Nigeria’s leather industry has enormous potentials which unfortunately have not been properly harnessed. The industry has clusters situated in cities like Aba, Kano, Onitsha, Lagos, and other places across the country.
The sector is adjudged the second major foreign exchange earner after oil, according to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). The 2019 macro-economic outlook report placed the contribution of domestic leather production at 24 per cent of the total agriculture GDP in Nigeria. Despite the huge potentials, Nigeria still loses over $500 million in capital flight annually to the importation of leather products.
To address this challenge, the Federal Government on October 31, 2018, approved the National Policy on Leather and Leather Products in Nigeria. Subsequently, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) inaugurated the national steering committee on strategic implementation plan of the policy on March 12, 2019. The policy document was validated on October 2019.
On July 6, 2021, the government formally launched/unveiled the National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan spearheaded by the science ministry in Abuja.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his speech on the occasion, said properly organized leather and leather products industry in the country had the potential to generate over $1billion by 2025, pointing out that the sector currently employs over 700,000 workers with about 500,000 of them in the finished leather goods sector. He disclosed that Nigeria currently exports about a million pairs of shoes every week to destinations in Africa.
He underscored the huge potentials of the industry with proper management, saying the policy being launched presented real opportunity to address the specific challenges and shortcomings of the leather sector with pragmatic strategies to permanently resolve some of the issues for optimal productivity.
By optimizing the value chain in it, Osinbajo said the sector would provide employment, improve our foreign exchange earnings and boost profit. He added: “It is evident that in terms of what we have set for ourselves to do through the policy and implementation plan the stakes are very high.”
The vice president, who also doubles as the chairman, Economic Management Team of the nation, commended the Ministry of Science and Technology and its collaborators, the ministries of agriculture and rural development, trade and investment, education, environment, and the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) and NILEST, who are the secretariat for a job well done.
He also thanked the European Union and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) who through the Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP) are partnering in the implementation of the policy. He expressed optimism at the success of the plan, noting that it was all-encompassing and detailed with relevant MDAs, NGOs and the organized private sector already assigned specific responsibilities for the various objectives and strategies of the plan.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, hailed the leather products policy as the first strategic implementation plan for the leather and leather products policy in the country.
“The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is supporting this important initiative through offering leadership in the transformation of our economy from a resource-based to a knowledge and innovation-driven one,” he said.
The minister said the policy would help the effective and efficient exploitation of the country’s natural resources, earn and conserve foreign exchange, create jobs and help promote its drive for self-reliance, even as he called on all relevant stakeholders to facilitate both foreign and domestic investments.
“We need to transform our plan into action, we need all stakeholders to work together, we need to involve the organised private sector, we need to bring in more investment, both domestic and foreign into the leather industry,” he added.
On his part, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said the implementation plan was delicate and vital to reposition Nigeria for socio-economic growth and development, adding the implementation plan covered eight thematic areas, namely research and development, governance, intellectual property rights, e-leather, compliance, environment and social best practices, standards, marketing and patronage, funding as well as fiscal measures and critical infrastructure.
He averred that the leather policy, if fully implemented, would create an enabling environment that would sustain an all-inclusive growth for local and small enterprises as well as attract and protect investments, improve production output and promote innovation in the country.
In her goodwill message, the chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Sen. Uche Ekwunife, said it was high time the nation appreciated the potential of leather sector in the development of its economy, especially in the areas of job and wealth creation as well as increase in national economic revenue, pointing out that other countries of the world such as Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, China and India had made great developmental strides through domestic and foreign trade in leather and Nigeria could do the same and even better.
The lawmaker pledged that the Senate Committee on Science and Technology and its counterpart at the House of Representatives would work closely with the national steering committee on the strategic implementation plan of the National Leather and Leather Products Policy to ensure that the policy was fully implemented for the growth of the leather sector and diversification of our national economy.
Similarly, the GIZ head of programme, Mr Markus Wauschkuhn, said the policy had come a long way and it was important to ensure that it got properly and fully implemented to ensure all the value chain actors were fully integrated, adding it would make leather value chain even stronger in Nigeria. He restated GIZ’s commitment in helping in the policy implementation, pledging it would continue to support the leather value chain and also the linkages to other production areas.
In his address, the NILEST director-general, Prof. Mohammed Yakubu, who chaired the national steering committee on National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan, said the subsector remained an engine of growth and a catalyst for nation building as well as an avenue of job creation for the nation’s teeming restless youths.
He added the policy would bring all stakeholders (animal husbandry, abattoir operations, hides and skins vendors, leather and leather products producers and marketers, research and development institutions, regulatory agencies, Nigeria Custom Service (NCS), development banks, etc,) together, to ensure the policy would make the desired impact within the shortest time.