It was a cheering optimism for the once textile manufacturing city of Kaduna when the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) recently announced its intention to invest $15 million, in partnership with a Turkish firm, to revive Kaduna textile company. The Group Managing Director (GMD) of the company, Dr. Ahmed Musa, announced this to newsmen shortly after a closed-door meeting with a Turkish business delegation which held in Kaduna. The GMD said NNDC and the Turkish firm, Sur International Textile, would invest the amount in revitalizing the textile company.
According to the proposal, the Turkish firm will provide 35 percent of the amount while the federal government with Kaduna Textile Limited (KTL) will contribute 45 percent and 20 percent respectively. The GMD said revamping KTL would boost the economy of Kaduna State and create employment opportunities for the teeming population of unemployed youths within and outside Kaduna state. Besides, “the revenue drive of Kaduna State,” he said, “will be increased.”
Speaking further on this laudable development, the NNDC’s Executive Director, Investments, Alhaji Abdullahi Ali-Gombe, said the time the project would commence cannot be established now. The GMD had earlier mentioned that the company would, in the short term, meet uniform needs of the Nigerian armed forces, the police and other paramilitary agencies. It would also prospect for the production of uniform for military and paramilitary organisations in other West African countries.
The KTL, which is owned by the 19 northern states, was established in 1957. It operated a large integrated textile mill, producing various kinds of fabrics. The company, which is now in comatose, started operations in November 1957 and went into full production in 1958. Later, in 1961, it began the production of finished garments. The company, financed by the Northern Nigerian Regional Marketing Board, was managed by an expatriate firm, David Whitehead & Sons. It was closed down in 2000 following financial crisis and inadequate power supply.
The vision of the foremost leaders of the northern regional government in establishing KTL served their well-intended purposes. The textile industry became the strength of the economic hub that Kaduna was for nearly two decades after the country’s Independence. Textiles production, spinning and dyeing operations expanded in Kaduna during the oil boom years of the 1970s. By 1997, KTL and other textile companies, including Arewa Textiles, United Nigerian Textile Limited, and Nortex were barely functioning, operating with obsolete equipment and without enough capital to procure spare parts.
Irregular supply of electricity from the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) also became a critical challenge to the survival of the textile industry in Kaduna. Indeed, poor electricity supply was a major factor in the collapse of the companies. As a consequence of infrastructural decay and a myriad of other challenges, the textile industry in Kaduna collapsed at the beginning of this millennium. The KTL, for example, was shut in 2000.
Other crises that rocked the industry and consequently led to its collapse include the intractable activities of smugglers whose materials, imported from China, cost cheaper than locally-produced ones. The astronomical rise of foreign exchange rate of the Naira to the US dollar did not help matters. The textile companies could not raise the necessary naira equivalent of forex needed to purchase spare parts for their machines. This predicament hastened the demise of the companies.
We call on all the partners in this new effort to revive KTL to complete all necessary arrangements and honour their respective parts of the deal without delay. While we encourage other textile companies to borrow a leaf from the partnership entered into by the KTL, we also urge parties in the KTL partnership to ensure that Nigerians are not alienated by its Turkish partner as it concerns employment opportunities. We also remind the management of KTL to take precautionary measures against the challenges that led to its collapse in the past.