31st October, 2016
As the Federal Government pursues the diversification of the economy for increased revenue earnings, stakeholders have said that the fashion industry has the potential to contribute substantially.
The respondents made this assertion on Monday in a survey in the North Central Zone of the country.
In the survey anchored in Jos the respondents noted that the variety of locally made fabrics such as the `adire’, handwoven `akwete’ and `aso oke’ among others, would be globally acceptable with improved standard.
They underscored the importance of more investments in the sector in the areas of infrastructure, equipment and funding among others, to improve on the quality of the fabrics in order to shore up their market value.
They also said that increased local patronage would help expand the market and grow the textile industry and allied activities.
Mr Ato Adi, a dealer in local fabrics in Jalingo, Taraba State, called for the promotion of local fabrics both locally and internationally to enhance marketability.
“Improving the quality of Nigeria’s local fabrics and attires is very crucial to attracting buyers.
“In their current state, sometimes one is ashamed to take them to the international market,” Adi said.
Haruna Abubakar of Lipidi Fashion Designers, Takum, also in Taraba, said that local fabrics must conform to international standard to compete globally.
“If you take the Jukun Adire, for example, you will notice that the fabric used in producing it is sub-standard.
“In most cases, the material is very hard and its colour fades each time it is washed.
“We need modern fabric producing machines to be able to produce materials that will be appealing in the international market,” he said.
Similarly, Mrs Alice Peter, General Manager, Millennium Fashion Designers, Jalingo, observed that the weaving equipment used in producing local fabrics could no longer stand the test of time.
“Take a look at the foreign material in the markets today; they are soft and silky. It is impossible to produce a local fabric of this quality using the available equipment in this part of the world.
“Today, there is a machine that fixes stones on a blouse as you can see here, and that can be done in various designs.
“Before now, we used iron to press the stones to stick to the blouse. The machine stone design has more quality and looks more beautiful than fixing the stones manually.
“Honestly, there is a need for more investment in the procurement of modern textile machines if we are to raise our standard as far as production of local attires is concern ,” Peter said.
In her view, Sarah Samuel, a fashion designer, said that the fortunes of Nigeria’s fashion industry would be enhanced, if its numerous challenges such as power outages and preference for foreign fabrics and attires were addressed.
“The first step is to assist fashion designers with soft loans to expand their businesses,” he said.
For stakeholders in Plateau, the survival and success of Nigeria’s fashion industry rests with Nigerians.
Mr Emmanuel Hemba, the Chairman, College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Federal College of Education (FCE), Panskhin, said that Nigeria’s fashion industry was “very promising’’.
“We have what it takes in the fashion industry to turn around the economy of this country, but the attitude of a large segment of the population of Nigerians toward home-made products is disgusting.
“If only we can value what God has given to us in this country, we shall re-jig and develop the country to the envy of other nations, particularly the developed nations, ’’ Hemba said.
The COEASU chairman said that he rarely used foreign footwears because homemade shoes had proved to be “so wonderful, compared to the foreign made ones’’.
The academic tasked the nation’s legislatures to rise to the challenge and make laws that would place stiffer restrictions on such foreign goods.
“By the time states and National Assemblies draw the line, I assure you that Nigerians will have a change of heart and the industry will receive a boost and expand tremendously.
“You need to see what the small-scale shoe industries in Benue are producing and what is being churned out at Aba, Abia, as well as other places, especially open shoes,’’ Hemba said.
On his part, Mr Bulus Caleb, the College Librarian, Federal College of Education (FCE), Panskhin, noted that Nigeria’s fabrics and fashion designs could compete favourably with imports China and Dubai, if the militating factors were successfully addressed.
“Most of the time, what we see in this country as foreign made are produced here and labelled as foreign because of our craze for such labels and obsession for anything foreign.”
He urged the Federal Government to encourage large-scale production of cotton, hides and skin, and also take steps to check the consumption of `Pomo’ (cow skin).
“If government will provide farmlands and loans to cotton farmers to boost the textile industry and also stop the importation of both raw materials and finished products, we will go places.
“Certainly, it can generate employment opportunities and create wealth, which will impact greatly on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“There should be a legislation that should force us to use what we have, which will definitely promote the fashion industry;
“Nigerian fabrics should be used for school uniforms, schools bags and shoes.
“The President has launched the “Change begins with me’ campaign; we should begin to appreciate what we produce in this country because they are of high quality and could be exported to other African countries.’’
Caleb further argued that some products Nigerians do not value locally, were highly desired outside the country.
On the challenges of the industry, the librarian identified funding constraints, epileptic power supply and the absence of avenues to promote the products.
Also speaking on the subject matter, a prominent tailor in Pankshin, Mr Peter Rotshak, said that poor finishing made some Nigerians to be indifferent or outrightly dislike locally produced fabrics and attires.
“If fashion designers, tailors and seamstresses can ensure good finishing of their products, people will develop interest and likeness for them.
“We must be seen to produce quality products that will attract buyers globally in order to attract the much needed foreign exchange.’’
Rotshak, a tailor for close to 50 years, urged his colleagues to be diligent and committed, saying that fashion design was not just about the fabric but also about the finished product.
