Stakeholders have painted a pathetic picture of how dwindling power supply among other factors ruined the once vibrant Nigerian textile industry, leaving Africa’s biggest economy at the mercy of inferior foreign and smuggled fabrics with grave consequences on job creation.
According to the stakeholders, Nigeria was a hub of textile manufacturing in 1970s and 1980s with companies such as Asaba Textile Mills, Aba Textile Mills, Kaduna Textile Mills, Afprint Nigeria plc and Enpee Industries, among others, now dead owing to unbridled smuggling of Asian textiles, high cost of energy, poor patronage as well as lack of cotton to feed the mills.
Isa Aremu, general secretary of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), says over the years, more than 400,000 active jobs had been snatched from the textile industry that ranked among the biggest employers of labour in the 1980s.
Aremu spoke at the 40th anniversary of NUTGTWN in Lagos on Wednesday, saying, “In 1983, Nigeria became the largest employer in West Africa with about 200 textile companies. Today, many of those factories have shut their operations. Before now, the industry employed more than 500,000 direct workers, but today it has less than 60,000 workers. Necessary infrastructure must, therefore, work at its optimum to revive the textile industry.”
Aremu’s position is in sync with Grace Adereti, president of Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA), who lamented the inability of local manufacturers to compete given the prevailing poor infrastructure and the flooding of the Nigerian market with cheap and smuggled textile materials from neighbouring countries.
“What we need is the enabling environment. We cannot compete with the level of smuggling and counterfeiting going on now. We used to have close to 2,000 textile firms in Nigeria, but that has come down to just a few. We had the revival loans but this didn’t work because our biggest problem has never been money,” Adereti said at a Made-in-Nigeria stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos.
According to the textile manufacturers association, about 85 per cent of the $1.4 billion worth of textiles that flood the Nigerian market are smuggled, mainly from neighbouring countries.
“It is inconceivable how a textile sector that is so viciously exposed to smuggling hawks can survive and grow unless there are deliberately put-in-place measures to protect the industry,” A research report conducted by Martin Ike-Muonso, a professor, on ‘Discriminatory Margins of Preferences for Selected Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) sectors also said.
Giving more insight, Aremu said that after the establishment of the country’s first textile company, Kaduna Textile Mill in 1957, other state governments had started creating their own companies to boost development, but the industries began to face daunting challenges when no measures were put in place by the government to check smuggling.
He urged the Federal Government to come up with workable policies to ensure an adequate supply of electricity in the country, stressing that poor electricity supply has contributed more to the destruction of industries in Nigeria, which in turn, encourages smuggling.
Segun Oshinowo, director-general of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), speaking also, emphasised the need for good governance to address poverty in Nigeria.