Comrade Babatunde Alamutu, National President of Textile, Garments and Tailoring Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (TGTSSAN), in this interview with Ifeoma Ekeke speaks on the challenges faced by the textile industry, interventions made by the government so far to keep the sector on its feet, and suggestions that can be put in place to revive the sector.
Considering the fact that even with the presence of local raw materials, large consuming population, stable market and human resources, the textile sector in Nigeria has unarguably been in comatose, so to say, what is your take on this, particularly as it can be reasoned that the situation is paradoxical?
It is truly a paradox because we have what it takes for the sector to thrive. However, the problems that are really confronting the sector in terms of growth and stability are incontrovertibly insufficient raw materials, smuggling of foreign textiles, and shortage of electric power and spare parts for industrial machines.
What are the things you think should be done to ensure that the textile sector once again become fully operational?
To answer your question, let me say that Nigeria has great potential if the right policies are implemented. Also, it has great potential in terms of the textile industry, based on her great potential of textile manufacturers, and large consuming population and labour force as you earlier pointed out in your question. However, there is a need for the identification of allied textile industry as new areas of investment that would reward local investors.
It is on record that the government has over the years put in some policies in place, don’t you think that ought to have boosted the industry, and secondly can you recap such policies?
Truly, as you rightly noted, the government has put policies in place to address the challenges confronting the sector. One of the policies put in place is the Executive Order 003 which was meant to curb smuggling and allow citizens and government to buy made in Nigeria goods and therefore to patronise the manufacturing for growth.
Another policy put in place is the CBN Revival of the Textile Value Chain. The thinking is that this revival would be bereft of bureaucracy and therefore the CBN would be able to provide the needed funds for revival but alas it is not so.
Also, the government also came up with the Textiles Import Adjustment Tax which is a policy that was meant to make the textiles industry competitive, hence the enactment of 10% levy on all imported textiles into Nigeria. It is expedient to note that the amount collected was never given to the industry as a grant. The essence was to defray overhead cost of production in the industry.
In fact, one must commend this administration for its commitment to reviving the textile industry with the various intervention programmes for textiles. The CBN has been doing quite a lot by banning forex to textile traders, but the customs have to support them to realise that objective. It is thought that if smuggling is reduced by 20 per cent, about 40 textile firms will come back.
We are advocating that the government set up a textile task force to combat smuggling of textiles as was recently done in Ghana.
With the interventions so far, can you say the industry is now doing well or not?
Let me say that despite years of government’s involvement that Nigeria’s textile industry is a departure from what it is expected to be owing to challenges of huge appetite for importation, poor patronage, policy implementation and a broken value-chain. In fact, if only 10 per cent of the yearly import bill of $4 billion textile fabrics is re-invested into the textile industry, the country would be a net exporter and expand its revenue from programmes like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of the United States.
Given the level of intervention extended to the sector by the government, and yet the challenges remain, it would be expedient to say that the problem of the industry transcends funding. Though, government’s interventions have helped to increase capacity to access raw materials like cotton and retooled machinery, but poor patronage draws back the gains.
The somewhat retrogressive growth in the country is baffling. This is because in terms of raw material the country is not lagging behind major textile producing countries. For instance, cotton grows in 26 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Again, with CBN’s intervention, Nigeria now produces excess cotton but lacks an industry and market regulation that will uptake the raw materials for production. In fact, let me say exporting raw cotton creates further problems for the industry as value-added products continue to dominate importation.
In fact, industry data showed that in 2019, 18.6 per cent of all imported cotton worldwide ended up in China, the largest exporter of textiles and clothing products in the world. Chinese imports currently account for 60 per cent of the print fabric market in Africa, with India supplying an additional 21 per cent. West Africa itself is a large market for prints and buys around 65 per cent of all foreign imports. Nigerian demand accounts for around 38 per cent of total imports in the region.
When the Cotton, Textile and Garment industry policy came to being in 2017, not few Nigerians were upbeat that the policy would solve the problems and constraints that bedeviled the sector at that time? But given today’s realities in the sector, can you say the problems or challenges are over?
Given the fact that the Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy (CTG) was launched in January 2017 by then Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah primarily to tackle and solve the myriads of the Sector’s problems ranging from poor infrastructure, marketing and the seed issues in the cotton sector, in order that the Sector could compete globally with her counter parts in Asia and other parts of the World.
What can you say about the sector in the face of extant realities and the purpose for which the CTG was meant to achieve?
Let me say that Nigerian government has been good in producing policies that have not been attainable in the past. For example, the EEG policy that was heralded and acceptable by a majority of manufacturers who rushed to it but alas it crashed thereby consuming a lot of capital from mill owners. Similarly, the CTG policy has a lot of constraints on implement ability because for instance to set up a textile plant will take a maximum of three years to establish, the epileptic power and linking up of gas to the North are definitely not short-term plans. The local patronage issue has been on the drawing board for a long time and nothing had been achievable. Government needs to abrogate and abolish the procurement act and all these take a long time.
If I may recall, the Minister at the launching said if the present government was not re-elected into power the programme was bound to fail clearly. That indicates that the CTG was a political hogwash and purely a political grandstanding that was only meant to achieve political goals.
The BT Cotton that is meant to provide high yielding seeds to farmers will take up to 2years to start planting because they will need to establish “Farm Trials” before the seeds are confirmed fit for distribution to farmers.
So really, there are only a few or no immediate implementable policy to the benefit of the sector but a means of prolonging this administration to support their continuity.
Again, the setting up of a Civilian Task Force shall not create any magic as only the Military and the Customs could carry arms as the smugglers have superior weapons. This Task Force that is armless cannot perform any magic. The Customs under their law could raid markets but they have never done so.