Stakeholders in the textile and garments industry have faulted the federal government for awarding the production of military and other paramilitary uniforms to a Turkish-based company, which is said to be in partnership with DICON in Kaduna State.
They accused the federal government of reneging on its promise to patronise local manufacturers.
According to them, the development might be sound the final death knell on an industry that has been in comatose for years.
In a meeting held in Lagos, the stakeholders alleged that a memorandum of understanding to ensure the establishment of a military and paramilitary clothing factory in Kaduna was signed with a Turkish firm, Sur Corporate Wear, in Abuja on Thursday last week.
They quoted the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, to have said during the signing of the MoU that the Turkish firm was expected to develop local brand of textile materials and accessories, adding that a total of $13million (N4.68 billion) would be invested by the firm to finance the enterprise and make it viable.
Reacting to the development, the Creative Director of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, Adenike Ogunlesi, described the development as shocking and capable of keeping the moribund industry in coma.
Ogunlesi said stakeholders had been holding meetings on how to revive the industry, and that the latest move by the government came as a shock to her.
Ogunlesi said: “When President Muhammadu Buhari directed that all uniforms shouldn’t be imported any longer, we were excited. We felt it was high time the local manufacturers built capacity.
“We have met with the military and paramilitary bodies, and they have promised to patronise us. We went as far as coming up with an MoU, they made corrections and returned it to us.”
Ogunlesi stressed the need for government to believe in local companies and give them the chance to grow, arguing that government couldn’t continue to say that the industry lacks the capacity without creating a level- playing ground.
“If you do not invest in capacity-building, how will you grow? Besides, I see this development as a security breach. It is totally wrong for a foreign company to make our security uniforms.
“This would have been an opportunity to develop local capacity, bring in technical partners to deliver on a project as big as this and create jobs. We are a sovereign nation, so why is another nation in charge of our security uniforms.
“This is a project that has the capacity to grow the entire garment industry. Why is it being outsourced to one company,” she added.
Also speaking on the development, the Managing Director Sam and Sara, Mrs. Folake Oyemade, described the move as unpatriotic, saying it could further make the nation dependent on other nations of the world.
“I was shocked when I learnt about it because President Buhari had shown interest in reviving the textile industry. I don’t believe he was aware of this development.
For me, I don’t understand why the job is given to a foreigner when local investors have indicated interest in it. I have two garment factories and we have more than 1,000 workers.
“ I don’t know what the Turkish firm is bringing to Kaduna State that we cannot do. The state government even offered them equity. Yet, we had approached them for the same project and we didn’t ask for any equity. We offered to build a factory and employ their youths but nothing came out from it.”
Admitting that the government had the right to work with whoever they wish, she however insisted that it was wrong to cripple local manufacturers by diverting all the military and paramilitary uniforms to a foreign company.
She said, “I believe there should be a level playing ground for all. We have a Public-Private Partnership deal with Osun State, where we built a uniform factory. We didn’t get any equity from the government; we funded the factory, trained 500 youths and employed some trainees.”
On his part, the owner of Wessy Tailor, Otunba Wasiu Taiwo, lamented that local factories had been folding up because of lack of support and patronage from the government.
He stated, “Government needs to support and encourage us. We have the population and we have the manpower. They shouldn’t give our jobs to foreigners when we are capable of delivering the same quality.
“The Indians and Chinese are already competing with us in the textile and fashion industry, yet you want to give our security uniforms to the Turkish. When they make their money, will they spend it in Nigeria? They will take it back to Turkey. If anyone comes to invest in your country, the ultimate goal is to make profit.”