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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Nigeria losing out to smuggled cloth
By Yusuf Sarki Muhammad
BBC, Kaduna, Nigeria

More than 10,000 workers have been asked to take compulsory leave in Kaduna, northern Nigeria.

This followed the suspension of production at a leading textile industry here.

Nigerian women
Imported textiles are seen as being better quality

The Kaduna-based United Nigeria Textile plc, has been operating for the past 38 years, spinning multi-coloured fabrics, wax and prints, which are hugely popular in Nigeria, especially during festivities.

But all that is now on hold. Officials at the multi-million-Naira company, which is mostly Nigerian, attribute the suspension of work to the high cost of production and in recent years the low demand of its finished products.

In spite of its present predicaments, the United Nigeria Textile plc is lucky to have come this far.

In recent years more than 100 textile companies have been forced to shut down in Nigeria.

This includes the Kaduna Textiles limited, the first textile manufacturer in Nigeria, established in 1956, four years before Nigeria attained independence.

'Better quality'

Alhaji Walid Jibrin, a top executive at the industry told me that out of 175 textile manufacturers operating in Nigeria, at the peak of their boom, only 59 are now producing.

Smuggling of cheaper textile materials into the Nigerian market is said to be one of the major causes of the closure of local industries.

In Kaduna, as elsewhere, some Nigerians I interviewed said smuggled textiles are better and last longer than those manufactured locally.

Markets and boutiques here have more foreign, smuggled textile fabrics than those woven locally.

And the inability of the customs department to curb this development is making local textile manufacturers angry, but much more than that; they are losing huge sums of money and going bust.

In the absence of dependable data, analysts and watchers of the textile industry believe that more than two million people are affected, as more and more textile companies are allowed to close down.

This includes cotton farmers, people working for the companies, traders, suppliers and others.

Crime fears

According to Alhaji Umaru Muhammad, a unionist, the closure of companies that have large work forces, could lead to more crime and crime related problems for society.

The government seemingly agrees with this position and lately has come up with measures to arrest the trend.

The first measure was the banning of the importat of all textiles into the country.

And then it banned the export of all lubricants needed by Nigerian industries.

But industry watchers think that these measures are not enough and that only tough action from the customs department can halt the trend.

The thinking is if the government fails to protect local industries from collapse, it should start getting ready to contain the consequences of unemployment.

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