Trade and Declining Worker Rights in Nigeria's Textile Industry: 1997-2006

Article excerpt

Introduction

This study focuses in particular on textile firms in Kaduna, North Central Nigeria, not only because all the nine textile firms there finally closed down operations in 2007, but also because this was where the first textile firm in Nigeria (Kaduna Textile Mills) was established in 1956. Was the closure of the factories due to trade? Or could other reasons be adduced for their closure? What happened to all the workers that were employed in those factories? What happened to their rights?

A Brief On Nigeria's Textile Industry

Nigeria's textile industry is significant in many ways. For one, it was the single largest employer of labour after the government for a significant part of the history of the country, (RMRDC 2002). Therefore, anything that affected this industry touched the nerve of the country. According to Fiakpa, Lucky; Ajao, Adewole; Oji, George. and Onyeekamuo, Charles. on "The problem with the Textile Industry", ThisDay February 3, 2008) industry watchers have it that in the early 1980s, textile operators numbered 250 providing direct employment to about 350,000 persons outside millions of indirect jobs and employments. These operators kept declining along with the workforce (1995: 100,000, 2004: 50,000) and was down to 26 by the end of 2007 with only 30,000 workers (Intercontinental Bank Plc. 2004 and Fiakpa, Lucky; Ajao, Adewole; Oji, George and Onyeekamuo, Charles. on "The problem with the Textile Industry", ThisDay

February 3, 2008).

Second, this industry, like the oil industry, is a mono product industry that catered to a unique African need--the African Print (locally called Ankara). To the best of our knowledge this product is not known elsewhere outside Africa. The industry had no spin-off into garments manufacture like textile industries in other countries such as Mauritius, and South Africa. (Omoh Gabriel and Aictor Ahiuma-Young in their aricle on Textiles :Not tapping into the $31bn US Booming Garment Market (Vanguard, April 14, 2008). The industry was not diversified, although in its original concept it was to be vertically integrated so as to be fed by local raw materials and thereby providing linkages to other segments of the economy. This was aimed at ultimately promoting trade and development on many fronts.

The ownership structure of textile firms is a unique feature of the local textile industry in Nigeria. Although there had never been restrictions in ownership of textile firms, major players were foreign investors and government rather than private indigenous investors (Mbendi 2000). Foreign investments were held mainly by Chinese and Indian investors and a smaller representation by Europe, the U.S, Japan and Syria. Following privatisation, most of government equity holdings in textile firms were divested to private hands and new major players are international groups, like the Chai Chi Ming and Churchgate groups. The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) notes that whereas the Textile, Wearing Apparel and Leather Industry is one of the oldest, most labour and capital intensive in Nigeria, it operates with old and obsolete machinery and equipment, and alludes to the fact that the industry operated with the same equipment it had since the 1960's (RMRDC 2003). Investors did not add reasonable fresh investment into the sector thus private foreign investment in textile progressed meagrely from N3.3 billion in 1997 to N16.7billion in 2006 (CBN 2006) A significant part of this amount was used for the procurement of spare parts. The industry also had limited access to long term funds required for modernization or upgrade of machinery to modern status.

Causes Of Declining Performance In The Nigerian Textile Industry

Although performance in the manufacturing sector in Nigeria had been on a general decline, for the textile industry the decline was more pronounced because of the nature of the industry which is labour intensive, the vertical integration anticipate at its conception and its heavy dependence on infrastructure. …