Importation of shoes, bags will ruin leather industry in Nigeria

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Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS) has advised Nigeria to urgently tackle threats of imported shoes, bags and belts so as not to collapse local production

The body said that, under the current situation, its members were finding it hard to compete with imported products after using generators and raw materials bought at high costs to produce.

Mr Okechukwu Williams, the President, Leather Product Manufacturers Association of (LEPMAAS) in Abia State, said: “The reason for this call is for us to really protect and develop the local industry because in Aba we have over 30,000 artisans producing shoes, bags, belts and trunk boxes.’’

“These are from the finished leather products in Abia State which are right now facing a very big threat from the influx of imported finished leather products.

“It is affecting the market so badly and that is why the association is soliciting for urgent action from the Federal Government on behalf of themselves and their counterparts in other parts of Nigeria like Onitsha, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Nassarawa where shoe and leather goods are produced,” he said.

Williams called on the government to use policies such as import restrictions and higher tariffs to protect local leather industry from going into extinction.

He promised that his members would upgrade their industrial capacity to be able to compete and meet up with the demands of the Nigerian population and for export.

Williams said that no country ever developed technologically without conscious patronage of their local goods and urged Nigerians to change their attitude towards the patronage of foreign products.

“Aba leather products manufacturers produce for some West African countries’ consumption and this has been happening for a couple of years now with our products gaining wide acceptance in those countries’ markets.

“I cannot see any reason why Aba leather products cannot gain that same level of acceptance among Nigerians who are our own people.

“So, we plead with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to intensify efforts at educating Nigerians toward changing their orientation and mindset which always favour patronage of foreign and imported products to the detriment of our own people and our economy.”

Williams urged the Federal Executive Council and National Assembly to process the national leather policy and a local content bill that would favour consumption of local leather products to generate more revenue for Nigeria and create employment.

He said that Nigeria would save lots of foreign exchange if it succeeded in consuming even 60 per cent of its local products, while exporting the rest would boost its economic recovery.