“A good sewing attract customers for you and advertises you to outsiders,” he said.
From Keffi in Nasarawa State, some fashion designers challenged Nigerians to use more local fabrics and attires in order to boost the nation’s revenue, and create individual wealth and employment.
Some of them also urged the National Assembly to make a law that would encourage Nigerians to embrace local fabrics and attires.
“They should make laws that would restrict the importation of fabrics. The laws could make their prices very high so as minimise the craze for them,” Mr Akila Dalla, a university lecturer, said.
He also advised government to invest more in the fabric industry to encourage the end users.
Similarly, Mrs. Esther Akuaden, a fashion designer in Keffi, said that the potential of Nigeria’s fashion industry could be harnessed and promoted to international standard.
According to her, this can only be achieved if government and other leaders had the political will to boost the nation’s revenue, create wealth and generate jobs.
She said that an increase in the demand for local fabrics and attires will create job opportunities, fight poverty and improve the standard of living of Nigerians.
Akuaden also urged the government to train youths and other Nigerians on different fashion design skills to encourage self-reliance.
Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim, a resident of Keffi, appealed to the government gave the industry deserved attention by providing funding for the training of Nigerians on fashion designing.
Mr Thomas Nico, another resident said: “if every tribe and region in Nigeria will embrace its local attires and forget about foreign dress, this will go a long way to boost the nation’s revenue, wealth and foreign exchange earnings.”
Nico blamed the current economic recession on decades of over dependence on oil and the operation of a mono-economy.
He challenged leaders at all levels of authority to take advantage of the present economic challenges to open up other areas.
Meanwhile, some fashion designers in Lafia have appealed to the Federal Government to ban the importation of foreign fabrics so that the market for locally made ones could grow.
One of them, Mrs. Modupe Ayoola, a fashion designer, stressed the need to limit imports so as to gradually encourage local fabric markets to take over the textile industry.
According to her, if there are fewer foreign fabrics in the market, many Nigerians will get used to buying local fabrics that are readily available across the country.
“Let us take a cue from the agriculture sector, especially with regards to rice. You will see that many Nigerians are gradually abandoning foreign rice for the local variety.
“We cannot just ban foreign fabrics outrightly, but if we aggressively introduce our own fabrics into the market with better incentives and reduce the importation of foreign fabrics, Nigerians will change,” she said.
Malam Usman Bello, a fabric seller in Lafia, who also championed the ban on foreign fabrics, urged governments at all levels to create the enabling environment where both local fabrics could compete favourably.
He also appealed to local fabric makers in the country to improve the quality of their products so that they could compete favourably with imported attires and attract more revenue for the country.
“If you improve the quality, the product will sell itself. I know that some people are saying that our fabrics are of low quality, but we still have some that are very good.
“I want our governments to assist our textile industries so that we can produce quality products,” he said.
Miss Christy Affiku, another fashion designer, stressed the need to empower local fabric manufacturers who would in turn strengthen the economy and create more jobs for youths.
“We need to learn to appreciate and patronise what we have so as to grow our country instead of enriching other countries to the detriment of ours.
“Our government should reduce taxes on local fabrics and offer soft loans to local manufacturers,” she added.
On his part, the Executive Director of the Niger State Council for Arts and Culture, Mr Emmanuel Zhiri, observed that the lack of infrastructure was hindering efforts at promoting locally made fabrics and attires.
Zhiri recalled that the Zamfara, Kano and Kaduna Arewa textiles that were employing thousands in the past were now dead.
“They are dead because we chose to patronise fabrics from foreign countries. So, government has to make deliberate efforts to resuscitate these dead textile factories because it is their responsibility to stimulate production.”
He also noted that local fabrics could be made to have greater acceptance internationally through tourism and participation in international exhibitions.
“We need to open up our communities to tourism. It is only when we do so, that our fabrics and other cultural products will flourish and be embraced by the outside world.
“Also, we need to take part in international exhibitions, because it is at these exhibitions that foreigners get to know what we have and their quality in order to attract patronage.’’
Zhiri urged policy makers to take a cue from India which banned imported fabrics to develop its local sari fabrics.
“When India started the development of its own local fabrics, they banned all productions and textile from abroad.
“But look at the Indian sari, it has gone global and you can easily identify an Indian man through their attire and costume.
“If we allow the few individuals who are feeding fat on imported fabrics to hold us to ransom, they will stifle the growth of the sector.’’
He, therefore, called for legislation that would create the enabling environment for local fabric producers and sellers to flourish.
On his part, Mr John Doy, the Acting General Manager, Plateau State Tourism Corporation, canvassed for the strengthening of government establishments with the mandate to promote indigenous fabrics and attires to discharge their duties effectively.
“What we need to do is to strengthen the National Investment Promotion Council to liaise with states and local governments to expose all indigenous products to foreign markets to attract more revenue.
“ This can be done through seminars, workshop or fashion shows,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Mr Kabiru Sani, a fabrics dealer, also advised the government to take immediate steps not only to resuscitate textile industries but also to sensitise Nigerians to patronise indigenous fabrics.
According to him, such measures, will boost activities in the local textile and fashion industries, help conserve foreign exchange and trigger wealth creation and employment generation.