Benjamin Babine, Abuja
National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGWN) has called on Nigeria to learn from past mistakes of various trade agreements in the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Speaking at the 32nd Annual National Education Conference of the union, NUTGTWN President, John Adaji, said Nigeria should ensure 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 membership of World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1997 with attendant massive lowering of tariffs, through wholesale trade liberalisation, 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.
“Many believe 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 industrialisation of the continent,” he said.
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 Central Bank of Nigeria to ameliorate the impact of the crisis on the economy and the textile industry in particular.
Former All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, 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.