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  “We depend on what we get from friends and other relatives – many have seen their children withdrawn from school for nonpayment of school fees.”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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid