The National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers (NUTGTW), has continued to express worries about the dwindling fortunes of the textile industry in Nigeria.
The union noted that Nigeria was once the largest African textile producing country.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Nigeria had over 180 textile mills that employed over 450,000 people.
Regrettably, the fortunes of the sector dwindled, as Nigeria currently has only 25 functional textile factories, with only about 10,000 workforce.
Government, aware of the consequences of further allowing the sector to nose-dive, in the last four years, initiated various intervention programmes, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
The apex bank announced on May 6, that it would save four billion dollars spent annually on imported textiles and ready-made clothing, by commencing the distribution of cotton seeds and other inputs to 100,000 farmers in Katsina State.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who launched the distribution of cotton seeds and other inputs to 100,000 farmers in Katsina, through the ABP, said that the gesture was aimed at reviving the country’s moribund cotton, textile and garment sector.
Emefiele said that the past 20 years had been very difficult for the sector, and had resulted to the closure of 130 firms in the industry.
“Farmers and processors had to deal with low-quality seeds, rising operating costs and weak sales due to high energy cost of running factories, smuggling of textile goods and poor access to finance.
“ Smuggling of textile goods alone is also estimated to have cost the nation over 2.2 billion dollars,” he said.
To curb the challenges, Emefiele said that the CBN was gathering data, and investigating the accounts of individuals and corporate entities involved in smuggling and dumping of textile materials in Nigeria with a view to blacklisting them.
He also said that all banks would be barred from conducting any business with such companies, their owners and top management involved in illegal textile importation to enable the local players to remain in business.
Mr Ismail Bello, deputy general secretary of NUTGTW, commended the government for its effort, but noted that the strategies must be enforced in order to revive the textile industry.
Bello said that textile materials still enter into the country in spite of government’s decision not to grant foreign exchange for importation of textile materials.
He listed reasons for the development: “Those who are smuggling and counterfeiting textile materials source their money from somewhere else. There are other access which government may not be able to curtail.
“Smuggling is a big issue in the textile industry, government needs to counter it. Also, funding, good roads and prompt clearance of goods at the port before production.
“There must also be a high patronage of made-in-Nigeria textile by the government, energy must be decisively addressed and multiple taxation by different government agencies should be harmonised for local firms to produce competitively,” Bello said.
He said that some of the measures rolled out by the government to revive the industry do not reflect the reality on ground as more textile companies had been closed and more people sacked in the last four years.
“Nichemtex textile that had over 3,000 workers now has less than 1,000. Koncil garment in Iganmu with over 300 workers has closed. Contel factory in Ilupeju, ITI Ikorodu, Site Industry and several companies in many states have closed, while Unitex in Kaduna is in redundancy.
“The textile industry is operating currently at less than 25 per cent capacity, as some of the companies have not functioned for about a year. In the last four years, about eight to 10,000 workers in the sector lost their jobs as many factories have closed,” the union scribe said.
He further said that government must tackle the issue of insecurity, because except lives and properties are secured, people would not go to other states to transact business.
Bello urged the government to make its intervention programmes more effective for textile industry to stabilise and grow, adding that without the interventions over the years, the textile industry would have gone into extinction.
“The industry is declining instead of stabilising and growing. We appeal to the government to revive it by ensuring adequate standard and skill development,” the NUTGTW scribe said.
In his own contribution, Mr Hamman Kwajaffa, director general, Nigeria Textile Manufacturers Association, advised the government to address decay in the textile sector, for it to be at the same level with foreign counterparts.
Kwajaffa reiterated that smuggling, counterfeiting, energy problem, among others, have hindered the stability and growth of the textile industry.
He advised the government to invest in the appropriate technology in order to produce high quality cotton for textile production.
Stakeholders are appreciative of efforts being made by the government to restore the lost glories of the textile sector. They say that with sustained action, the once vibrant sector would bounce back.
Bassey writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.