Uche Usim, Abuja
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele on Tuesday said textiles importers would no longer be free to access the bank’s official foreign exchange window. This was as he revealed that Nigeria spends a whopping $40 billion annually on imported textiles and ready-made clothing, which he described as a worrisome development that needed to be urgently addressed going forward.
Speaking at the Textile Industry Stakeholders meeting in Abuja, Emefiele said textiles sector has been included in the list of 41 items prohibited from accessing foreign exchange with effect from yesterday.
According to him, the forex ban on cotton, textile and garment (CTG) was a way of weaning Nigerians from being over-reliant on imported clothing.
The CBN Governor assured the stakeholders in the cotton value chain of the apex bank’s support in providing funds to quickly revive their dead factories.
He lamented that Nigeria in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, was home to Africa’s largest textile industry, with over 180 textile mills in operations, employing over 450,000 people.
“By today, if we had nurtured and encouraged the textile industry, that sector will be employing millions. 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. This industry was supported by the production of cotton by 600,000 local farmers across 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states. This sector supported the clothing needs of Nigerian populace, as our markets were filled with locally produced textiles from companies such as United Textiles in Kaduna, Supertex Limited, Afprint, International Textile Industry (I.T.I), Texlon, Aba Textiles, Asaba Textiles Mills Ltd, Enpee and Aswani Mills amongst several others.
“It’s no secret that the past 20 years have been very difficult for many textiles firms. They have faced rising operating cost and weak sales due to high energy cost, smuggling of textiles products, and poor access to finance.
“With a projected population of over 180 million Nigerians, the needs of the domestic market are huge and varied, with immense prospects, not only for job creation, but also for growth of the domestic textiles industries.
“One quick example that highlights the potential of this local market, is the need to support provision of uniforms and clothing apparels for school students, military and paramilitary officers as well as workers in the industrial sector. In addition, when we consider the amount spent on outfits for religious and social events such as weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies on a weekly basis, the potential market size is well over $10billion annually”, Emefiele explained. He called on relevant stakeholders to join forces with the CBN to address some of the challenges facing the industry, given the high domestic demand for textiles and its potential to create jobs for Nigerians.