President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said for the country to overcome the challenges posed by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement entered into by the Federal Government, local producers must live up to the billing of the forces of a competitive market.
According to Lawan, until Nigeria addresses the issue of unsteady power supply and smuggling, there’s little that can be achieved through the closure of its borders to goods coming in from neighbouring African countries.
The Senate President stated this on Tuesday in his closing remarks on a motion on the “Urgent need to revamp the Nation’s Comatose Textile Industry”.
He said: “We have signed into the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. We cannot easily stop trading with other people, so we need to be competitive.
“The problem of textile industry in Nigeria is not the market; the market is huge. The problem is largely the issue of power, because you need power to be competitive.
“Secondly, we have to stop smuggling. These two are twin evils that we must address really. But we have to be in a hurry, because by signing the trade agreement, we have consciously gone into an agreement where other countries will produce their goods in their country and bring them to Nigeria.
“We really need to push for the fixing of power sector in this country. I agree we should close the border, but that is going to bring only temporary relief for us. It is not going to be permanent while solving our problems.
“The executive and legislature must brainstorm on ways to fix these issues faster because time is of the essence here.
“Even if we stop the importation of textile produced outside for five years, what happens after that? If our companies in the country can’t produce competitively, then there would still be problem.
“We need serious conversation about this to solve the problem as a way forward”, Lawan said.
Earlier, the Senate in its resolutions urged the Executive to maintain the closure of land borders to a reasonable time; and to totally ban the importation of textile material for five years to support local manufacturers.
The upper chamber also urged the Federal Government to encourage local textile manufacturing companies by providing them with soft loans and easy access to credit facilities through the Bank of Industry (BoI).
The Senate, while appealing to the Federal Government to restrict importation of foreign textile materials, requested the provision of necessary infrastructural facilities especially power supply to local Textile Manufacturing Companies.
The sponsor of the motion, Senator Abdullahi Barkiya (APC, Katsina Central), noted that the textile industry in Nigeria played a significant role in the manufacturing sector of the economy with a record of over 140 companies in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Barkiya lamented that the textile industry witnessed massive decline in the last two decades with many textile companies such as Kaduna Textile, Kano Textile, Aba Textile, United Nigeria Textiles, First Spinners amongst others closing shops and throwing their workers into the job market.
The lawmaker added that the discovery of oil in Nigeria also greatly affected the Textile Industry as a result of decline in the production of cotton which was a major source of raw materials for the industry.
He said that the high cost of production and trade liberalization resulted in massive importation of Textile materials, which in turn negatively affected the production of local textiles.
Barkiya advised that if the Textile Industry is resuscitated, it will provide additional revenue and assist government in its bid to diversify the economy.
In a related development, the Senate also on Tuesday urged the Executive to make funds available to contractors handling the Baro River Port project for final completion.
The upper chamber, while directing the Senate Committees on Marine Transport; Public Procurement; and Works to investigate the activities of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) in respect of the Baro project, called on the leadership of the National Assembly to meet with the Executive arm of government on the completion of the dredging of River Niger to Baro port as a matter of national economic importance.
The resolutions were reached sequel to consideration of a motion on the need to complete the Baro River Port Project, sponsored by Senator Muhammad Bima (APC, Niger South).
According to the lawmaker, over N40 billion has so far been expended on the various components of the Baro Port without achieving any significant progress.