Nigeria: Textile Revival - in Praise of President Buhari

Mni — Last Tuesday, 23rd of July the National Executive Council (NEC) of the National Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers Union (NUTGWN) led by the President Comrade John Adaji had an historic privileged audience with His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa. Yours comradely as the General Secretary, made the remarks on behalf of the union. President Buhari is the first President of the Federal Republic to grant an audience to the leadership of a strategic labour intensive textile and garment sector in its 41 years of existence, which further confirms the inclusive disposition of the administration.

The President indeed "belongs to everybody" and " belongs to nobody". In the 1970's and early 1980's, Nigeria was the home to Africa's largest textile industry. Nigeria had over 180 textile mills in operations. The industry employed some direct 650,000 workforce and indirect millions of cotton farmers, traders and garment workers and tailors employed more workforce than the Federal government!.

It contributed over 25% of the workforce in the manufacturing sector and as much to national GDP. The defunct regions and the newly created states relied majorly on textile mills as sources of internally generated revenues through company and personal income taxes. Regrettably, as President Buhari also repeatedly lamented, most of the factories had stopped operations begging for reopening. The union's visit was not to agonize over the industrial decline. On the contrary to acknowledge and commend the efforts of the administration in changing the narrative of textile from that of closure of factories to a bold revival efforts that will (to use the words of President Buhari!) revive the 'good old days' of cotton, textile and garment sectors.

There are indeed more quotable quotes attributed to President Buhari on the state of textile industry than any previous President. During the 2015 campaign, he was the only candidate who made textile a major campaign issue. Witness him:"I still recall with clarity that at some point, the textile industry in Nigeria was employing about 320,000 Nigerians. ..I have made a promise to Nigerians that jobs will be created as part of efforts to revive the economy and that promise will be fulfilled."

Nigeria and Africa can only attain the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 2030, especially SDG 9 dealing with industry and innovation, if Africa continent innovate and industrialize. Commendably there have been a number of sustainable new measures in recent times aimed at textile industry revival.

First in place a comprehensive Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) policy which aims at reviving the entire value chains of cotton growing, Ginneries, spinning and weaving, printing and garments production. On June 12 Democracy day, President Buhari made an historic speech which promised as many as 100 million jobs in record ten years. The Nigerian CTG sector has the capacity to transform Nigeria's rural economy and revive the textile and garment industries by creating over 2 million jobs, improve internal revenue across three tiers of government, reduce $4.0billion import bill incurred annually on textile and apparel, safeguard and earn foreign exchange. It's time Nigeria realized to the fullest the textile potentials for nation building.

To this extent, the administration should establish Federal Ministry of textile as the case of textile producing nations like India, China and Pakistan. Textile sector in Pakistan has an overwhelming impact on the economy, contributing 57% to the country's exports. In Bangladesh 4 millions are employed in as many as 5000 garment factories.

The objective of the proposed Ministry would be regular upgrading of the textile value chains, improve on labour productivity, maximize value-addition and formulate strategies and programme to enable the textile sector to meet the challenges to attain global competitiveness.

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment should be mandated immediately to establish a special directorate/department on textile and Garment value chain to ensure adequate implementation of CTG policy. President Buhari is commended for initiating the Executive Order 003 on Support of Local Content in Procurement. In the past few weeks the CBN under the leadership of Godwin Emefiele has taken a number of bold and commendable efforts to encourage patronage of local fabrics towards driving the economic policies of your Excellency.

After series of engagement, CBN initiated the signing of an unprecedented MOU between the Service Chiefs, Chief Executives of Uniformed Services, and textile/ garment manufacturers on enforcement of Executive Order 003 on Support of Local Content in Procurement By MDAs. With this MOU, uniforms for navy, police, army, NYSC, theatre wears in hospitals and medical facilities are to be sourced locally from the Nigerian CTG sector in pursuance of the current administration's drive towards economic diversification and creating jobs for our teeming population.

No administration has shown such bold commitment to local patronage.. In his speech, President Buhari remarkably encouraged state governors to also use state budgets to patronize local fabrics, revive local industries, create mass jobs and get youths gainfully employed, get them out of criminality and insurgency indoctrination. At the center of the administration revival effort is the reappointed 11th CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele. CBN has promoted not only stability in the foreign exchange market through consistent creative monetary policies, but CBN has also promoted a number of creative targeted development financing for the 43 items to promote import substitution.

On May 6th, 2019 under the Anchor Borrowers' Programme, CBN flagged-off the 2019 Wet Season Cotton Input Distribution to 150,000 farmers in Katsina, Katsina State. As many as 180,000 hectares of cotton would be cultivated to feed local ginneries to be used in the production of high quality textile for use by the armed forces and other uniformed service organizations. Today, unprecedented massive cotton production is ongoing in across 23 States of Nigeria with the provision of high yielding varieties that will produce top quality fabrics that can compete in the international market.

With the new Ministerial nominees, the fiscal authorities must compliment the commendable efforts of the CBN monetary and development financing measures. The major problems are Smuggling and counterfeiting of textile products. CBN, has commendably blocked the accounts of some smugglers sabotaging Nigeria's economy in the textile, rice and palm oil industry. The Customs service should complement CBN's efforts through vigilance and raids of smuggled goods stores.

Indeed a presidential task-force be set up made up of Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI), Budget Office of the Federation (BOF), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Textile Workers Union and Manufactures Association of Nigeria (MAN) with the power to confiscate goods smuggled into the country and burn them. Against the backdrop of the signing of African Continental Free Trade Agreement, (AfCFTA), for textile industry to be competitive, the existing 40, 000 textile, garment and tailoring workers must be trained and retrained. The CBN in collaboration with the workers' union and Industrial Training Fund (ITF) must provide special fund to retrain and retrain the textile work force for the challenges of competition and revival.

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