By Michael Oche, Abuja
The National Union of Textile Germent and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGWN) and the former national Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adam’s Oshiomhole have warned that Nigeria must learn from past mistakes of various trade agreements in the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In his address at the 32nd Annual National Education Conference of the union and the commemoration of 2020 Africa Industrialisation Day, NUTGTWN President, John Adaji said Nigeria must seek to ensure that implementation of the new trade Agreement does not undermine current efforts at industrial revival particularly in relation to the Textile and Garment industry
He recalled that the country’s uncritical membership of World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1997 with attendant massive lowering of tariffs through wholesale trade liberalization led to massive collapse of labour intensive industries like textiles due to unfair competition.
According to him, one of the major problems of the textile industry today is smuggling, stressing that “Fair trade within the AfCFTA and the current and future jobs in our textile and garment industries will be further devastated if African customs authorities across the board do not properly manage their borders to prevent a flood of illicit imports from abroad into Africa and the breaking and undermining of rules.”
He said African nations and Nigeria in particular must work together to attract investment, grow local manufacturing and combat smuggling.
According to comrade Adaji, “Many believe that AfCFTA when fully implemented could be a critical breakthrough to improving intra-regional trade, cross border trade and economic integration, creating jobs and contributing to the sustainable industrialization of the continent. But the truth is that Africa has never been short of economic and policy documents. The African trade and investment policy landscape is littered with failed grand plans and ambitious policies that have not succeeded in bringing about much-needed trade.”
The NUTGWN President also tasked president Muhammadu Buhari to ensure holistic implementation of the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) to revive the textile industry
He said COVID-19 pandemic has set the industry many steps backward, just as he expressed appreciation on the direct intervention by the CBN to ameliorate the impact of the crisis on the economy and the textile industry in particular.
He said, “The interventions had greatly helped to save the existing jobs in the industry. We express our appreciation to the textile employers for the cooperation and collaboration through social dialogue and collective bargaining aimed at protecting jobs, wages and ensuring enterprise sustainability during the nationwide lock down.
“However, inspite of the efforts to revive the industry, it is still confronted with some challenges notably; inadequate and costly electricity supply, smuggling, poor patronage, poor infrastructure, high taxation and interest rates and the depreciating value of the naira.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure holistic implementation of the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) policy to fully revive the sector. Textile Industry remains a critical plank for addressing the current unemployment challenge in the Country.”
On the African Industrialisation Day, Adaji said the union is also partnering with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to commemorate this year’s celebration.
He said, “The theme of this year’s Africa Industrialisation Day (AID) is “Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation in the AfCFTA and COVID-19 Era.” Through this joint platform we hope to engage policy makers and other stakeholders on the way forward for our industry and indeed the Manufacturing Industry in Nigeria within the framework of the AfCTA and COVID crisis.
“We hope to critically reflect on the implications of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and COVID-19 crisis for sustainable industrial revival, job creation and national development.
The AfCFTA promises to create a single market for goods and services for a population of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of US$3.4 trillion.
“Many believe that AfCFTA when fully implemented could be a critical breakthrough to improving intra-regional trade, cross border trade and economic integration, creating jobs and contributing to the sustainable industrialization of the continent. But the truth is that Africa has never been short of economic and policy documents. The African trade and investment policy landscape is littered with failed grand plans and ambitious policies that have not succeeded in bringing about much-needed trade.
In his presentation, Oshiomhole also warned that unless there is improved policing of the border, the country could be flooded with cheap textile materials at the expense of local manufacturers
He recalled that a waiver granted to importers of textile materials during the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration led to the collapse of textile mills in Nigeria.