Revamping the textile industry
The latest attempt by the Federal Government of Nigeria to revamp the moribund textile industry in the country is worthwhile, even though, the new move may be questionable in sincerity since previous efforts never yielded the desired results. So, the newly announced plan is heartwarming. But it should not be followed by the heart-ache of inaction. The textile industry remains comatose amid the worsening mass unemployment which the sector would normally have ameliorated and a lot needs to be done if the industry would be revived.
Against that background, the unveiling, the other day, of what Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, called government’s plan for resuscitating the nation’s textile sector, should be seen as a desirable one but it must be followed with concrete steps towards concrete achievements.
The measures, which include reversing the trend of companies leaving Nigeria, stopping smuggling and counterfeiting of textile materials and making patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods by government agencies a priority are not altogether new. Most are ideas enunciated before but poorly enforced. The difference this time around, therefore, should be in actualisation.
For instance, smuggling of textile materials remains a flourishing business which Nigeria has been unable to stem. The Customs department appears helpless or, in some cases, officials even collude with the importers. Consequently, textile fabric of all sorts from China, in particular, flood the Nigerian market to the disadvantage of locally produced ones.
The minister said during a tour of textile factories in Kano as part of activities to mark the North-West Regional Customer Forum which was organised by the Bank of Industry (BoI) that gas supply, smuggling and counterfeiting were the major problems which need to be addressed to revive the textile industry. But the question which automatically arises is: Does Nigeria have the will to really tackle these problems? May that will be found!
Abubakar said the Export Expansion Grants (EEG) previously offered as incentive by government to textile industry operators was grossly abused by stakeholders, leading to its scraping while the search for an entirely different way for better and effective implementation is now on.
The EEG scheme was introduced to stimulate export-oriented industrial activities in order to significantly lead to the growth of the non-oil export sector. The policy was stopped after it was abused. But government, reportedly, is reviewing it with a view to boosting industrial production for export and the textile sub-sector is potentially a major beneficiary.
The minister’s visit to some textile facilities in Kano appropriately served as an eye opener for her and a first-hand experience of a decay Nigeria has always lived with. Most of the plants are in serious operational distress with some threatening to shut down due to harsh business environment arising from inconsistent government policies.
However, the launch, not too long ago, of the National Policy on Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) as part of the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), is a redeeming factor.
While recognising that the Cotton, Textile and Garment policy was key to revamping the textile industry, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had, sometime ago, during a meeting with industry stakeholders, said that patronage of made-in-Nigeria products by Nigerians was important and could contribute to the revival of the textile and garment industry. That explains why government recently directed that uniforms for military personnel and for many public schools students should, henceforth, be purchased from local sources.
It is not known to what extent that directive has been complied with but it is certainly a desirable one.
It is sad that the once bubbling Nigeria’s textile industry collapsed with mass retrenchment of workers as the consequence. To get the sector back on its feet should, therefore, be the overriding concern of both the government and all stakeholders and funds needed to set the ball rolling should be made available by all means.
The N10 billion textile revival fund approved by the Bank of Industry in 2010 has already served as a good starting point. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has even acknowledged that the fund actually increased capacity utilisation from 29.14 per cent to the current 50 per cent.
In addition, first things must be done first: Nigeria must produce cotton, kenaf and other associated raw materials needed for the textile industry and research should be initiated to develop the raw materials base.
There are many steps to follow in the process of revamping the sector and no stone must be left unturned to revive the textile industry for its multiple benefits to Nigeria.