Leather industry as key revenue earner, by Jide Ayobolu

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The Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has said that the leather industry could generate $1billion for Nigeria by 2025.

The Chief Executive Officer of NEPC, Mr Segun Awolowo, who disclosed this at the virtual summit with the theme: “Towards a Sustainable Leather Processing Industry in Nigeria: Kano Tannery, the Powerhouse” said, the footwear industry consumed 54 per cent of leather products globally and contributed about 25 per cent of agriculture’s gross domestic product, GDP.

The summit which saw other stakeholders in the leather industry advocate a strategic partnership between Lagos and Kano States to maximally harness the potentials of the sector and improve its contribution to the nation’s GDP.

The Senior Special Assistant on Lagos Affairs to the Kano State Governor, Mr Anthony Oneya, said the partnership between both states will forge a way forward to expand local trade by bringing together value addition ideas and investments.

“The partnership between Lagos and Kano is long overdue and this will help grow the sector to the level it ought to be,” he said. Oneya urged governments to support the improvement in the value of leather goods for both domestic use and exports through the provision of 21st-century technology. He said an improved tanning industry for leather will improve exports and give the sector the needed boost. Twenty-two of the 36 Tanneries in Nigeria are in Kano, he added.

Mr Lawan Sule-Garo, Chairman, Tanners Council of Nigeria, in his remarks, appealed for intervention funds from the government to revive the sector and create jobs. Sule-Garo also appealed to governments to grant incentives to wholesalers to bridge the financial gap and give priority to the local tanning industry. On the consumption of cowhides, popularly known as ‘Ponmo’, which could be used for leather production, the Tanner Council Chairman said, “We can continue to get leather from other animals apart from cows. We must not deter people from consuming Ponmo because we want to sell leather.” President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Mrs Toki Mabogunje advocated a holistic approach to developing the leather value chain for a long term growth strategy.

Also, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, has tasked micro, small and medium scale enter-prises, MSMEs, to make the country’s leather industry productive.

The Director General of SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Radda, gave the charge at Lagos Leather Fair’s opening ceremony, where he commended the organisers, Femi Handbags, sponsors and Lagos State Government, noting “of particular interest to SMEDAN is the limitless business opportunities available to MSMEs in the leather value chain.”

Dr. Radda, who was represented by SMEDAN’s Director of Engineering, Technology, Innovation and Infrastructure, Engr. David Ozigi, also said the agency was collaborating with Kano State Government to redevelop the N12 billion Industrial Development Centre, IDC, Tiga, into a world class leather cluster park and training centre in partnership with stakeholders and potential investors.

Also at the event were Executive Secretary, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, Mr. Segun Awolowo; former Acting Managing Director and CEO of the Bank of Industry, BoI, Mr. Waheed Olagunju; representative of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, Alhaji Nabegu, and other dignitaries.

During the event, Dr. Radda said: “The Lagos Leather Fair brings together the major players along the leather value chain and attempts to change the narrative within a potentially economically-buoyant sector, as envisioned by its organisers, Femi Handbags.

“The fair is coming at a time when the nation is in need of economic diversification, the promotion of made-in-Nigeria goods and the zero-oil initiative. “It is heart-warming to note that an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, is in place, which is aimed at achieving sustained inclusive growth. This is achievable through sustainable diversification of production.”

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said in Abuja that the Federal Government would take critical steps to advance leather technology in the country.

Onu spoke at the matriculation of trainees and inauguration of Nigerian Institute of Leather Science and Technology (NILEST), North Central Leather cluster extension centre as well as leather training infrastructure. The minister said such serious steps to promote leather production would quicken Nigeria’s industrialization process.

“By doing this, we will also strengthen our capacity to convert our rich agricultural products into viable economic goods and services that we need for both domestic consumption as well as strengthen export earnings.“

This will help in job and wealth creation, help restore national self-reliance and self-confidence, enhance prosperity and boost our economy, “he said.

The minister said that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was determined to use Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to lay a solid foundation for Nigeria’s economic diversification.

According to him, the day’s event is an affirmation of the resolution.

The minister said the Federal Government’s new national development order on STI would help move the country from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based and innovation driven economy. He said the process of creating additional leather research and development centres in other geo-political zones had reached an advanced stage.

“It is expected that this will help strengthen greater grassroots participation in leather technology, thereby helping to stimulate more indigenous capacity for the ultimate benefit of our people.

“Finally, I urge the trainees of this institute to take the vocation seriously.

“Nigeria will look up to you on the completion of your training to help in her efforts to use leather technology to create wealth and job, reduce poverty and enhance prosperity for our people.’’

The Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology, Samara, Zaria was established in 1964 following the request of the then Northern Regional Government to Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resource.

