My cousin, Engr Ndubuisi Ekekwe, was one of his senior engineers. They had a mission: build a car from the scratch with more than 85% of all parts sourced locally from Nigeria. They did many prototypes, spent nights and accomplished many things. Izuogu Motors Limited (IML) was the most advanced indigenous vehicle project in Africa. Under the leadership of a legendary inventor, IML was getting closer to an all-made-in Nigeria car. That inventor is Engr Ezekiel Izuogu. He has died.
The story of IML is the story of Nigeria: constrained progress. The Z-600 was the first indigenous car in Africa, and the man could qualify as Henry Ford and modern day Elon Musk. The BBC called Z-600, “the African dream machine”. Affordable, durable and with 90% of all parts sourced locally at a price point of $2,000, it was a beautiful vision.
General Abacha, the junta then, looked at Z-600 with a 12-man committee and gave a pass to the car for the Nigerian roads. Naze, near Owerri, was the destination for the mass production factory. They have done lots of work at the Ugwu Orji Owerri IML Lab. Nigeria promised funds, but none came. Then South Africa came, and wanted Izuogu to relocate to South Africa with his team.
Magically, “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 moulds for various parts of the car.” Within weeks, IML collapsed because the robbers destroyed and stole most intellectual properties, design books, drawing, etc which had taken years to create.
Nigeria has lost a technical legend.