Group calls for sack of NILEST DG

….decries poor leadership and management of Institute

Oodua Youth Parliament, a Civil Society Organization (CSO) with the mandate to institutionalize good governance at all levels, including holding political appointees and public servants accountable for their stewardship, has described as deplorable the state of affairs at the Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST) Zaria, Kaduna State.

Addressing journalists at the International Conference Center Abuja, RT. Hon. Abdulmajeed Oyeniye, Speaker, Oodua Youth Parliament wondered why a research institute of international standard like NILEST has failed to produce a single patent, innovation or solved any local problem since it was established.

“Research institutes everywhere around the world are supposed to be centres of excellence and innovations. They are supposed to be specialised centres pioneering advanced innovative research projects and churning out products that are useful for both individual consumption and industrial use. Sadly, the situation in NILEST is appalling and deplorable. There is no single achievement, no patent, no innovation, nothing at all to justify the trillions of naira spent on the Institute over the past two decades”, the statement maintained.

Recounting the rationale behind the establishment of NILEST, RT. Hon. Abdulmajeed Oyeniye pointed out that the Institute was conceived as a strategy for diversifying and stimulating the local economy through the already thriving livestock industry in the country to produce quality leather products for domestic and international markets. He noted further that if this mandate was achieved, Nigeria would have become one of the largest leather exporters with a thriving local leather industry.

“NILEST was established with the aim of harnessing the vast potentials in the flourishing livestock industry in country. With over 100 million of cows, goats and ship with thousand slaughters daily, Nigeria was projected to be a net exporter of hides and an industrial hub in the leather and skin industrial sector. More than 20 years down the line nothing has changed and it has gotten worse under the present administration of Professor Mohammed Kabir Yakubu with data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) showing that Nigeria exported less than 100 tons hides and skin in the 2021. There has not be any visible footprint of NILEST anywhere in Nigeria even though there are abattoirs spread across the country from Maiduguri to Lagos and Port Harcourt. All attempts made at skinning and preservation are done at the individual level with no input from a supposedly professional research institute”, the Speaker noted.

The CSO maintained that, lack of management direction and vision over the years and particularly in the last two years has made Nigeria a dumping ground for foreign leather products including shoes and bags and belts. Nigerians, the group added has no value for Nigerian animal skins again aside their nutritional value even though animal skins have no nutrients for the human body.

According to the speaker, “it is shameful that Nigerian animal skin especially cow skins are only useful for local consumption as ‘ponmo’. There is no industry in Nigeria that processes animal skin, not even the laboratory in NILEST. Nigerians still prefer Italian shoes and bags and belts. If NILEST was incapable of pioneering research in skin and hides processing, it should have at least partnered the local tanner’s in Katisna, Zaria, Kano, Borno and elsewhere, but as we speak there is none such partnership and no capacity building of any kind. This is totally unacceptable”

The Youth Parliament noted that, since agriculture is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, it is possible that a vibrant and functional NILEST should have provided millions of direct and indirect jobs to Nigerians if the management had vision and foresight. If ony 1000 youths where trained and employment across the the 774 local government areas in the 36 States including the FCT, the issue of youth unemployment would have been solved. This, the group submitted, has never been the case leading to the loss of billions of dollars that would have been accruing from exports and domestic trade.

Part of the statement read as follows; “by sheer lack of foresight, NILEST has cost Nigerians millions of jobs. With the resources and capacity available to the research institute, millions of Nigerian youth ought to have been trained in tanning, skinning, preservation and collection of hides across the country for onward processing at designated centres for export and use by local shoemakers. Imagine 20 employees per an abattoir across the country. Imagine the indirect jobs that would have come with this arrangement. The value chain from animal skins and hides would have been enormous”

Insisting on the sack of the current DG, Prof. Mohamed Kabir Yakubu for failure to provide visionary leadership and gross incompetence, having no credentials in the area of agricultural production or natural resources management, the group added that, the DG has displayed nepotistic tendencies that needs to be checked if the federal character arrangement and the anti-corruption war of President Buhari’s adminstration is still to be trusted and given some level of credibility.

“Not just has the current DG of NILEST performed beyond the calling of a professor, he is also nepotistic. Recently and certainly an apparent show of eye-service, he announced the establishment of ₦350 million tannery in Daura, the President’s home town in Katsina State, North West Nigeria. Isn’t it unfair that an Institute located in the Northwest Geopolitical Zone will choose to site a project like that within the same region? Are other states like Lagos, Oyo or Ekiti not part of the country again or was the institute established only for the North West region? This is unacceptable to the generality of Nigerians and must be reversed in the spirit of federal character and fairness.

“Our investigations have also shown that Mohammed Kabir Yakubu is actually a professor of Textiles Technology and not leather or agricultural production technology, neither is he an expert in natural resources management. Putting square pegs in round holes in a country like Nigeria with abundant professionals in almost all fields is shameful. No wonder, he has failed to make a mark because it’s an area he has no knowledge or expertise whatsoever. After sacking him which is the right thing to do, President Buhari should endeavour to appoint a technocrat who will drive the leather industry and give Nigerians value for the huge investments and potentials available in leather processing”, the statement concluded.

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