izuogu reluctantly agreed though he wasn’t happy that the benefits of employment generation will be lost on the locals of Naze and the Nigerian human resources environment.
On Saturday the 11th of March 2006, at about 2.00 a.m, a total of about 12 heavily armed men broke into Dr. Izogu’s factory in Naze and carted away various machines and tools including the design history notebook of Z-600, the design file Z-MASS, containing the design history for mass production of Z-600 car, and the molds for various parts of the car.
He regarded the incident as a national economic disaster because the nation had lost technological and intellectual property. This Press was quiet about this story. The setback and the government’s attitude frustrated Izuogu and his dream died.