The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said on Monday that the provision of an enabling framework for the promotion of leather technology would help fast track the provision of jobs for the teeming Nigerian youths in Nigeria.
He said this at the second National Leather and Leather Products Policy Validation Workshop held at Aba, Abia.
Onu noted that producing a workable leather products policy would enhance the nation’s ability to reap the benefits of the leather sector, which is the second most important commodity in Nigeria after oil.
“This will quicken Nigeria’s industrialisation process and also strengthen our capacity to convert our rich agricultural products into viable goods and services for both domestic consumption and export.
“This will accelerate the restoration of our national pride and self-confidence, enhance prosperity and ultimately boost our economy.
“This policy I am going to present to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and by the grace of God, it will pass and open new opportunities for our people in Nigeria and Aba will benefit a lot.”
He described Aba as a place where several talented young men and women work hard in trade, commerce and manufacturing to become successful business men and women.
Onu, therefore, urged the leather producers to be proud of their products and print Made in Aba on them to enable the world to know them and their work.
He commended Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia for creating the state Ministry of Science and Technology and promised to work with it to develop indigenous technology to utilise the enormous resources in the state.
In his address, Ikpeazu said that the choice of Aba for the workshop confirmed that the city is the hub for leather works in Nigeria.
Ikpeazu, represented by his deputy, Mr Ude Oko-chukwu, said that the minister’s activities in the sector had shown his great desire to leapfrog the Aba Leather Clusters to a new height for the benefit of all.
In a remark, Mr Bello Yakasai, the Cluster Manager, World Bank/DFID project GEM (Growth and Employment Project), noted that the preparation of the policy document had been ongoing since 2010.
He said that if Nigeria had to diversify its economy, it had to look at the second most important sector after oil which was the leather sector, and develop it through conscious effort and processes.
Yakasai, who is working with the Shoe and Leather Cluster under the GEM project, said that the passage of the leather policy would legalise implementation of certain programmes for the development of the sector.
On the other hand, he said failure to pass and implement the leather policy would make the country to continue to suffer loss of revenue, continuous importation of leather goods and reduction in wealth creation and employment.