Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the founder and President of Dangote Group, is currently standing with the ongoing clamour for the revival of Nigeria’s ailing textile and manufacturing industry by urging the National Assembly to pass a law that will penalise the sale of prohibited textiles by imprisoning culprits without any option of fine. He said this in Lagos, while presenting the Second Adeola Odutola Lecture titled, “Agenda Setting for Industrialising Nigeria in the Next Decade,” in commemoration of the 50th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
In his words: “for the textile industry, I think the government needs to formulate a law by the National Assembly that will say that anybody selling banned foreign textile must go to prison without an option of fine. So, it will be just going to jail even if it is just for two years. The real problem in the textile industry is not basically lack of cheaper power. If you give them cheaper power but allow the smuggling to continue, the textile industry will not last. What is happening is that foreign companies are using us (Nigeria) as a dumping ground. That is why I do not like to import. Anytime you import you will be importing poverty and exporting prosperity and job opportunities outside.”
He further admonished the government to apply the same force it mustered to enforce the ban on rice importation in the bid to end smuggling of textiles into Nigeria, adding that, “a few decades ago textiles used to be the largest employer of labour after the federal government of Nigeria.” Dangote, who is crowned the richest man in Africa, also tasked the federal government with the implementation of the policies meant to protect the country’s industrial sector, especially textile manufacturing, without bothering about who will be offended.
He said that today in India, people will be sent to jail for selling foreign textiles anywhere. “Also, if something is banned in the United States of America for example, there is no way it could be displayed for sale in a shop. But what is stopping the implementation of Nigeria’s government policies is the absence of the political will to make sure that we implement those policies no matter who is going to be upset by us,” Dangote added that manufacturers should “meet with the government to find a lasting solution, especially now that government is desperate about job creation; to stamp out smuggling for our industries to stand. If we have a prosperous environment the insecurity will drop.
“Nigeria needs to henceforth intensify efforts at promoting industrialisation with specific focus on the attainment of the following targets in the next 10 years: 15 percent manufacturing growth, 20 percent manufacturing contribution to the GDP, 15 percent growth in export of manufactured products,10 percent increase in the share of manufacturing to total export merchandise, stronger inter-industry linkage between SMEs and large corporations, improved manufacturing contribution to government tax revenue and 20 per cent increase in manufacturing employment.”
Commenting on the dead state of the country’s textile industry, the Founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi, said the decline in textile manufacturing is due to bad trade policies. Utomi said: “But to get straight to the point, the textile industry failed because of Nigeria’s trade policy. The lesson we shall take from this is that we should have a standing working group consisting of some real experts and manufacturers to put the government under pressure about its trade policies. I wonder if we still remember that Nigeria Textile Limited (NTL) broke even within one month of its operation in 1960. And in its first six months of production was exporting to Manchester, United Kingdom. So, why did the textile industry die? Because wrong trade policies were being made and there was not enough pressure to get the government to do the right thing. And the government people were not doing it out of wickedness, but ignorance. So, we have to remember that Nigeria is our country and collectively we can get the experts, manufacturers and the government to sit together and plot our way. The global textile industry today is dominated by five firms. How can Nigeria align with them and provide incentives to them to make Nigeria their base? So that today we would not be talking about jobs because the textile industry will be providing millions of jobs.”