Years ago, it was one of the most vibrant industries in the country. For decades, the textile industry provided employment for hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, emerging the largest employer of labour after the public sector. The industry contributed over 25 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector.
In many parts of the country, dozens of textile factories produced fabrics that Nigerians donned with pride. From Kaduna to Lagos, from Kano through Ado-Ekiti to Aba, no fewer than 180 popular textile companies operated at full capacity. There were also as many as 600, 000 local cotton farmers in many parts of the country who produced raw materials for the textile factories.
But since the 1990s, like many other sectors of the economy, the textile industry has experienced sad fortunes. Most of the companies folded up, throwing thousands into the labour market. Cotton farming also suffered.
As the nation’s economy ran into troubled waters, the textile industry was not spared. The factories and cotton farmers were affected by a series of challenges, including low quality seeds, high cost of production, poor access to finance and smuggling of textile materials into the country.
Textile mills in China and Europe became the beneficiaries, supplying most of the clothing needs of the country.
Succeeding governments paid little heed to the collapse of that important industry.
But these days, that seems to be changing. A ray of hope now flickers in the horizon, and it appears the dying sector might soon begin to enjoy a new lease of life. Stakeholders say the current policies of the Federal Government are rekindling hope and gradually reviving the textile business in the country.
National President, National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), John Adaji, said the Buhari administration has shown commitment to revamping the textile industry with the introduction of a comprehensive Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) Policy.
Echoing similar sentiments, General Secretary of the union, Issa Aremu, said the closure of the nation’s land borders was helping to put an end to the smuggling of goods into the country. He said the development has helped in a total overhaul of Nigeria’s textile and garment industry.
President of Cotton Ginners Association of Nigeria, Salman Abdullahi also said the Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, is committed to reviving the cotton, textile and garment (CTG) sub-sector.
Their arguments are not unfounded. There have been a number of initiatives introduced by the present administration that are breathing new life into the nation’s textile and garment industry.
Only, President Muhammadu Buhari gave the directive that federal agencies, as well as military and paramilitary organisations in the country, must start patronising the local textile industry for their uniforms.
And last month, at the 31st National Education Conference of the National Union of the NUTGTWN in Abuja, the president instructed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make special funds available for the local production of textiles and garments in the country.
He called on the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to facilitate the training of textile industry workers to sustain current efforts at improving local garment production in the country. He said his government had shown its readiness and commitment to improving the industries in the country with the signing of the Executive Order 003. He added that the executive order mandates all procuring authorities in the country to give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act 2007.
He also stated that the CBN had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian military and paramilitary outfits on the enforcement of Executive Order 003 as part of efforts to revive the Cotton, Textiles and Garment (CTG) sector in Nigeria. He also called for the training of the existing 40,000 garments and textile industry workers.
The president said the textile and garment industry has the potential to create millions of jobs, and will therefore, remain one of the priority sectors for the administration. He said his directive that the military, police and paramilitary organisations, including the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), should patronise local industries would create an unbelievable number of jobs. He urged the state governments to key into this policy for their schools, hospitals and other institutions.
Months earlier, in July, Buhari had granted an audience to the leadership of the NUTGTWN in Abuja. He told the textile workers, led by their president, John Adaji, that his government was concerned that the closure of textile factories, especially in the North, had been responsible for the increase in crimes.
He said that his administration would continue to support policies and programmes that would boost local industries.
“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.”
He noted that the textile and garmenting sector had the potential to create millions of jobs and will therefore remain one of the priority sectors for the administration.
At the meeting, General Secretary of the union, Comrade Issa Aremu, lauded the president for being the first Nigerian leader to meet with the union, founded 41 years ago and for his efforts to revive the textile industry.
Aremu lamented that the closure of the textile factories in the country had resulted in the loss of millions of jobs. He recalled that in the 1970s and 1980s, the textile factories employed millions of workers, adding that the workforce was larger than that of the Federal Government.
Also in October, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele disclosed that, in line with the presidential directive, the Federal Government had approved the sum of N19.18 billion to produce quality cotton seeds to revive the nation’s value chain in the cotton, textiles and garments sector.
Speaking at a meeting in Abuja, Emefiele explained that nine firms would be given the funds, noting that the government was determined to achieve self-sufficiency in cotton production and textile materials within the next three years.
The CBN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with all the uniformed organisations in the country at the meeting.
Said the CBN governor: “We are improving the linkage between cotton farmers and ginneries by ensuring that ginneries are able to obtain a high-quality cotton product produced by these farmers.
“In this regards, approval had already been given to the tune of 19.18 billion to finance nine ginneries with a view to retooling their processing plants, while providing them with improved access to finance at single-digit interest rates.”
In the words of the CBN boss, the investment would help stop the $4 billion lost annually to imported textiles. He said the terms of the agreement guarantees that all uniformed Federal Government agencies would source all their uniform needs from local textiles and garments factories. He added that the same gesture would be made to the textile and garment firms.
“This is to help sustain their operations and improve their production capacities. We have invested heavily in our local textile and garment factories to retool and produce assorted uniforms for our uniform services that meet international standards.”
The uniformed organisations present to sign the agreement include the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Securities and Civil Defence Commission (NSCDC), Nigeria Correctional Services, Nigerian Customs Service, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Fire Service and Nigerian Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA.)
The CBN boss informed that it was seeking to engage 300,000 farmers to achieve 450,000 metric tonnes of cotton in 26 states in the next three years. The bank, he said, intended to achieve this through its Anchor Borrowers Programme.
He said the initiative had already commenced with the cultivation of 200,000 hectares of hybrid cotton seeds to be distributed to 200,000 farmers in the 26 states. He added that 6,000 metric tonnes of improved cotton seeds would be imported, while additional 2,000 metric tonnes of cotton seeds had been sourced locally.
The Central Bank, in a report, said the total expected yield at the end of the current season is 302,440 metric tonnes. It further explained that 20 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 the apex bank, 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.
Also reiterating the Federal Government’s commitment to revamping the textile industry, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in a lecture at the 50th Convocation of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), said the administration would ensure the success of 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,” he said.
Minister of Agricultural and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono has also given reasons why the Federal Government has been working hard to revive the cotton, textile and garment industry.
At an event in Abuja in September, the minister noted that the textile and garment industry was one of the three pillars that is very crucial to the development of the country, noting that if well developed, it would reduce unemployment substantially.
“The textile industry is capable of employing hundreds of thousands of people across the country, especially in Kano, Kaduna, Aba, Lagos and some other key areas.
“In Nigeria, in the 1980s, our textile industry was in good shape. During this period, Nigeria’s textile materials were some of the best in Africa and beyond.”
President of NUTGTWN, Mr Adaji said if the policies on the textile industry were well implemented, they would help to meet the Federal Government’s target of creating 100 million jobs in 10 years. He commended the CBN’s development financing programme, which he said had aided the distribution of cotton seeds to farmers. He also lauded the restructuring of the Bank of Industry loans to surviving textile companies, among other initiatives.