At least 38 firms have accessed up to N38 billion from the Federal Government’s N100 billion bailout fund for the struggling Nigerian textile industry, Isa Aremu, general secretary, National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), disclosed on Wednesday.
The long term intervention loan is being disbursed to the textile firms through the Bank of Industry (BoI) at single digit interest rate of 6 percent with repayment plan spread over 15 years. One of the benefiting firms, Supertex, which had closed shop, has reopened.
Describing this as positive development and rising hope for the textile industry, Aremu said the Federal Government should, however, consider increasing the bailout to at least N1 trillion, as several textile mills across the country still remained shut, with about 50 of them in Lagos alone.
His appeal comes as the National Industrial Court (NIC) has ruled that Gaskiya Textile Mill in Kano pays over N.128 billion owed to its workers as gratuity.
Gaskiya Textile Mill, it would be recalled, shut down operations in 2005 without settling the entitlements of its workers. The matter was referred to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) in 2008 by the then minister of labour and productivity, Hassan Lawal, following workers’ agitation against the company.
Although the IAP ruled in favour of the workers, the management remained adamant, and in 2010, the present minister of labour, Emeka Wogu, later referred the case to NIC. Justice F.L. Kola-Olalere of the NIC who confirmed the IAP earlier decision, in his ruling on March 21, 2013 ordered the company to pay N128,394,220.33 being the amount outstanding as entitlements of the affected workers.
Oladele Hunsu, the national president, NUTGTWN, and Aremu described the court ruling as justice for the workers. “We commend the NIC for upholding the ruling of the IAP. With this judgement, the NIC has rekindled the hope of workers in the judiciary, thus preventing the urge to resort to self-help by workers. We salute the workers of Gaskiya Textile Mill, Kano, for their continuous patience in spite of the untold hardship as a result of the non-payment of their entitlements,” they said.
The Federal Government as part of measures to rescue the Nigerian textile industry which is plagued by myriad of challenges including funding, cheap imported fabrics from Asian countries and inadequate power supply approved the sum of N100 billion as intervention fund for the industry which many years ago was the second largest employer of labour aside the government.