Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele is usually nostalgic anytime he talks about the country’s textile sector.
“The textile industry at that time was the largest employer of labour in Nigeria after the public sector, contributing over 25 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector,” he said.
The industry, he said, was supported by the production of cotton by 600,000 local farmers across 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
He added: “This sector supported the clothing needs of the Nigerian populace, as our markets were filled with locally produced textiles from companies such as the United Textiles in Kaduna, Supertex Limited, Afprint, Texlon, Enpee and Aswani Mills, among others.
“In addition, the cotton growing sector has gone dead, thereby depriving thousands of smallholder farmers the chance to earn a living. Furthermore, a large proportion of our clothing materials today are imported from China and countries in Europe.”
The return to the good old days is key on the agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. The Federal Government directed some of its agencies and uniformed organisations to patronise local textile industries. This is part of the efforts to promote local textiles and a return to the era when the country was home to Africa’s largest textile industry, with over 180 textile mills, about 450,000 employees and more than 25 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector.
Now, only 25 textile factories are operating, and they function at below 20 per cent installed capacity and engaged less than 20,000 people.
The fortunes of CTG sub-sector started dwindling in the 1990s as a result of some challenges faced by cotton farmers, ginneries and textile firms.
Farmers and processors were confronted with low quality seeds, high cost of production, poor access to finance and smuggling of textile materials into the country.
Buhari lamented the closure of textile factories especially in the North, and assured that his administration would revive the sector.
“We promoted policies that will support local industries such as import restrictions.
“We introduced programmes that provided affordable and accessible capital for both large and cottage industries.
“We also introduced Executive Orders that encouraged the procurement of Made in Nigeria goods and services.”
According to him, his administration will not allow Nigeria to return to the days of exporting jobs through the importation of food and clothing items, which can be produced locally.
He said: “We will not allow Nigeria to return to the days of exporting jobs through the importation of food and clothing items which can be produced locally. We owe this to the over 200 million Nigerians.”
According to the President, the textile and garment sector has the potential to create millions of jobs, and will therefore, remain one of the priority sectors for the administration.
Referring to his recent directive to all government uniformed institutions to use locally produced garments, President Buhari said unbelievable number of jobs will be created when the military, police, para-military organisations, including the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), fully patronise local industries.
He urged state governments to key into this policy for their schools, hospitals and other institutions.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), textiles worth four billion dollars were smuggled into the country annually.
But there is renewed vigour by the present administration, to revive the CTG through CBN’s intervention.
The present administration through the CBN is targeting engaging 300,000 farmers to achieve 450,000 metric tonnes of cotton in 26 states in the next three years.
The bank is to achieve this through its Anchor Borrowers Programme, which had already commenced with the cultivation of 200,000 hectares of hybrid cotton seeds to be distributed to 200,000 farmers in 26 states.
Part of the strategy is also to import 6,000 metric tonnes of improved cotton seeds, while additional 2,000 metric tonnes of cotton seeds had been sourced locally.
We promoted policies that will support local industries such as import restrictions. We introduced programmes that provided affordable and accessible capital for both large and cottage industries
The data released by the bank indicates that “total expected yield at the end of the current season is 302,440 metric tonnes. The distribution of inputs to cotton farmers was launched in Katsina on May 6.
Twenty ginneries in seven states- Borno, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger and Zamfara were selected to participate in the CBN’s financed cotton project.
According to CBN, ginners are to sell their lint to textile factories with the ultimate objective of producing textiles to meet the needs of the members of the uniformed services.
Emefiele said the funds to operationalise the ginneries, had been approved and to be disbursed through the Bank of Industry.
He added that about N19.18 billion had been approved by the bank to fund nine ginneries across the country.
The approval is to enable them retool their processing plants, while they are to access the funds at single digit interest rate.
National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) General Secretary Isa Aremu lamented the closure of hundreds of textile factories, which used to employ “millions of workers, more than the workforce of the Federal Government in the 70s and 80s”.
He praised the textile-friendly policies of the Buhari-led administration, such as the interventions by the CBN and the Executive Order on the use of local garments by uniformed organisations, among others.
Aremu said the need to tackle the high incidence of smuggling of textiles, in order to protect the sector as well as boost job creation.
The activist said the recent signing of MoU between the CBN and some major stakeholders was a gradual effort of lifting the sector from the state of hopelessness to hope.
He added that the effort made by the CBN was commendable and would be supported by his union, and appealed to other relevant groups and indeed all Nigerians to do the same.
Cotton Ginners Association of Nigeria President Salman Abdullahi commended the CBN for its commitment to revive CTG sub-sector.
Abdullahi said when the stakeholders’ meeting was convened sometimes to work out ways to revive the sector, he thought it would be like similar gatherings in the past, that did not yield any positive result.
He pledged that members of his association would live up to expectation, by ensuring quality production.
An economist, Dr Arome Salifu, said the step taken by Federal Government was a welcome development.
According to him, for any economy to thrive, a critical component like manufacturing sector must be given priority.
“The CTG is a critical component in manufacturing sector, therefore, the apex bank has taken the right step in the right direction by choosing this component to support.”
Salifu added that this kind of investment was needed at this time because of its jobs creation potential.
He called for involvement of critical stakeholders, like civil society organisations, in the monitoring and evaluation of the project to ensure judicious use of funds.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the 50th convocation lecture at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), said the Funtua Cotton Cluster would help the sector. “The Funtua Cotton Cluster in Katsina State. Funtua has the largest aggregation of cotton ginneries in Nigeria. The cluster will aggregate cotton from 800,000 farmers in Northern Nigeria and become the largest integrated cotton ginning, spinning and weaving complex in Sub Saharan Africa. It will re-establish the cotton value chain from seed cotton to finished fabric and provide feedstock for domestic and export oriented garment manufacturing.”
It certainly will be good for the country and the economy when the fruits of the Buhari administration’s efforts in the sector begin to yield fruits.