By Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
A former deputy president of Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) and the General Secretary, National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), Mr. Issa Aremu, has lauded the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) recent decision to ban the sale of forex to importers of textiles into the country.
The Central Bank of Nigeria at its meeting recently with stakeholders in the Cotton, Textile, Garment value chain in Abuja, had listed all forms of textile materials among items prohibited from foreign exchange in the official windows.
The CBN had also promised a financial intervention to textile manufacturers with the provision of funds at “single-digit rate, to refit, retool and upgrade their factories to enable them produce high quality textile materials for the local and export market.”
However, speaking with journalists in Ilorin, Kwara state capital, Aremu who was also the Labour Party Governorship Candidate in the state during the just concluded governorship elections observed that more than ever, the CBN has commendably financed development in Nigeria under the leadership of Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
He cited the Anchor Borrower’s Programme (ABP) for rice producers, saying it has improved rice sufficiency in the country.
He observed that smuggling and wholesale importation of textiles contributed to the closure of many textile industries in the past.
He equated smuggling to what he called “economic terrorism” adding that the new initiative of the CBN governor, would boost local production, create jobs and lessen pressure on forex if fully implemented.
The union leader commended the creativity of CBN on the forex restrictions on some goods that can be produced at home including textiles.
Aremu commended the CBN for all the creative measures to stimulate domestic production, put a stop to factory closures and create new jobs.
He pointed out further that,”as a developing economy Nigeria needs creative monetary policies and development financing that could boost industrialisation.”
He called on the federal government to complement the development financing of the CBN through fiscal, industrial and labour market policies to reinvent Nigerian economy and ensure sustainable decent jobs for the youths.
It will be recalled that in the 70’s and early 80’s, Nigeria was home to Africa’s largest textile industry, with over 180 textile mills in operations, which employed close to over 450,000 people.
Then, the textile industry was the largest employer of labour after the public sector, contributing over 25 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector.
The industry was supported by the production of cotton by 600,000 local farmers across 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
The sector supported the clothing needs of the Nigerian populace, local 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 Textile Mills Ltd, Enpee and Aswani Mills amongst several others.
In recent times, many of the textile employers have had to lay off employees while most of the factories mentioned have all stopped operations, leaving only 25 textile factories in operation presently- and operating below 20 per cent of their production capacities with total workforce of less than 20,000 people.