It was named Hides and Skin Demonstration and Training Project. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and United Nations were commissioned to commence a feasibility study on the development of the abundant raw Hide and Skin in the country. In 1972, the UN submitted a technical report which among other things proposes the upgrading of the Centre to a Research Institute that will cater for the Leather, Leather Product and Allied Field.

Before then, the name of the center was Federal Leather Institute, Zaria and was offering in service training for Certificate and Diploma in Hide and Skin Improvement Technology.

A year after 1973, the Institute was changed to Leather Research Institute of Nigeria by decree No. 35 of 1973 and was placed among the fourteen (research) Institutes under the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN). In 1978, the ARCN and its Research Institute became a division of the National Science Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) which was later transformed to the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

In 1988, the institute evolved yet again by the expanded mandate and inclusion of Chemical Technology, which resulted in the change of name to National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT) with the headquarters at Basawa, Zaria. In November 1991, the Samara Center attained semi-autonomous status and was named Federal College of Leather Technology (FCLT) Samaru, Zaria. The name was changed to Federal College of Chemical and Leather Technology (CHELTECH) Samara, Zaria in 1992.

Following the resolution at the National Science and Technology summit at Minna in 2006, the research mandate on Leather in NARICT and all the extension centers (Sokoto, Kano, Maiduguri and Jos) were officially on 26th June, 2009 transfer to CHELTECH, thus reverting back the status of a Research Institute. On 1st April, 2011, the name of the College was changed to Nigeria Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST) to properly position it in line with its mandate, mission and vision.

Perhaps one major problem facing Nigeria today that has received little or no attention remains her low industrial base. Indeed, apart from South Africa and Egypt, both of which are outside tropical Africa, the contribution of manufacturing to the economy of Nigeria, places Nigeria far behind the Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs) of South East Asia. Manufacturing in Nigeria has largely been dominated by a valorization of raw materials and import-substitution types that are capital intensive rather than labour intensive.

In addition, the absence of heavy industries and car manufacturing has militated against effective transfer of technology hence the heavy investment in manufacturing.

There is the general low level of inter-industry linkages-failure on the part of industries to utilize the products/by-products of other industries especially in the production process. Studies on manufacturing in Nigeria have focused on small-scale industries and some behavioral aspects of manufacturing at the regional level. In some cases, explanations have been offered in terms of factor endowments.

The last three or four decades have largely witnessed a reorientation in industrial geography and especially in a globalizing economy whereby a lot of emphasis is placed on inter-industry linkages, and especially networks of production subcontracting in the development of industrial activities and the economy as a whole.

The Federal Ministry of Science & Technology is a Nigerian ministry whose mission is to facilitate the development and deployment of science and technology apparatus to enhance the pace of socio-economic development of the country through appropriate technological inputs into productive activities in the nation. It is headed by a Minister appointed by the President, assisted by a Permanent Secretary, who is a career civil servant. President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR on November 11, 2015 sworn in Dr. Christopher Ogbonnaya Onu as the Minister of Science and Technology with Dr. Habiba Lawal as the permanent secretary in the ministry.

The ministry engages in the following activities:

·       Formulation, monitoring and review of the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation to attain the macro-economic and social objectives of Vision 20:2020 as it relates to science and technology;

·       Acquisition and application of Science, Technology and Innovation contribution to increase agricultural and livestock productivity;

·        Increasing energy reliance through sustainable Research and Development (R&D) in nuclear, renewable and alternative energy sources for peaceful and development purposes;

·       Promotion of wealth creation through support to key industrial and manufacturing sectors;

·       Creation of Technology infrastructure and knowledge base of facilitate its wide application for development;

·       Application of natural medicine resources and technologies for health sector development;

·       Acquisition and application of Space Science and Technology as a key driver of economic development; and

·       Ensuring the impact of R&D results in the Nigerian economy through the promotion of indigenous research capacity to facilitate technology transfer.

The PMB led government knows the importance of science and technology hence, it is giving it utmost attention with the aim of repositioning the economy through it, providing employment, generating wealth and reducing poverty, while breaking new grounds in different areas of human endeavour.

It is for these reasons that President Muhammadu Buhari declared that his administration cannot afford to neglect research and development as well as science and technology like past governments have done because no country could make progress without serious commitment to the development of science and technology.

He further explained that innovations from various research institutes under his supervision would be given utmost attention as they could impact positively on industrial development and manufacturing in Nigeria. He also noted that the ministry should not just focus on academic researches but market-based innovated researches aimed at boosting industrialization, to this end, it is evidently clear that, the PMB administration is poised to use science and technology as the basis for economic growth and development; and the pursuance of its change mantra.

Jide Ayobolu is a public affairs analyst based in Lagos

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