The Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, has said about 8,070 jobs have been saved through the disbursement of the N100 billion Cotton Textile Garment Intervention Fund.
Aganga's disclosure also came on the heels of a revelation by the Vice-President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and General Secretary, National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), Mr. Issa Aremu, that 38 textile firms had so far benefitted from the Fund.
Both spoke yesterday during the stakeholders' retreat on 'Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) Sub-Sector of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan' in Abuja.
The minister said the stakeholders' retreat was necessary because of the importance of a revitalised CTG sub-sector in the efforts towards achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development.
He said: "This is the beginning of an important journey. We want to make this sector number one in Africa. It is just not just about talking. We will come up with actionable points here to kick-start the needed revolution.
"We are already making progress with the reforms that are in place. Figures by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) reveal that the capacity utilisation in this sector has increased significantly from 29.14 per cent in 2010 to 49.70 per cent as at 2011."
Aganga added: "In addition, a number of hitherto moribund textile mills has been reopened, about 8,070 jobs have been saved, while over 5,000 new jobs have been created. We cannot continue to be a raw material exporting nation because by doing so, we are exporting jobs, development and wealth. This is one area that the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan is trying to address.
"The textile industry is one of those areas we are looking at. We want to remove the barriers to increased productivity in this very important and strategic sector. One of these barriers is access to affordable finance. The Cotton Textile and Garment Fund, which the Bank of Industry manages at a very low interest rate, has achieved some remarkable success."
The minister, who expressed optimism that before the end of this year, the whole N100 billion should have been disbursed, said: "But from what we heard today, we need more than N100 billion to be able to get to where we want to be because textile is one sector that creates significant amount of jobs globally. So, for Nigeria, investing in the textile industry makes sense both from the economic point of view and from the job creation point of view."
Aganga explained that the Ministry of Trade and Investment was working with stakeholders in the textile industry to address the current challenges facing the sector in order to reposition it as the major driver of job creation and wealth generation in the country.
He said: "We have started with the introduction of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) which is about industrialisation. In this regard, all our policies are geared towards industrialisation. We will have an implementation committee that will include each of these sectors, their job creation potential and then implement the decisions that will be made today. For me, this is a new beginning for the textile industry in Nigeria. Our overall objective is to be number one in Africa and top 10 globally.
"The NIRP is strategic, holistic and integrated. It is strategic in the sense that we are focusing on areas where we have competitive and comparative advantage. It is integrated because we are looking at the whole value chain, right from raw materials to the market."
Meanwhile, Aremu, while speaking at the event, said there was need for the Federal Government to increase the CTG Fund and make it easier for textile firms to access it at zero interest rate.
He said: "We are happy with the provision of the N100 billion CTG Intervention Fund by the Federal Government. So far, 38 companies have benefitted from the fund, and this has gone a long way in revitalising some of the textile firms that had closed down.
"However, we want the government to increase the fund from the current N100 billion to N500 billion to enable more textile companies have access to cheap fund in order to boost their capacity utilisation. The government should also elongate the tenure of the fund and also make it possible for textile companies to access it at a zero interest rate."