By Christian Appolos
Nigeria’s textile industry was once the second highest employer of labour in the country. It still has the capacity to create millions of jobs and contribute immeasurably to the country’s GDP if government and its officials will do the needful. Says the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN).
The central point of the position of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria on the scary tale of Nigeria’s unemployment quagmire and the economic woes of the country’s textile industry, is that the country will face a more disastrous situation worst than seen presently, if result oriented actions are not taken urgently. The Union conspicuously states that the lackadaisical implementation attitude on many policy programmes on the revival of the country’s textile industry is trapping down millions of jobs and economic gains meant to reap in the sector.
The analysis of the Union simply is that Nigeria is growing in population every day, but largely depends on imported goods. It unfortunately has an alarming case of industry deficit, but has millions of unemployed youths who are restlessly seeking for jobs. And more interestingly, the country has a huge amount of deposited natural resources. A situation the Union said calls for questions on what is really the problem.
In his keynote address at the policy dialogue on sustainable industrialisation and employment in Nigeria organised by his NUTGTWN in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Abuja, the National President of the union, Comrade John Adaiji, posited that the skyrocketing unemployment crisis which can apparently be linked to the fact that existing industries are rather withering, relocating and so on, and the life threatening economic hardship in Nigeria can never be reversed without required actions.
He added that the look-warm attitude of government and its officials to implementing policy pronouncements, is the monster that has vowed never to allow millions of employment opportunities and the prosperity of Nigeria ought enjoy in the textile industry and in other sectors of the country’s economy become a reality.
Comrade Adaiji added to the above statement at the opening session of the 34th Annual National Education Conference of NUTGTWN held also in Abuja, saying; “There is a huge gap between official policy pronouncements and implementation. The future of Nigeria and Africa lies in adding value to its abundant raw materials and creation of sustainable jobs. Employment generation and employment retention as well as poverty eradication largely depend on the amount of value-addition through industrialisation and degree of diversification of the economy.”
Government must change its attitude and tactics on dealing with serious issues such as industrialisation. He said, and equivocally stated that the; “Textile Industry remains the key driver of sustainable jobs and development for most national economies of developing nations like Nigeria.” He went on to say; “The government needs to take urgent steps to review its policies and consider tax wavers for our industries to encourage investment and encourage fair competition.”
The textile workers’ union leader passionately expressed the concern of his union about the precarious situation of the manufacturing sector in Nigeria particularly as it affects the textile industry and its implication on its members’ welfare, jobs and employment in general. He noted that employment in the textile industry has continue to decline, evidently with the attendant decline in his union membership.
He hinted that other problems confronting the industry that needs immediate attention are; inadequate and costly electricity supply, smuggling, poor patronage, poor infrastructure, high taxation and interest rates and the depreciating value of the naira. “Smuggling is the major killer of textile industry in Nigeria. The issue of smuggling must be decisively dealt with if we are to keep the remaining industries and employment in the sector.” He noted.
The union also explained that government policies and shortsightedness necessitated the death of many textile industries in the country and paved way for foreign textile to take over Nigerian markets. On that note it warned that government must avoid entering into agreements that will completely kill the remaining life line of the country’s textile industry and the little job opportunities it offers to Nigerians in the ongoing African Continental Free Trade Agreement deal.
“As Nigeria braces up for the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, we must ensure maximum protection for local industries that fall within our national priorities. Textile Industry remains the key driver of sustainable jobs and development for most national economies of developing nations like Nigeria.
“The key to real transformation and economic recovery lies in manufacturing. The Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) sector in particular is crucial for strengthening economic recovery, boosting employment and creating wealth for Nigerians. As a matter of fact, worldwide, textile being the engine for industrialisation has always been jealously protected by all governments.
“Nigeria must insist on fair trade that must retain current and future jobs in our textile and garment industries and ensure our boarders are properly managed to prevent a flood of illicit imports as well as the breaking and undermining of the rules of origin. The objective of AfCFTA is not merely trade. Rather it is trade for the purpose of mutual, deeper and wider growth, as well as industrialisation and jobs, and it should occur on the basis of respect for workers and their rights and with strict compliance and respect to our national laws and the international labour standard.” Comrade Adaiji, said.
NUTGTWN also spoke on its consistency in campaign for revitalisation of Nigeria’s textile industry and other industries for general purpose of job creation and economic growth of the country. “The current state of affairs in the country and the continent in general necessitates the need for us to intensify our advocacy and campaign for sustainable industrialization and employment.”
The Union then said; “It is against the above background that we are embarking on this Policy Dialogue to sustain the pressure and advocacy for friendly business environment, stable macro-economic policy, consistent, clear and focused industrial strategy that will provide support and incentives for manufacturing activities, ensure value addition and decent job creation in the country.”
“Since year 2000, the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) in active collaboration with the Nigerian Textile employers association had engaged in campaigns and advocacy for favourable policy for textile industry. We have engaged in advocacy and campaign for sustainable development and industrialization through the policy dialogue series.
“These activities have helped to keep in focus at national level issues of industrial development and the imperative of supportive policies. It has promoted increased interaction between the critical stakeholders paving way for constant review and feedback. The union’s pressure continues to promote active awareness and public discussion on the future of textile industry in particular and manufacturing in Nigeria. Today, there is official recognition of the importance of industry and the need to protect local industry, create mass decent jobs and diversify the nation’s economy. It has resulted in specific policy intervention like the 100 billion cotton, textile and garment intervention fund among others.
“There is also the official recognition that we must produce what we consume and consume what we produce. Conscious effort is also being made to address the problem of financing as it affects the key sectors of the nation’s economy through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention funds. The government is also making concerted effort to promote the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Cotton, textile and garment (CTG) policy is in place to revamp the textile and garment industry.”