Following its commitment to ensure that at least 20 textile garment factories return to full operation before the end of 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is soliciting for partnerships that would enable the agenda bear fruits.
As part of its strategy, the apex bank has engaged in interactive sessions across the country with some taking place in Owerri, Imo State and Lagos.
The engagement drew representatives from the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) and other private sector unions affiliated to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), organised labour, which comprises of the NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC).
Prominent labour leaders that joined the interaction from the South West were: Comrade Funmi Sessi, chairperson, NLC Lagos State Council; Comrade Latifat Okanlawon, chairperson, NLC Ogun State Women Committee; Comrade Arogundade Tejuosho, President, Nigeria Union of Tailors, Lagos State chapter; and Comrade Bola Awoyemi, State Secretary, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Lagos State Council.
The forums closely followed three critical steps previous taken by the apex bank – adding textile to the 41 foreign exchange restriction list; the unequivocal threat to blacklist anyone or organisation involved in smuggling textile and recently the CBN set up a committee for the revival of the country’s cotton, textile and garment industry, with the mandate to revive a minimum of 50 textile firms by 2023.
However, in the short-term, the apex bank plans to revive 20 textile firms within the 2019 fiscal period.
Citing the whopping $4 billion spent annually on importation of textile materials into the country, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele further expressed concern that the country loses $2 billion annually to textile smuggling and export, stressing that it was time the country revived the sector in order to take advantage of the massive opportunities therein.
He said the Textile Revival and Implementation Committee (TRIC), comprising representatives from CBN, five states involved in the production of cotton, federal ministries of power, water resources, finance and Nigeria Customs Service, have the responsibility of resuscitating the country’s cotton belt, identifying textile clusters, improving cotton production nationwide and boosting power supply to textile firms across the clusters.
Speaking at the forum, General Secretary of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGWTN), Comrade Issa Aremu, said the current CBN management has done well through its numerous interventions in the various sectors of the economy.
He, however, advised that the country, through the CBN, should work towards a single-digit inflation rate, adding that CBN should be supported by all and sundry to revive the comatose manufacturing sector of Nigeria.
“I must say that the re-appointment of the CBN governor for a second term is commendable. From the day he assumed office as the governor of CBN, his goal has been to have a monetary policy that will improve production and create jobs. For us, you can agree with me that if there are no companies, there will be no workers and if there are no workers there cannot be a union. And if there are no unions, there cannot be leaders of unions that are here.
According to Aremu, at a point in Nigeria’s history, the country survived on revenues from the non-oil sector, to the extent that it became a dominant exporter of agricultural produce into the global market. Some of these products included, cocoa, groundnut, cotton and palm oil.
Nigeria’s focus in agriculture supported the raw material needs of the industrial sector and created employment opportunities for millions of Nigerians, he added.
President Muhammadu Buhari had announced in his inaugural speech that he will create 100 million jobs in the next 10 years. To the labour leader, this is in line with the CBN programmes and “if I have my way, I will tell the president to make it 250 million jobs.”
He in the forex market, the key word is stability. The naira has been stable for quite some time. “Inflation is hovering around 11 per cent but it is not over until it is over. I think we should work towards single digit.
CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Mr Isaac Okoroafor, said the apex bank governor is called a comrade because “the first day he took office, his vision was titled: ‘A people focused central bank’. It means that all the policies from the central bank are to be underpinned and dictated by the welfare of the people.
He said the apex bank has shifted attention to reviving the textile sector considered to be one of the largest employers of labour in the 80s and 90s.
Okoroafor argued that the textile industry used to be the largest employers of labour after the civil service, but today, the textile, garment and cotton industry has virtually collapsed. He said of 180 textile mills in the country, only 15 are functional and even those at low capacity. He said the industry currently supports 20,000 jobs from 550,000 hitherto employed in the sector.
The good news, according to him, is that the CBN has decided to take the bull by the horn to revive the textile sector with the identification of over 100,000 cotton farmers who, he said would be supported with the best seedlings and funded to support the textile value chain.
Why are we doing this? We want to create jobs because it is only through this that we can reduce armed robbery, kidnapping and other criminal activities among our youths. The saying goes, ‘an idle man is a devil’s workshop’.
“We have decided that the only way to go after we have exited recession is growth, growth and growth. Our GDP can only grow when jobs are created. This is why we are focusing on industries that used to be the largest employers of labour and one of the sectors we have identified is the textile, garment and cotton industry,” Okoroafor said.
While intervening in various industries, the CBN however believes in putting an end to what it called, “senseless” importation. This, the CBN spokesman reiterated, informed the ban on making foreign exchange available on importation of 43 items.
According to him, all the monetary policies of the CBN were to be underpinned and dictated by the welfare of the people. “Whether it is the Anchor Borrowers’ scheme, the 43 items, they are all focused on millions of workers who have been rendered jobless for years by the elite who conspired to be exporting our jobs through massive importation. At a time, we were importing 20 million eggs everyday using our scarce forex,” he said.
He however said the CBN has not broken any World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement by the ban on 43 items.
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