Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, has said that it is only knowledge-based economy that would add value and create a new lease of life for all Nigerians.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said the Nigerian leather industry has the potential to increase the nation’s foreign earnings.

Onu made this assertion at the National Leather and Leather Products Policy Implementation Plan Validation Workshop held in Abuja on Monday.

He said that the potential increase can generate between 600 million dollars and 800 million dollars annually.

The Minister, who was represented by the Minister of State, Science and Technology, Mr Mohammed Abdullahi, said the leather sector occupies a strategic position in the development of the nation’s economy.

“To achieve this vital feat, there is a need for value addition in Nigeria’s leather value chain to upgrade its position in the regional and global trade with varying implications on intra and inter-trade, backward integration.

“Others are employment generation, industrial deepening, increased productivity and competitiveness.

“To achieve this, we face the challenge of initiating visionary and creative strategies that will enable Nigeria move away from a resource-based to a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy,’’ he said.

Onu said it would help Nigeria bridge existing gaps, fast track the processes that would enable it become self-reliant in indigenous technology capacity, thereby stimulating a general sense of national pride.

He said the present administration is vigorously promoting an increase in local content, diversification of Nigeria’s economy and transformation from a resource-based to knowledge-based economy.

“Considering the present administration’s utmost desire to diversify the nation’s economy from oil to non-oil based, there is urgent need to ensure full, effective and successful implementation of the National Leather and Leather products policy implementation plan to boost leather production.

“Leather production, which has spanned many years in Nigeria, could further boost the current revenue earned from the sector.

“It has a global market size of about 20 billion dollars traded annually with lots of opportunities abounding,’’ Onu said.

The Minister, however, said all hands must be on deck to critically examine and validate the draft strategic implementation plan.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Senator Uche Ekwunife, said the workshop was a good initiative and necessary to move the leather industry to greater heights.

“Other countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, China and India had greatly developed their leather sector and significantly impacted their economy so we can do the same in Nigeria and even better,’’ she said.

Ekwunife, however, assured of Senate’s continued commitment to work closely with the National Steering Committee on a strategic implementation plan for leather policy to ensure increased efficiency of the sector.

The Chairman of the National Steering Committee on the strategic implementation plan of leather and leather products policy, Dr Eucharia Oparah, said Nigeria had a comparative advantage in livestock production.

“The leather industry has hitherto witnessed a decline in its performance because of the absence of a sector-specific policy and implementation plan. It is therefore timely to put in place this implementation plan.

“The policy when fully implemented would bring about an increase in industrial growth, economic diversification, job and wealth creation, the nation’s GDP, productivity, local and export market.

“It will also enhance the reduction in capital flight promotion of science and technology and innovation, strengthening intra, the interrelationship between private, public and international organisations,’’ she said.

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