Dr Eucharia Opara, Acting Director General, National Institute of Leather Science and Technology, (NILEST), Zaria has described the leather sector as key to industrial growth, economic diversification, job and wealth creation.
Opara, who said this in an interview with the News Agency on Thursday in Abuja, said leather trade was also the nation’s goldmine in the non-oil sector.
She said the sector was the country’s second foreign exchange earner, after oil.
“We have animals, we have the land to rear them and if we harness the hides of the number of animals slaughtered in our abattoirs every day, we can process them to leathers.
“ You can imagine the amount of money the finished leather products will bring to the country; the economy will improve, so leather has a role to play in the economy,” the director-general said.
Opara also told newsmen that the institute had been partnering with development partners, members of National Assembly and community leaders to train youths in acquiring leather skills.
The director-general said that the institute had, in August, graduated 48 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) trained on leather skill in collaboration with the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
Opara said that the institute planned to train 50 IDPs but two persons did not turn up, adding that the trainee were camped for six months for coaching and mentoring.
“The training was 80 per cent practical and hands-on and the graduands were well equipped on leather products manufacturing.
“They displayed the products they manufactured on their graduation day; they produced leather shoes, hand bags, belts, slippers and scandals. I believe they are well equipped to produce more,’’ she said.
Opara urged them to engage in effective production for more support from the UNDP and other development partners.
“The UNDP promised to give them N180, 000 but it will start with N90, 000; they will be monitored and those who do it well will get 2nd tranche.
“ I believe the UNDP will fulfill its promise to the IDPs when they do well.’’
Opara, who urged other development partners and well-meaning Nigerians to partner with institute to empower the youth, promised that the institute was ready to do so.
“Any group like UNDP that invites us to do it, we will do it; the youth of any community can be trained, even State Government and National Assembly.
“ We are looking for further partnership with the National Assembly under constituency projects to empower youths on leather skill.’’
NILEST is a training and research institute under the Federal Ministry of Science with a mandate to carter for leather, leather product and allied field in the manufacturing of footwear, bags, belts, puffs, mats and carpets.