One of the ironies of Nigeria’s industrialisation is the precipitous decline of manufacturing industries, especially the textiles sub sector. Time was when the textile mills represented the apogee of Nigeria’s manufacturing prowess, with high quality products exported all over the world. For example, in the 1980’s, Nigerian textiles industry was the third largest in Africa after Egypt and South Africa. Moreover, it was the largest employer of labour in the manufacturing sector, reportedly offering direct employment to more than 350,000 workers at its peak.
With Kaduna, Kano and Lagos as the hub, the country boasted over 175 mills in the 1980s and 1990s. Its contribution then amounted to 14 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Today, all that remains are carcasses of abandoned and dilapidated mills littered across the country, which is a sad reminder of their once, chequered past. Incidentally, the fortunes of the cotton and textile industries started plummeting in the mid 1990s due to neglect and policy inconsistencies. By the late 1990s, the country’s business climate became so unfriendly that many were forced to close down or relocate to other countries with favourable economic and political environment.
The situation was made worse by 1997, when the Federal Government lifted the ban on textiles importation, thereby depleting the number of garment factories to only 35 in 2015 from a peak of 175 in the 1990s.
Rather than protect the local industry, the government’s decision to check the indiscriminate importation of cheap textiles material has not changed the situation, as the porous borders, have paved the way for smugglers to have a field day. In a bid to revive the textiles industry, the Federal Government in December 2009 initiated N100 billion Cotton, Textiles and Garment (CTG) Revivial fund to be domiciled with the Bank of Industry (BOI).
Such effort at lending helping a hand was heartening, especially given the capacity of the manufacturing sector to absorb the large army of the unemployed.
Unfortunately, rather than improve, the situation has remained the same and in some instances getting worse. Because of this, questions are being asked as to who got the loan and what they did with it. Matters are not helped, as no mention was made in the 2016 budget on how to revive the textile industries.
In addition, manufacturers are facing the challenges of lack of power supply, as manufacturers now have to fund their own private power supply source, following the near-total collapse of the public power supply, further worsened by a flawed government privatisation exercise.
It is a fact that all over the world, the textile and garment industries have been identified as money-spinner that greatly supports job creation. We believe that the government should go beyond platitudes and create an enabling environment for revival of the textiles industry. Presently, Nigeria ranks 169 out of 189 countries in the Ease of Doing Business index. With Nigeria’s huge population, her textile industries can be formidable. While finance is crucial to the revival of the sub-sector, a good business environment, special incentives like tax holidays, provision of adequate infrastructure, stable power supply and the patronage of made-in-Nigeria fabrics can also be used to boost the fortunes of the sector.