The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, on Thursday in Abuja, urged Nigerians, particularly youths to take advantage of potential in leather technology sub-sector to create wealth for themselves and the nation.

Onu made the call during the matriculation and graduation ceremony of participants of leather and leather products manufacturing training programme sponsored by Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST) and UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 34 trainees from Kogi and Plateau states formed the first batch of the programme, having completed three months leather production training programme.

Also, 48 trainees from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps from Borno matriculated to undergo six months training programme in NILEST Abuja centre.

The minister said that the country’s drive for industrialisation would better be actualised if leather technology was properly utilised.

He added that “If we try to do leather and textiles properly, our path to industrialisation will be better realised and we will be in a better position to ensure that the drive will be irreversible.

“This is because, all the industrialised nations of the world started with leather and textile.

“At the level that you are starting your industrialisation process, the cost of labour is always low, so, Nigeria is at advantage because the cost of labour is relatively low now.

“If we can start with leather and textiles and master the technology then we will be in a position to upgrade the sector, and quickly move into more sophisticated areas.”

The minister then urged the graduating trainees to put the acquired knowledge into useful practice, saying that they had been empowered to become entrepreneurs and employers of labour.

He said “we believe very strongly that the best way to fight poverty is to empower our people by giving them the technology they require to make them entrepreneurs.

“We do not expect that you will be looking for jobs because we believe that with the knowledge you have acquired, you will put it into practice and produce goods that you can sell to earn money.”

The acting Director General of NILEST, Dr Eucharia Oparah, described the programme as a giant step toward capacity building, national development and economic recovery.

Opara said that the leather industry, with capacity to create jobs directly and indirectly, was a significant foreign exchange earner, contributing to the nation’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

UNDP Resident Representative, Ms Khardiata Lo Ndiaye, encouraged beneficiaries of the programme to take advantage of the opportunity given them.

Represented by Mr Mathew Alao, the Team Lead, Governance Unit of UNDP, Lo Ndiaye said that the opportunity could serve as life changing for the beneficiaries.

She said “for some of you, this training will be a life-changing opportunity.

“The skills you will acquire should enable you to support your families, your communities and also contribute to rebuilding the North-East.

“Our returns from this investment will only be positive when you succeed after undergoing the training. `

“We will therefore be counting on your commitment and dedication to this programme.”

On behalf of the matriculating trainees, Malam Maidala Abdulrahman, assured that they would take the programme seriously.

He said “we will adhere to the rules and regulations and maintain a positive mindset.”

Mr Shaibu Emebi, on behalf of those who graduated, said that the programme increased their knowledge about leather and leather production.

He said “with the knowledge I gained now, I can do a whole lot with leather, especially shoe making.” (NAN)