There seems to be renewed optimism among textile industry stakeholders that the dying textile and garment industry will receive the much needed attention by the Buhari-led administration. This optimism was given hope when the President elect, General Mohammed Buhari disclosed in during a forum that one of the areas his administration will pay keen attention to is the textile and garment industry.
For the textile industry in Nigeria, it has been a shade of tales. The story has been that of grace to grass or boom to a collapse.
In the mid-1980s, functional textile mills in Nigeria numbered around one hundred and eighty. Employing about a million people, it accounted for over sixty percent of the textile industry capacity in West Africa, empowering millions of households across all geo-political zones in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the story soon changed and the sector took a massive dive into an industrial abyss. At a point during the crisis in the sector, from about 180 thriving textile industries, the number came down to almost zero, with Textile giants like United Nigerian Textile Company bowing to the pressure imposed by a profoundly mean operating environment. A once vibrant industry that employed thousands of people is today regarded as a failed industry.
The Obasanjo administration came, made promises to resuscitate the sector, but all the promises to the near comatose sector, including a commitment to bail out the sector with N70 billion at that time, ended up as a mere charade and political statement. Many have since then hoped that someday, the industry which had put Nigeria among the list of producing nations will be given a chance to breathe again.
In an interview with Mr.IkengaChibuzor, a former employer of Nigeria Textile Mills, he revealed that in those good days of the textile industry, it was a mainstay of the Nigerian economy, providing jobs for thousands of people.
“As a former staff of one of the major players in the industry, there is nothing I seek more than for the glory days of textile manufacturing in the country, to be brought back. This is my greatest wish,” he said.
Perhaps, this is the desire of many Nigerians who were privileged to witness the heydays of the Nigerian Textile industry, which has today become a shadow of iys former self.
Traditional textiles have been manufactured in Nigeria for many years, but real industry activity in textile and clothing production is relatively recent. Currently the sector incorporates fibre production, spinning, weaving, knitting, lace and embroidery making, carpet production, dyeing, printing and finishing.
The Nigerian textile industry used to be the biggest in Africa and one of the largest employers in the country. However, the sector has shrunk dramatically and many companies have closed shop, especially with the smuggling of cheap, foreign textile materials and clothing into the Nigerian market, being one of the main reasons for this collapse.
Prices of local materials have also become much higher than its imported counterparts due to increased production cost. In a bid to address some of the challenges staling the revival of the industry, the GoodluckEbele Jonathan led Federal government of Nigeria, through the Bank of Industry, sponsored a N100 billion Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) fund, for the cotton sub sector growth.
The fund was an addition to four improved varieties of cotton seeds which include samcot 8, samcot 9, samcot 10, samcot 1, were promoted in 2012, while in 2014, six varieties of cotton seeds were developed by the Institute of Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Interestingly, all these do not appear enough to resuscitate the industry. Hence, when the President elect, General Mohammed Buhari disclosed that the textile industry will be one of the areas his administration will pay a lot of attention to, he aroused the interest of many who have longed to see the resurrection of the industry.
However, while this information is welcomed by many Nigerians who believe that for the first time in a very long while, we are about to see a government that is ready to take the bull by the horn and do whatever it takes to bring back the glory days of the industry, major stakeholders in the textile and garment industry do not share such optimism.
As a matter of fact, for some of them, it is the same old song that politicians usually sing. In an interview with Mr.Jaiyeolaolanrewaju the Director General Nigeria Textile Manufacturing Association (NTMA), he disclosed to Hallmark that despite the fact that the General has made such an encouraging statement, it is very difficult to know whether he will match his words with actions.
“You see one thing about government and politics is that you never can tell what you expect so sometimes, it is better to expect nothing from government and politicians. This is because of their usual promise and fail attitude. A lot people, particularly those who are stakeholders in the industry, have their hopes hinged on him. If he fails to match those strong words with action, then it will be a disaster,” Mr.Olanrewaju said.
“If the Buhari led Federal government means business, it should start by visiting some of the communiqué that have come from the studies done on the issue of textile, right from the Obasanjo years. He should begin to implement some of the positions of key stakeholders that will bring the industry back to life. He should look at the recently launched National Cotton, Textile and Garment policy,” he added.
However, as far as textile firms are concerned, government put the wrong foot forward when it failed to first reduce smuggling and address the fundamental challenge of lack of infrastructure particularly power supply before coming out with the bailout funds. Because of Nigeria’s huge infrastructure deficit particularly, inadequate and unreliable electricity supply, manufacturers, including textile companies, are forced to rely on generators at huge cost, resulting in rising cost of production.
According to the textile association D.G, unless the issue of power is solved, the industry cannot move forward.
“The new government can revive the sector but it must start with improved and relatively stable power supply. This is because of its effect on the cost of production. The issue of flooding the market with cheap and substandard textile fabrics, should also be dealt with, with Buhari instructing that no government official show buy foreign fabrics,” he said.
According to Comrade OladeleHansu, President, National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), one of the major issues affecting the industry is the influx of cheap and substandard textile fabrics into the Nigerian market.
“One of the saddest things I recently discovered is that government and its agencies do not patronize locally made fabrics and yet the government wants the industry to grow. Unless Buhari comes in and reduces the influx of foreign fabrics in the market to 20%, I am afraid, it will be the same old story, he said.
One thing of note from the words of these two key stakeholders in the industry is that their words do not inspire confidence of a brighter future for the textile and garment industry. The undertone of their voice revealed that they did not believe the Buhari led government can match its words with action. Hence, the task ahead for Buhari might have just gotten bigger.