BY MARK ITSIBOR, Abuja, ISAIAH BENJAMIN, AZA MSUe, Kaduna and OLUSHOLA BELLO, Lagos
Efforts by the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to revive ailing textile and garment industry have failed to achieve the desired result.
LEADERSHIP findings showed that the sector has still not come alive despite the N220billion intervention funds by the fiscal and monetary authorities.
The federal government had announced N100billion textile revival fund instituted in Cotton, Textile and Garments (CTG) in 2009 to be managed and disbursed by the Bank of Industry (BOI).
Also, the CBN announced last year that it had made an intervention in the CTG industry to the tune of N120billion to fund the entire CTG value chain.
According to the apex bank, 320,000 farmers benefited from the CTG intervention funds.
The aim was to enhance the production capacity of local ginneries in producing over 102,000 metric tons of cotton lint, which is expected to meet and surpass the cotton lint requirement of the nation’s textile industries, and facilitate the takeover of the existing debt as well as offer additional long-term loans and working capital to existing companies in the cotton, textile and garment sector.
“Since the inception of the CTG intervention, huge progress has been made, some of which include over N120bn invested across CTG value chain; Over 320,000 farmers financed between 2018-2020; expected output for seed cotton in 2020 is projected to be over 300,000 metric tons,” deputy CBN governor, corporate services, Edward Adamu, had said at a CTG stakeholders meeting in Abuja in October 2020.
But LEADERSHIP investigations showed that till date, the bailout fund is yet to bring the textile mills back to life fully.
The CBN introduced the fund to provide additional long-term loans and working capital to existing companies in the CTG industry.
Industry experts who spoke with our correspondents, said because the challenges facing the sector are beyond funding, the industry has remained the way it was before the interventions by the apex bank.
“CBN is trying to bring back the glory of textiles of those days where the industry used to employ 10 million people across the country,” CBN’s director, development finance department, Yila Yusuf stated.
The CTG sector was once the largest employer of labour after the government, with an employment generation potential of over 600,000 and an annual revenue generation of $2billion.
When Kaduna Textile Limited (KTL) first opened its doors to the general public in 1957, it was a significant event in Kaduna.
KTL’s establishment was followed by several other large textile companies such as Nortex in 1962, United Nigerian Textiles Ltd (UNTL) in 1964 and Arewa Textiles in 1965.
But when in 2002 KTL went under, it was only a matter of time before Arewa textile and Nortex followed in 2005.
The UNTL which was shut down in 2007 was later revived in 2010 and most recently, as the only surviving textile company standing in Kaduna, it laid off about 300 staff, giving a hint that the 56-year-old company may well be on its way to joining other dead textiles industries.
Findings by this newspaper revealed that the closure of the textile industry in Kaduna has not only helped to render thousands of people jobless, but has also brought untold hardship and even loss of lives to those whose livelihood depended on its operations.
The situation is no different in some other parts of the country where factories were closed. Workers of most of the textile companies that were closed down abruptly are yet to receive their gratuities.
Some of the textile industries that were shut down include Arewa Textiles Plc, United Nigerian Textile Plc, Supertex, Nortex Nigerian Ltd and Finetex Nigerian Ltd. Others are Gaskiya Textiles Mill, Kano Textile Ltd, Aba Textiles, Zamfara Textiles Ltd, Asaba Textiles Ltd, African Textile Mill Plc and Tofa Textiles.
Few of the textile firms that are still functioning are operating below the installed capacity.
Director-general of Nigeria Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA), Alhaji Hamma Kwajaffa, said revival of the textile sector remains vital to the country’s growth objectives.
He said, “Despite government’s intention to revive the sector, the reality on ground continues to be worrisome. The prevailing unprecedented harsh environment has no doubt dealt a serious blow to the already fragile industry.”
He noted that the sector needs more revival funds that can take the industry out of its comatose state, just as he explained that the revival fund would include those that shut down operations, adding that CBN is working on them.
According to him, smuggled goods have continued to flood major textile markets like Balogun market in Lagos, a situation that has undermined the local industry, stolen jobs, deprived government of revenue and drained Nigeria’s precarious foreign exchange reserves.
In Kaduna, the coalition of unpaid textile workers lamented the failure of the federal government to facilitate the reopening of moribund textile companies in the state.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Kaduna, Treasurer of the coalition, Comrade Gabriel Ishata, claimed that over one hundred of their members have died without being paid after waiting for the reopening of the companies which he said would have employed thousands of youths and reduce insecurity.
Ishata of Kaduna Textile Limited (KTL) said the situation has forced many of the workers into begging for survival.
He stated: “It is not easy for us. We have not been paid for many years and it is not funny. But we are trusting the government that one day the textile companies would bounce back. With the high level of insecurity facing the nation, the government would have reopened the dead companies which thousands of youths will be gainfully employed to tackle this insecurity.
“I and my wife and three children have been in a one room apartment since 2002 after KTL closed down. 19 years now, no salaries, no gratuity. Hundreds of our members have died from one illness or the other as they don’t have any means to treat themselves since the closure of textile companies in Kaduna.”
