For many years, until the early 1980s, the Nigerian textile industry was the highest employer of labour, after the public sector. Sadly, the industry is in dire straits battling for survival in recent times.
Among the challenges that confronted the sector were policy inconsistency leading to closure of many textile companies occasioned by poor power supply, smuggling, poor access to finance and high operating cost, among others.
It is unarguable that the closure of many textile companies contributed to the rise in the country’s high unemployment rate, rising insecurity and other social vices.
It is against this backdrop that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, recently lamented the country’s descent from being a textile giant to a mediocre player in the world economy.
Emefiele said Nigeria used to be home to Africa’s largest textile industry in the 1970s and early 1980s with the employment of over 450,000 people.
“The textile industry at that time was the largest employer of labour in Nigeria after the public sector, contributing over 25 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector.
“The industry was supported by the production of cotton by 600,000 local farmers across 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
“This sector supported the clothing needs of the Nigerian populace, as our markets were filled with locally produced textiles from companies such as the United Textiles in Kaduna, Supertex Limited, Afprint, Texlon, Enpee and Aswani Mills, among others.
“In addition, the cotton growing sector has gone dead, thereby depriving thousands of smallholder farmers the chance to earn a living.
Furthermore, a large proportion of our clothing materials today are imported from China and countries in Europe,” Emeifele stated.
It is against this background that First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, in line with its celebratory 125th anniversary , themed, “Woven into the Fabric of Society”, on Oct. 2 commemorated the country’s independence with a locally made textile attire.
Specifically, the bank set aside Oct. 2 to have all staff wear a locally made textile attire adorned in its 125 anniversary logo and over 18,000 staff across the bank and FBN Holdings participated.
The bank in a statement attributed the initiative to moves to celebrate the country’s 59th Independence anniversary and at the same time support the textile industry.
“The native attire fashion statement by FirstBank and the FBN Holdings Group is rooted in our trust in the diverse opportunities the textile industry provides.
“And indeed its contribution to national growth and development, vis-à-vis the job opportunities, youth and women empowerment, as well as the entrepreneurship driven influence its creates cannot be overemphasized.
“The bank is indeed honored to have been woven into the Fabric of Society in the last 125 years and is committed to keep promoting activities and opportunities that contribute to the growth of the textile industry,” it added.