By most accounts, Nigeria had one of the most vibrant textile industries in the world in the early 1980s with about 250 functional factories.
These factories then provided direct employment to over 800,000 people and more than five million indirect jobs to the citizens.
By 2007, however, not more than 30 of the factories were still functioning with less than 30,000 workers.
For instance, in Kaduna, the location of the country’s first textile mill, all the nine textiles mills in the metropolis had been closed down by the end of 2007 and their employees thrown into the labour market.
According to available statistics, out of the more than 800,000 workers of the textile industry during its peak, only 100,000 were on its payroll by 1995. The number further dropped to 50,000 in 2004 and 30,000 in 2006.
Analysts argue that the gradual collapse of the textile sector was not unconnected to Nigeria’s endorsement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement.
This, according to them, is because the pact allows member countries of the WTO to trade freely with one another, giving room to the influx of foreign fabrics into Nigeria.
With the signing of the agreement, Nigeria’s economic fortunes have also dwindled with the attendant job loses and worsening economic situation.
For instance, earnings from Nigeria’s textile nosedived from 44 million U.S. dollars (about N6.6 billion) to only 11 million U.S. dollars (about N1.65 billion) about six years ago.
Besides, the activities of textile smugglers have compounded the situation, as observers note that Nigeria loses about 325 million dollars (about N48.7 billion) annually due to the evasion of custom duties and VAT by the smugglers.
Alhaji Sa’idu Dattijo Adahama, the Chairman of Adahama Textiles Company in Kano, says that the collapse of the textile sector is not unconnected with the total liberalization of the Nigerian economy.
He blames the government for signing the WTO treaty without seeking the advice of Nigerian manufacturers.
“The result was the massive importation of all kinds of textile materials into the country and this has seriously affected local textile production, subsequently resulting in the collapse of the textile sector,’’ Adahama says.
Mr Issa Aremu, the Secretary-General of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers Association of Nigeria, attributes the problem in the textile sector to poor governance.
“What led to the collapse of the industry is simply lack of good governance.
“This is because it was good governance that led to the development of the textile sector in the first instance and the bad governance we had in the last 20 years manifested in the country’s energy crisis.
“Don’t forget the fact that without electricity, no industry can survive,’’ he says.
Aremu also blames the collapse of the textile sector on inconsistent government policies and advised the government to strive to revive the sector so as to reduce the number of unemployed youths roaming the streets.
“Currently, we have just about 30 textile mills working, out of the 250 that are supposed to be functioning at full capacity.
“In those days, we had 250 mills that gave direct employment to 800,000 persons and indirect jobs to about five million people,’’ he says.
Aremu laments that all the 30 textile mills currently functioning can only provide 40,000 direct jobs and about 100,000 indirect jobs.
Sharing similar sentiments, Alhaji Nababa Badamasi, the Managing Director of Gaskiya Textiles, Kano, attributes the collapse of the textile sector to uncontrolled smuggling of textile materials into the country.
According to him, the illegal act destroyed the local demand for Nigerian fabrics.
Badamasi says that the scarcity of raw materials such as locally produced cotton also contributed to the collapse of the sector.
Similarly, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has, on many occasions, blamed the dismal situation in the textile sector on the government’s inability to revive the power sector.
“The fact remains that the power supply situation in the country is very poor and energy is very instrumental to the industrial growth of any country,’’ says Alhaji Hamman Kwajafa, MAN’s Industrial Relations Officer in Kaduna.
Kwajafa says that although the Federal Government had targeted the generation of about 6,000 megawatts of electricity by December last year, not more than 3,000 megawatts was attained.
“The failure to achieve the target has contributed to the inability of the factories to bounce back,’’ he adds.
Kwajafa says that the most worrisome aspect of the whole situation is the ownership structure of the textile factories, as none of them is owned by Nigerians.
“ They all belong to expatriates: Indians, Lebanese and Chinese, who have chains of factories all over the world. When one factory in a country is closed, they simply relocate to another country,’’ he says.
Kwajafa says that the only indigenous textile mills in the country are the Kaduna and Arewa textile mills.
Stakeholders unanimously agree that unless efforts are made to improve the electricity supply situation in Nigeria, while the price of diesel is reduced, there cannot be any meaningful change in the sector.
They also call on the Federal Government to release the N100 billion it earmarked for the revival of the textile sector to the Bank of Industries for distribution to qualified textile mills.
They are, however, quick to point out that efforts to revamp the textile sector will turn out to be a mirage unless corresponding efforts are directed at stamping out the nefarious activities of textile smugglers in the country.