Ishata, however, appealed to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to facilitate the reopening of closed textile companies for mass production, which he said can take care of the entire West Africa.
“We have Kaduna Textile Limited, Areas Textile Limited, Nortex, and Finetex owned by Northern governors and private individuals,” he said.
Also, the coalition of unpaid textiles workers, Kaduna State chapter, said no fewer than 3,000 workers of the close textiles industries and some of their family members have lost their lives.
A report also showed that many members of the coalition still alive have also developed one form of terminal ailment or the other, which may likely lead to more deaths if nothing is urgently done to salvage the situation.
The last recorded death, according to the group, is that of one Emmanuel Ikeh who worked in Arewa Textiles until it was shut down.
Wife of the deceased, Mary, had told journalists that her husband died of typhoid.
She said while the illness was not life-threatening initially, he died because he could not afford to treat himself properly as his menial job as a hired farmer and occasional brick-layer could hardly sustain him and his family.
She stated that the family’s condition worsened when Ikeh lost all his property to the 2013 flood in Kaduna.
“When the typhoid started he was treated and he became well. About a month later the typhoid came back again, but we could not afford effective treatment and all his friends he reached out to for money turned him down. Now I have six children that I am taking care of. My husband and I usually farm for people and when he died I continued the work as a hired farmer. I break firewood for people as well. But the money I make cannot take care of me and my family,” Mary said.
Another widow of a former textile worker, Asabe Audu, while recounting her ordeal, said that her husband was a healthy man who served for many years in KTL, but became hypertensive and died a year later after the company was shut down.
She added that she also lost two children after her husband’s death due to her inability to provide quality healthcare for them.
Similarly, Gladys Odey, whose husband worked in Nortex, said her husband immediately developed high blood pressure and battled with it until 2012 when he finally died.
On how she was surviving, Gladys said, “I go from one restaurant to the other washing plates in order to feed my children. The money I get from the effort cannot sustain the family. Two of my children have dropped out of school because I can’t continue paying their school fees and there is nobody to help me.”
When contacted, chairman of the coalition, Comrade Wordam Simdik, pegged the number of ex-workers and family members who died as a result of the closure of the textile companies and the non-payment of their benefits at not less than 3000.
“The number of workers who died a result of lack of money for medical healthcare is over 1,500, while that of their beloved families stands at about 1500-1600,” Simdik stated.
“Since 2002 when KTL was shut down, Nortex and Finetex in 2003 and Arewa Textiles in 2004, our entitlements are yet to be paid, while our workers and members of their families are dying. So we decided to come together and establish this Coalition of Closed Unpaid Textiles Workers to struggle for our entitlements. We have not succeeded yet, but we will surely succeed someday because we have used most part of our lives to faithfully serve these companies and we have also contributed to the economic growth of this nation,” he added.
Simdik said most children of the former textiles workers are roaming the streets begging, and that oftentimes they get involved in social vices and other criminal activities.
“Many of the ex-workers have also been driven from their homes by their landlords, while others got divorced by their wives,” Simdik said.
On the N100billion intervention fund, he said it has not been easy to access as none of the textile firms that desperately sought the money to inject life into their factories and commence operations ever got the money, except few textiles that are still operating partially.
He also said that the loan conditions are not favourable to the closed mills.
“A situation where an intervention fund for the revival of the collapsed textile mills was instituted by the government and the conditions for accessing the money is unfavourable to the same factories for which the money was provided is pure contradiction,” he said.
He further said that a series of letters written to owners of the closed textile firms are yet to be replied.
“We wrote to the chairman of the 19 Northern States Governors Forum who are the owners of the Kaduna Textiles but there is no response till now” he stressed.
But the Bank of Industry said about N60billion of the CTG fund has been disbursed to beneficiaries under the same scheme.
“Over 60 per cent has been committed to 52 companies in the Cotton, Textiles and Garment Industry as at March, 2013. The re-opening of United Nigeria Textiles Ltd in Kaduna is one of the numerous positive impacts of the scheme,” the bank stated on its website.
A former national president of the National Union of Textile, Garments and Tailoring Workers (NUTGTWN), Comrade Oladele Hunsu, said while the textile industry in the 1980s used to be the second largest employer of labour after the federal government, over the years there was a steady decline in operations of the sector and then eventual collapse of the industry.
“This has led to loss of jobs, dearth of skilled manpower, death of workers, low capacity utilisation and drop in government revenue due to lack of excise duties,” Hunsu said.
Hunsu called on the government to ban further importation of textile materials or impose higher tariffs on imports, improve infrastructures and engage the Asian government on best trade practices and chart a new course on reviving the textile industry.
“This will not only bring back jobs and boost economic activities again, but will also halt the progression of deaths among the unpaid textiles workers,” he said.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, had promised that President Muhammadu Buhari would do all it takes to revive the textile industry as a way of generating employment for the teeming Nigeria youth, stressing that textile industries in Kaduna alone used to employ over 33,000 workers.
He described Kaduna as the bedrock of textile industries, promising that the governors upon assumption of office will see to the reopening of the closed industries.
But almost two years now, the industries are yet to be reopened.