CBN tackles LCCI on forex restriction to textile importers

Emefiele Godwin. PHOTO CREDIT: SHIPS & PORTS archive

Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on Monday said the recent measures announced by the apex bank to revive the Cotton, Garment and Textile sector was well thought out to reposition the sector for job creation and economic growth.

Emefiele was replying to the position of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry cautioning government over the restriction of foreign exchange for the importation of textile materials.

The LCCI Director-General, Muda Yusuf, had said that there was a need for a strategic approach before such policy pronouncement should have been made.

He had advised the Federal Government to reconsider the Central Bank of Nigeria’s ban of forex to textile importers.

He argued that given the position of Nigeria in Africa as a leader in fashion, the range of fabrics produced by the Nigerian textile industry could not support the industry in terms of the quantity and quality.

Yusuf, who noted that his submission was not to diminish the importance of the local textile industry in any way or the significance of the nation’s industrialisation, however, added that this was to underscore the importance of a strategic approach to industrialisation.

The LCCI DG said before such policy pronouncement, the government ought to have strengthened the capacity of domestic industries, enhanced their competitiveness and reduced their import dependence as espoused in the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan.

But reacting to the position of the chamber, the CBN governor said the strategic approach being referred to by Yusuf had never worked.

He said, “The issue he raised here is that we need to have a strategic approach to the measures. Whereas one will agree with his view on strategic approach, but I begin to wonder what Muda means when he talked about strategic approaches.

“In the past, the country has adopted what he calls a strategic approach and that strategic approach to my understanding is that he seems to say allow them to continue to import, let them continue to dump, let them continue to smuggle into the country, they will build these factories and industries

“When we address these issues three weeks ago, I had said that at a time in this country, Nigeria had 180 textile mills, today they are dead. Three weeks ago when we held a meeting, there were only 15 textiles companies out of the 180 in the 50s and 60s in the country.

“Jobs have been lost, and that is why we know that while there is unemployment in our country, we ignore an industry that is the largest employer of labour after the public sector.

“The strategic approach had never worked. I want anybody to quote me; it has never worked. What is the policy we are talking about? Increase in duty. Today, duty on textile is 45 per cent.

“I have data here that tell me that textile officially imported into Nigeria in 2015 was  $9m. In 2016, $6.9m; in 2017, $7m; and in 2018, $9.7m. Is that the quantity of textile that came into Nigeria? My answer is no. And yet people say they pay duty, my answer is no. Because if you paid duty, then we will not have a record that places import of textile into the country at $9m.

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