By Gabriel Agbeja
The federal government has resolved to take critical steps to advance leather production in Nigeria, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, has said.
Onu spoke on Thursday in Abuja at the matriculation of trainees and inauguration of Nigerian Institute of Leather Science and Technology (NILEST), North Central Leather cluster extension centre as well as leather training infrastructure.
The minister said such serious steps to promote leather production would quicken Nigeria’s industrialisation process.
“By doing this, we will also strengthen our capacity to convert our rich agricultural products into viable economic goods and services that we need for both domestic consumption as well strengthen export earnings.
“This will help in job and wealth creation, help restore national self-reliance and self-confidence, enhance prosperity and boost our economy, “ he said.
The minister said the Ministry was determined to use Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to lay a solid foundation for Nigeria’s economic diversification.
According to him, the day’s event is an affirmation of the resolution.
The minister said the Federal Government’s new national development order on STI would help move the country from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based and innovation driven economy.
He said the process of creating additional leather research and development centres in other geo-political zones had reached advance stage.
“It is expected that this will help strengthen greater grassroots participation in leather technology, thereby helping to stimulate more indigenous capacity for the ultimate benefit of our people.
“Finally, I urge the trainees of this institute to take the vocation seriously.
“Nigeria will look up to you on the completion of your training to help in her efforts to use leather technology to create wealth and job, reduce poverty and enhance prosperity for our people.’’
Earlier, NILEST Acting Director-General, Dr Eucharia Oparah, said NILEST was the only tertiary institution in Nigeria engaged in the training of middle-level manpower for the leather technology sub-sector of the economy.
“ We have been training artisans, technicians and technologists at different levels since the inception of the institute.
“Also, we have been collaborating with the tanneries, leather manufacturers, government and private organisations within and outside the country, “she said.
According to her leather has become the major earner of foreign exchange after oil.
She added that for a sustainable growth NILEST should be given the needed support to carry out its mandate of training and research in the field of leather and leather products.
She said the institute ought be empowered and converted to a degree awarding institution as the highest qualification currently awarded by the institute was Higher National Diploma. (NAN)