Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria
Cotton farmers in the North have tasked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to immediately release N130 billion meant for the nation’s cotton and textile industries. This position was one of the highlights of their meeting at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State. They deliberated on the ways and means of reviving cotton farming and textile industry in Nigeria.
Chairman of the conference, Alhaji Saidu Dattijo Adahama, said the withheld fund created doubt over the intention of government to promote the production of cotton and recycle the ailing textile sector in Nigeria. He explained that the said fund did not belong to government: “The money was textile development levy, deducted from imported materials before the coming of the present administration in 2015.”
He regretted that the deduction, at the time it was done, were understood by all to be a fund reserved to drive the revival of the textile industry in the country: “The money is there, dormant at the CBN. How much was collected from 2015 to date is yet to be ascertained?
Till date, my discussion with the Governor of CBN, Godwin Emfiele, sometimes in 2017 had not yielded any return. He said although he pledged to take action on the subject, he has not done anything positive up till now.
He cautioned that the present nonchalant altitude of the Federal Government towards the cotton industry would impact negatively on the economy as a whole. He expressed disappointment over the failure of governors in the region to prioritise the development of cotton farming alongside the revival of the textile industry in their respective states, in spite of its obvious significance and economic opportunities:
“Why can’t we do something right for the development of our country? President Muhammad Buhari promised to revive the sector, but some people behind are dragging their feet.”
He maintained that incidents of poverty eradication, wealth provision and job creation slapping the country in its face could be resolved through the scaling of cotton farming and the revival of the textile industry:
“Cotton, which is a basic need, from cradle to grave can never be in short demand. No responsible government would neglect its textile industry. Oil is not permanent. Neither is it a reliable source of revenue, but agro-allied is more reliable and sustainable.
“Any responsible government must think inward and devise a means of how to cloth its people, instead of relying on importation of textile materials from outside.”
Dattijo-Adahama, who has been in textile business for over 40 years, said that 90 percent of the cotton materials used in Nigeria, including under-wears, were imported while the remaining 10 percent are produced locally with low quality materials:
“This is a shame. This is unacceptable to us as country with largest population in Africa and all with all the developmental potential. Buhari’s administration should promptly intervene and help revive the sector so as to improve the living standard of members and the people of Nigeria.
Professor Ibrahim Umar-Abubakar, Director, IAR, lamented that the contribution of cotton to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has slumped from 25 per cent to 0.4 percent in the past two decades.
Represented by the institute’s Deputy Director, Professor Dauda Yusuf, he said farmers had been into cotton production on a large scale since 1903, adding however that successive governments in the past two decades had neglected the sector due to the oil boom:
“We discovered that due to the low interest by government in the area, cotton production has reduced considerably in the area of GDP. The GDP used to stand at 25 per cent from cotton alone, but it has dropped to 0.4 per cent.
“The present administration had wanted to revive the textile and garment industries, while pointing out that cotton is the raw material that would propel the accomplishment of such mission.
So, our being here today is very important to the actualisation of this objective.
“When people are gainfully employed, definitely the level of insecurity in the country will drastically reduce. The institute recently released three new cotton varieties to facilitate the revival of the textile industries in the country. The institute is committed to the genetic improvement of cotton varieties, being one of its mandate crops.”
He expressed regret that 80 per cent of cotton producers in the country were medium-scale farmers who are still producing with simple tools, saying the non-availability of extension services and the lack high- quality seeds were among the problems faced by their members.
The Vice-Chancellor, ABU, Professor Ibrahim Garba, urged participants to interact freely with available cotton specialists of the institute with a view to finding viable and lasting solutions to problems bedeviling the textile sector.