Evaluating the strides of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the context of industrialization, while by no means, down playing its records in other facets of the nation’s industrial sector, the cotton, textile and garment industry calls for a special focus. This is against the backdrop of the horrendous level of decay in the sector that was, years back, vibrant and holding out great promise in our efforts at industrialization. Starting with the Kaduna Textile in 1956, at its peak in 1987, the nation boasted of at least, 35 textile factories employing approximately 300,000 workers which was over 25% of the total number of workers in the manufacturing sector, a picture that was true as recently as at 1991.
Over the years up and through to 2015, all but an insignificant few of the textile mills had completely collapsed. One of the repercussions or casualties would of cause, be the loss of jobs for the tumultuous number of workers as well as the closure of employment opportunities and outlets for upcoming teeming youths. Importantly, resulting from the collapse of the textile industry is the inevitable loss of colossal foreign exchange expended by Nigerians in the purchase of foreign textiles through legal and illegal channels. It is estimated that the country spends about $4 billion annually in the importation of assorted textile products. There has also been the negative impact on farmers who had hitherto engaged in the cultivation of cotton.
President Buhari was, therefore, well on course, when, as a candidate and early in his presidency, he consistently harped on the resuscitation of the textile industry as a top priority in his programme on industrialization. Three years on and driven largely by the Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, while the CTG remains a long distance away from recovery, the administration has however demonstrated spirited commitment with resultant appreciable palpable results.
For instance, the government has succeeded in resolving the crisis of high cost of energy supply to the textile manufacturers by re-classifying the sector as a strategic industrial sector thereby benefiting from the reduced gas supply rate at $3.8 per one KCF as against the old regime of $7.64 per one KCF. The Buhari administration, through the Ministry of Industry has further accomplished the unprecedented measure of linking the textile mills to the national gas pipeline from the Escravos. While manufacturers in the north and other parts of the countries are yet to start benefiting from the benefits of direct gas pipeline connections, their counterparts in Lagos have since been connected.
To surmount the problem of availability of the critical raw material requirement, cotton, which accounts for 40% of the cost of production of print fabric, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar went out of her way to source 45,000 metric tons of seed cotton for distribution to farmers in the 26 cotton producing states. These and several more of the accomplishments so far by the government have, not unexpectedly, failed to result in the lofty ambition of President Buhari of full revitalization of the ailing textile industry.
In a bold acknowledgement of the enormity of the crises or challenges, the minister of state who is also the Chairperson of the Presidential Committee on Resuscitation of the CTG Industry has been quoted as pointing out that, the nation would have to commit between N500 billion to N1 trillion for a complete turnaround of the sector. In her words, all palliative strategies adopted by preceding governments failed, “due to the fact that the industry is saddled or burdened with a number legacy issues”.
The high level stakeholders’ retreat was, in the context of the myriad of problems in the sector, another building block aimed at further enhancing the actualization of government’s vision of “full revitalization and to ensure sustainable growth and development of the industry in line with global best practices.” In her opening address, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar urged the captains of Industry, representatives of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, MDAs scholars and labour leaders in attendance, to proffer solutions and strategies towards attaining government vision in the sector. The Buhari administration’s goals, according to the minister, include developing a modern integrated textiles and garment industry that can turn Nigeria into one of the lead players in the global textiles and garments industry.
The vision, according to Aisha Abubakar, is also aimed at upgrading the GDP and achieving 15% penetration in global textile and garment market by the year 2023. It also aims at “creating employment for approximately one million people by year 2023” and, “achieving 15% of national industrial production”. She, accordingly, implored participants to brainstorm on the strategies for achieving government goals of “self-sufficiency and 20% share in Nigeria’s total export earnings with textiles and garments exports targeted to reach 2 Billion Dollars by year 2025.” Lofty but plausible goals if given the political will and propelled by the requisite zeal and resources.
Given their caliber, there is no doubting that participants at the Retreat would have come up with plausible suggestions and strategies to the challenges identified by the minister herself. These include insufficient seed cotton for cultivation of cotton lint which today stands at 100,000 metric tons. The government is targeting seed cotton production of 500,000 metric tons by 2023. The Retreat was also charged to, “examine and proffer solutions to the challenges of high cost of operations, smuggling and counterfeiting, low quality and standard of local productions, influx of cheap foreign textile and garments products and poor enabling infrastructure”, among other impediments.
In a piece that can be said to be a snap treatise on the future and prospects of democracy in Nigeria, the Oxford University-Based Daily Trust columnist, Dr. Akinola, emphasized the catalytic function of education in the advancement of democratic culture in our society.
A second cogent factor, according to him, is based on the level of industrial development of the society. Akinola said, “A leadership that believes in the future of society must engage in industrialization and diversification of the economy, creating job opportunities for an ever-growing population”.
In the cotton, textiles and garments industry sector, the Buhari administration has so far demonstrated robust vision and commitment to setting the nation on the path to industrialization.
In this context, the arrow head of the government for the actualization of revitalizing the comatose sector, minister of state, industry, trade and investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, has by and large, hugely delivered on her mandate. No wonder, she is fondly called: “Mama Textile”.
Ahmad is a Kaduna based public analyst.