News / Africa

Former Nigeria Textile Workers Still Struggling

The closed and dilapidated Arewa Textile Mill in Kaduna, Nigeria, December 5, 2012. (I. Kure - for VOA)
The closed and dilapidated Arewa Textile Mill in Kaduna, Nigeria, December 5, 2012. (I. Kure - for VOA)
Iliya Kure
— Adasu Inalegwu, a former textile worker in northern Nigeria, now runs a commercial motorcycle taxi business to support his family. “This is in addition to the small plot of land I cultivate to grow little food to sustain my family. That is the only way to survive,” he says.

Inalegwu lost his job 10 years ago when the Arewa Textile mill closed down. He now lives in a small one bedroom house with his wife and eight children in Tirkania, just outside Kaduna.

Inalegwu’s living conditions may be crowded, but he may be among the lucky ones.

Adamu Maisantaki and many other former textile workers don’t have a piece of land to cultivate, or a small business that makes money, however meager. Every day, Maisantaki goes out looking for menial work so he can bring home something to eat.

“Many of us have no means of livelihood and no hope for another job in a country with millions of unemployed youths,” said Maisantaki.  “We depend on what we get from friends and other relatives – many have seen their children withdrawn from school for nonpayment of school fees.”

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs when the textile mills closed down throughout Nigeria over the past decade. Many have staged demonstrations over the years demanding severance payments and other entitlements.

Some have won court judgments against the textile companies, but their entitlements still have not come through because of legal questions over how to make the payments.
 
Boom then bust 

The first modern textile mill in Nigeria started operation in 1956 in Kaduna. By 1987, the Nigerian textile industry was estimated to be the third largest in Africa, after Egypt and South Africa.

According to Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association, there used to be 180 textile mills employing more than 350,000 workers in the major textile towns of Aba, Asaba, Funtua, Gusau, Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt and Lagos. Three of the biggest and oldest mills were in Kaduna, which used to be called “Textile City.

The industry was generating an estimated $9 billion in annual revenues, and government statistics indicated it directly or indirectly supported more than 17.2 million Nigerians.

But Nigeria’s textile industry began crumbling by the late 1990s. Industry analysts blamed a lack of sufficient electrical power, dwindling domestic cotton production, cheaper textile imports as well as higher energy prices, tighter industry regulation and increased financing costs.

The number of mills quickly sank from 180 to less than 25 in short order.
 
Reason for optimism

Early this year, Nigeria’s minister of trade and investment Olusegun Aganga, said the government was going to address the major factors hurting the textile industry, including the difficulties faced by cotton farmers. Other government officials talk of possible joint ventures between Nigerian and Pakistani textile manufacturers.

Some Nigerian textile companies are taking advantage of the government’s Textile Development Fund to finance the purchase of new production equipment. Others have used fund money to expand their factories.

But Hamma Kwajaffa, an official of the Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association, predicted the new fund would not have any significant impact until central government does something about producing enough electrical power. He said Kaduna state had taken a good first step in this direction with a just-completed project to supply industries in the area with 30 megawatts of additional electricity.

Kwajaffa also called on the central government to put a halt to textile smuggling. “Government has done its part by banning (certain textile products), but the smugglers still find their ways,” Kwajaffa said. “Customs lack the personnel to man these borders. The borders are so porous, they (smugglers) have sophisticated guns to deal with officers of the Nigerian Customs, and they have killed many of them at the borders.”

Foreign textile fabrics and materials in a Nigerian shop, December 5, 2012. (I. Kure - for VOA)Foreign textile fabrics and materials in a Nigerian shop, December 5, 2012. (I. Kure - for VOA)
x
Foreign textile fabrics and materials in a Nigerian shop, December 5, 2012. (I. Kure - for VOA)
Foreign textile fabrics and materials in a Nigerian shop, December 5, 2012. (I. Kure - for VOA)
“We cannot compete with imported textiles under the current business environment,” Kwajaffa continued. “Ninety to 95 per cent of all textile materials in the market are foreign material, either from China or India. Some of them are counterfeit products. If smuggling is stopped and counterfeit is stopped then we can be in business again.”

Muhammadu Nura, who runs a shop in Kaduna that sells textiles, confirmed that about 95 per cent of the products are from outside Nigeria and said the government needs to start cracking down.

“We are tired of empty promises of saying the factories will come back to life,” Nura said. “In the past, our customers mostly buy Nigerian materials, but now everybody is asking for foreign fabrics.”

You May Like

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Chijianya from: America
December 15, 2012 5:51 AM
The closing of an economic institution like Arewa Textile Mills in a country where so many able bodied citizens are unemployed is disheartening. The Federal Ministry of Industries should make it possible for the mill to be revamped through new private partnerships. Steps should also be taken to address the issue of competition from foreign textiles. In some cases these foreign materials are made of low quality materials or materials that are unsuitable for the African tropical climate. The New Arewa Textile Mills management should make every effort to communicate this to the consumers. There is no reason in this whole world why an industry like this should be allowed to close in a nation with millions of potential consumers. Nigerians let's get the Arewa Textile Mills machines running once again. And The Honorable Minister for Industries over to you!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid