In the good olden days, the textile industries in Kaduna State accounted for the lion share of direct and indirect labour in the state. It had an estimated workforce of over 500,000 people, possibly the largest in Northern Nigeria during the era.
The first textile industry in Northern Nigeria was established by the premier of the region, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna Sokoto in 1957. The establishment of the Kaduna Textiles Limited (KTL) gave birth to similar firms in Kaduna, Kano, Funtua and Gusau.
Residents of the state and other Nigerians, who witnessed that golden era, easily recall that several of the flourishing textiles companies operated to optimum capacity. They identified such textile industries as Supertex Limited, Arewa Textiles Limited, Kaduna Textiles Limited (KTL), Fintex Limited, Unitex Limited among others.
To meet the demand for their products, the companies operated on a shift basis, thereby providing jobs for more Nigerians.
Over time, these hitherto flourishing industries began to pack up one after the other. Some of the reasons adduced for the sad development were lack of regular power supply, massive importation of textile materials, poor patronage of local fabrics and lack of support from the government.
As the trend persisted, workers were indiscriminately retrenched until over 98 per cent of the factories closed shop leading to their structures becoming dens of reptiles and criminals.
Beside the grasses and reptiles that remain in these companies, their premises have been vandalised by hoodlums.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend visited the once vibrant industrial estate where the factories were located, the scene was an eyesore.
For instance, all the KTL structures have become hiding places for criminals. In fact, the factory has become a “no go area” for the residents.
Except for United Nigeria Textiles Limited (UNTL) which got a lifeline from the Bank of Industry (BoI) in 2010 and Chellco, another garment factory that produces blankets in Kaduna albeit not to full capacity, every other firm is in ruins.
More disheartening is the fact that the workers of the closed textile industries never got their entitlements. To make ends meet, they have turned commercial motorcyclists popularly known as “Okada” with miserable tales to tell.
The national president of the National Union of Textiles, Garment Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), Comrade John Adaji, said: “It was an experience too much to bear. My members saw the closing up of the companies as a joke until it became a reality. More worrisome is the nonchalant attitude of the government towards revitalising these industries which has rendered thousands of Nigerians jobless.”
According to Adaji, “these textile companies were closed without paying a dime to the workers. You can imagine the mental and psychological trauma they had to pass through and perhaps still passing through for losing their jobs without payment.”
He said that many of them were thrown out of their rented accommodation with their property left on the streets at the mercy of thieves and natural calamities; some had their children sent out of schools. “Sadly enough, in the last two decades, we have lost over 1,000 of such workers to hardships and health-related challenges traced to the closure of these industries,” he said.
On the efforts of the union to address the workers’ plight and the possible revitalisation of the moribund textile industries, Adaji said: “As I speak to you, we have many court cases and it might interest you to know that we have been pursuing some of these litigations for the past two decades.”
The unionist lamented that the judiciary processes were too cumbersome and frustrating, noting that “there is this case in Kano against a textile industry. Judgement was given in our favour as we were asked to sell all the assets of the company to pay the workers but could you believe the owner just appealed the judgement? And that was all.”
Some of the textile workers who would not want their names in print said that the textile industries were not doing badly when there was a ban on the importation of textile materials despite the power supply challenges until another government came into office and unbanned the importation of textile materials.
One of the ex-workers, who simply gave his name as Danladi, said that the inconsistency in government policies and the lack of political will had further contributed to the continued closure of the industries. Yet another ex-worker attributed the surge in crime rate in the state to the closure of the industries with no alternative jobs.
He claimed that some of the workers who lost their jobs had taken to social vices as a means of survival.
To this, the Kaduna State police command public relations officer, DSP Yakubu Sabo, said his men were waging a serious war.
Sabo said: “We have recently intensified raiding all the black spots and most of these dilapidated buildings or structures (pointing to the abandoned factories) to ensure that criminals who might want to use them as hideouts do not succeed. That is why we keep calling on the public to support us with vital information regarding suspicious people within their neighbourhood so that the police can act fast and prevent crimes.
“The commissioner of police has equally directed all Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and all Heads of Departments (HODs) to intensify their raids so that the criminals will not have any breathing space in Kaduna State. We also employ the assistance of the media to disseminate information to the members of the public so that together we will make Kaduna State a safe place to live,” he said.
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