FG And Campaign To Revive Textile Industries | Independent Newspapers Limited
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FG And Campaign To Revive Textile Industries

Posted: Sep 14, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Gabriel John Kaduna

Over the years, there have been promises upon promise by successive governments on the need to revive textiles industries which had provided job opportunity for Nigeria’s teaming unemployed youths.  Often times, most of the promises fell on deaf ears as budgetary allocations to that sector went down the drain even as the rate of unemployment skyrocketed.

Entrance to Arewa Textile Limited Kaduna taken over by refuse following years of closure.

Entrance to Arewa Textile Limited Kaduna taken over by refuse following years of closure.

Youth restiveness, poverty and criminal tendency among the unemployed became the order of the day. From the days of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the promise of reviving the textiles industries had been reiterated, but they never come to fruition. The emphasise to revive textile industries hinges on the fact that after government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), the textile industries was the next largest employer of labour in the country.

At the inception of this administration, President Muhammad Buhari again made reviving the textile sector top priority. He had promised to revive textile industries with a view to provide employment opportunity to unemployed graduate whom out of frustrations, constituted nuisance to the society.

The five giant textiles industries in Kaduna State, Kaduna Textiles Limited, Arewa Textiles Limited, Nortex Textile Mills Ltd, Supertex Limited and United Nigerian Textiles Industries (UNTL) have remained abandoned and vandalised.

Industry watchers believed that the choruses of reviving the textile sector sang by successive governments was due to constant advocacy by the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria who are bent at ensuring that jobs are provided for unemployed youths in the country. 

Besides, the past governments would like to ginger unsuccessful hope in the minds of electorate in order to accomplish their aim. This incoherent attitude of past leaders, industry watcher says would only injure the economy of the country the more. A brief look at the past administrations will suffice.

Obasanjo’s era

Under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the government had declared 2002 the year of textile revival.

Obasanjo had vowed that he would not allow the industry to collapse. He also announced a number of policy initiatives that included temporary suspension of importation of all fabrics into the country and the suspension of importation of African super and wax materials aimed at checking the sickening dumping of sub-standard and harmful prints into the country.

A new certification arrangement was also put in place to ensure that imported fabrics meet certain Nigerian standard in terms of price, quality and health of the citizenry.  Genuine imports could only pass through two ports, namely, Apapa and Tin Can ports for verification by customs. Imports outside these ports were treated as contraband and were auctioned at 20 percent of market value or destroyed.

There was a Presidential Task Force headed by Mallam El-Rufai, then FCT minister, charged with apprehending smuggled textile fabrics and burning them. All these measures helped in halting the factory closures and even improving the capacity utilization of the existing survived factories.

Yar’Adua/Jonathan era

On coming to power, President Yar’Adua said his priority was economy, economy and economy. After much advocacy, the regime moved to implement the N70 billion intervention fund launched by Obasanjo. It was, however, the Jonathan administration that finally endorsed the intervention fund under the cotton/textile revival plan. The new deal supervised by the then Vice President Namadi Sambo revolutionised funding for the real sector and breathed life into the ailing industries. The deal worked out by the CBN and BOI covered lending and refinancing of projects, restructuring of existing portfolios to manufacturers and support for investment in industrial clusters power supply.

The reopening of UNT Plc in 2010 after three years of closure (with close to 1,500 direct jobs currently) was due to these cocktail of measures pushed by the Bank of Industry (BoI), the central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the government.

However all said, the overall impact assessment of all the past efforts from the banners in this hall of closed textile factories. At a point, it was said the money was lodged in NEXIM Bank. Textile operators cried foul they could not access the funds

Buhari era

At the beginning of his administration three months ago, Buhari made textile revival a top priority. Like his predecessors, he vowed that all textiles industries in the country would be revived. On one occasion, President Buhari declared:  “I still recall with clarity that at some point, the textile industry in Nigeria was employing about 320,000 Nigerians. But today, the same industry employs less than 30,000 people and the factories operate below capacity or they are completely closed.”

“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. We will move as fast as we can to resuscitate the textile and mining industries, and also improve production in our agricultural sector…. We cannot allow industries and factories to close down. Instead, we should be making every effort to ensure that we re-open the closed ones and attract new ones to reduce unemployment.”

Interestingly, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai after a month in office, toured all textiles industries in Kaduna State with great promises and expectations.

On one of his visits, he said: “Reviving the textiles is a significant campaign promise of General Buhari and he is committed to it. Besides, Buhari lives in Kaduna and knows the impact of the textile industry on the economy. Kaduna used to be Manchester of the textile industry. We have met at forum of northern governors-elect and we have decided to ensure the revival of the textile companies. It is disgraceful that the largest economy in Africa imports textile materials from Senegal and other countries.” 

Industry watcher believe that the closure of Textile Industries in the state has affected everybody. It is obvious that since the closure of these companies, some landlords who could not endure the hardship faced by their tenants, decided to quit their tenants or mortgage, sold their houses. It is on record that the importance of industry cannot be over-emphasized. Our government should realize that oil and gas and the new entrants, solid minerals, are exhaustible resources. The key to real transformation and economic recovery lies in manufacturing. Nigeria has no business in alleviating poverty when it can and should generate wealth by increasing domestic capacity utilization through protection of industry. It’s always believed that private sector is the engine room for growth and development. But as can be seen worldwide, the real lubricant of this engine remains the government. It’s also important for our governors, presidents and textile manufacturers to visit the factories and see things for themselves; it’s another thing to speed up the rehabilitation, reconstruction and production to effectively commence.