The auto industry in Nigeria is mourning the death of the chairman of Lanre Shittu Motors, Alhaji Olanrewaju Rasak Shittu, who died during the week aged 65.
Lanre Shittu Motors is a household name in the auto industry in Nigeria. The founder was a prominent businessman and popular auto dealer since the early 80’s.
Over the decades, he transformed from being an auto dealer to a vehicle assembler, a bold move to actualise the federal government’s auto policy aimed at galvanising indigenous participation in the vehicle assembly value chain with a view to boosting the presence of Made-in-Nigeria vehicles on Nigerian roads.
Lanre Shittu Motors invested billions of naira in its Assembly Plant, Amuwo-Odofin along Oshodi-Apapa expressway and mainly focused on the local assembly of JAC trucks, churning out several units with technical support from JAC China.
The plant has the capacity to produce 1,500 trucks per year and more on demand.
According to the Group Executive Director of LSM, Mr. Taiwo Shittu, a son of the deceased, the company invested in the auto assembly plant in support of the federal government’s auto policy.
With his son effectively in the saddle, experts say there’s hope that the legacies of Lanre Shittu, especially in the automotive sector, would continue to blossom.
A former Acting Director-General of NADDC, Mr. Mamudu Luqman, in a chat with our correspondent, said the contribution of Lanre Shittu to the automotive sector was enormous.
He said, “Lanre Shittu has always been involved with the Nigeria automotive sector. When the Nigeria automotive policy was launched in 1993, he was recorded in our industry status report as one of the key distributors of Peugeot vehicles by PAN Nigeria in its extensive network.
“By the time the policy was relaunched in 2013 he, like most automotive distributors at the time, was a bit reluctant to key into the policy but at the Council (NADDC), we prevailed on him through his son Taiwo Shittu and he eventually yielded.
“The policy allowed contract assembly to encourage new entrants so he signed a contract with the national truck manufacturing company in Kano.
“Encouraged by patronage, he built a modern commercial vehicle assembly plant. So I can safely say that his commitment to the policy gave confidence to many other dealers to embrace the assembly.
“It is also significant to note that even as the implementation of the policy became hampered, Lanre Shittu continued to support his company to keep its factory open and active.
“The sector will surely miss him but it is encouraging to know that his son, Taiwo Shittu, has firmly held on to the baton.”
On his part, an automotive communications expert and stakeholder, Dr Oscar Odibo, described the late Shittu as “a leading contributor to the growth of Nigeria’s automobile industry.”
According to him, he built the Lanre Shittu automotive empire from scratch and helped to expand the Nigerian franchise base of the Toyota brand of vehicles, among others.
He added, “Lanre Shittu automobile showrooms popularised many roads in Lagos as auto-marketing highways.
“Ikorodu road between PalmGrove and Onipanu, Western Avenue between Iponri and Stadium, as well as First Rainbow on Oshodi Apapa expressway, are a few examples of roads where Lanre Shittu Motors had an unmistakable milestone presence.
“It is on record that Lanre Shittu pioneered the entrepreneurial sales and marketing of haulage trucks and truck heads without total reliance on government patronage, especially with the American Mack brand of trucks.
“He helped to popularise Chinese brands of mass transit buses used on the bus rapid transportation (BRT) project of the Lagos State government under governors Fashola and Ambode.
“Alhaji Lanre Shittu was a multiple award winner in Nigeria’s automobile industry, especially at auto shows in Lagos and Abuja and the Naja awards.
“He was a silent promoter of automobile reporting and an astute businessman whose brand logo and corporate manifestation have etched themselves in the minds of automobile stakeholders throughout Nigeria.
“Alhaji Lanre Shittu has built a cross-generational automobile business enterprise that would successfully succeed him. However be it, Nigeria’s automobile industry will miss him dearly.”