The Vice President of IndustriALL Global Union, Comrade Issa Obalowu Aremu, has formally retired as General Secretary of National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGWN).
His retirement came at the 12th Quadrennial National Delegates” Conference of the union held in Abuja recently after serving the union for 31 years, eight of which as an acting General Secretary and 23 years as substantive General Secretary.
The IndustriALL Global Union (IGU) while congratulating NUTGWN on the success of the conference, specifically poured encomium on Aremu for his globally acknowledged service to the labour movement.
This was contained in a letter signed by IGU Secretary General, Valter Sanches, and issued from the union headquarters in Geneva.
In the letter, IGU also commended NUTGWN on its campaigns to revive the textile and garment sector through support to the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Textile and Garment Policy.
The union with 50 million workers in 140 countries pledged to support the union “for a sustainable policy framework for manufacturing and for the implementation of minimum wages, and the moves towards living wages and decent work”.
This medium reports that Aremu will attain the statutory retirement age of 60 years January 8th 2021 but remain IndustriALL Vice President and executive member of the Sub Saharan Africa region until its 3rd global Congress scheduled for Cape town, South Africa in October this year.
Following Aremu retirement as NUTGTWN scribe, a Principal Assistant General Secretary of the union in charge of Kano area, Comrade Ali Baba, had since been appointed as the Ag.General Secretary of the union.
The constitution of Textile Union makes the position of General Secretary elective of 4 years term, which lasts 2024.
In his remarks, Aremu congratulated his successor whose appointment, he said, was “earned and deserved based on commitment, honesty, selflessness and faithfulness, loyalty to the union” promising a smooth transition and sustainable progress of the union.
In spite of the challenges of factory closures and job losses, textile union had been adjudged relatively stable with peaceful record of successions at delegates conferences, which often focused on issues that affect the workers and the industry rather than controversial issues of elective offices that had crippled the cohesion of many unions.
In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Nigeria was the home to Africa’s largest textile industry with over 180 textile employing some direct 650,000 workforce and indirect millions of cotton farmers, traders and garment workers, more workforce than the Federal government.
The sector, which contributed over 25% of the workforce in the manufacturing sector and as much to national GDP, currently employs less than 10,000 organized workforce.
The union had signed as many as 45 national collective agreements in its 40 years of existence without a national shut down of the factories.
Labour observers commended Aremu and his comrades for keeping the cohesion of the union, which was once in turmoil in 1993 after an orchestrated violent attack on the union through fake report and rumors.
Aremu joined Textile Union as an organizer in 1989 at the instance of former General Secretary and two terms President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, though his activism dated back to his university days in ABU, Zaria and University of Portharcourt.
As an economist, Aremu, a former Vice President of NLC was also the pioneer Head of Economics and Research department of Nigeria Labour Congress ( NLC ) having served under two NLC Presidents namely Ali Chiroma and late Pascal Bafyau.
He was the only Congress staff retained when Babangida military regime forcefully dissolved Ali Chiroma led executive in 1988 and appointed a sole administrator Chief Michael Ogunkoya but voluntarily resigned under Pascal on ideological ground, after which he joined the textile union.
Aremu had held all critical positions from an Organizer to senior Deputy General Secretary. He was also two terms elected Vice President of NLC (2007-2015) and members of labour market institutions such as Micheal Imoudu Labour Institute, Ilorin, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund ( NSITF), National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Labour Transport Service among others. He is the face of reindustrialization and revival of textile and garment industry campaigns.
The textile union over the years has risen to intensify campaign for industrialization, uninterrupted electricity, against influx of smuggled imported and substandard products, lack of patronage of home-made goods, poor infrastructure, high taxation and interest rates and the depreciating value of the naira coupled with insecurity in parts of the country.
President Muhamadu Buhari had initiated a number of new measures aimed at textile industry revival within the context of Textile and Garment (CTG) policy aims at reviving the value chains of cotton growing, Ginneries, spinning and weaving, printing and garments production.
It would be recalled that On Tuesday July 23 2019, the leadership of the union led by the President, Comrade John Adaji and General Secretary, Comrade Issa Aremu, mni and the Nigeria Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA) visited President Buhari.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the leadership of Godwin Emefiele has taken a number of bold and commendable efforts to encourage patronage of local fabrics, the notable being the signing of an unprecedented Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Service Chiefs, Chief Executives of Uniformed Services, and textile/garment manufacturers on enforcement of Executive Order 003 on Support of Local Content in Procurement by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The MOU envisages that uniforms for navy, police, army, civil defence, immigration, customs, NYSC, road safety among others are sourced locally from the Nigerian CTG sector in pursuance of the administration’s drive towards economic diversification and creating jobs for our teeming population.
The high points of the 12th Conference of NUTGTWN were the election of new national executive for the next four years headed by John Adaji as the President and adoption of the Secretariat report of activities in the past four years.