United Nigerian Textile Mill’s recent decision to lay off 3,000 workers highlights everything wrong with the Nigerian economy

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Last week, the United Nigerian Textile Mill Limited (UNTL) made 3,000 workers redundant in Kaduna. Its excuse was that there was no market for its goods. As the saying goes: “Even in the abundance of water a fool is thirsty.” How can a monopoly textile mill struggle for orders in a market of 200m people abeg?

In 1964, the newly established Hong Kong-based Cha Group partnered with the Northern Nigerian Regional Development Corporation to open the UNTL mill in Kaduna. By 1980, this plant was manufacturing printed cotton textiles across Nigeria and for other West African markets.

Nigerian Textile Industry Resuscitation Bill 2020
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However, it was soon downhill from there. Declining infrastructure, erratic electricity supply, frequent changes in political leadership at the federal level and the smuggling of less-costly imported textiles (often from China) undermined local textile manufacturing. Also, inflationary pressures associated with the national oil industry undermined agricultural production, exacerbating the difficulties of obtaining raw Nigerian cotton.

In 2007, the UNTL mill in Kaduna closed, although it resumed production in December 2010, assisted by the N100bn Cotton, Textile and Garment Development Fund.

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Can someone please explain to me why this company does not have a monopoly of the global agbada, head tie, dashiki, etc market?

UNTL should be a vertically integrated conglomerate with a supply chain that extends from owning cotton farms to printing fabrics to sewing finished clothing. Annually, it should easily produce say 20m head ties.

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Kaduna is a state where the collapse of the industry has fuelled the growth of Islamic extremism. The state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (Can) has long been complaining about this. What I do not understand is why the Kaduna Can leaders have not mobilised Christian capital to take over plants like UNTL to provide jobs.

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At this time of the year, UNTL should be turning away orders because it is too busy. It should be churning out millions of special Father Christmas suits. UNTL should have a global patent to a unique African design of the suit, which should be a worldwide bestseller.

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Our problem as a people is we are waiting for the government to sort out minor problems like this when the solution lies with us private citizens. Is the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria really trying to tell me that it cannot evangelical clergymen to invest say $5m in UNTL? Even if it just made robes for the clergy alone, it would be a mint, cash cow and licence to print money.

Let me repeat it for the umpteenth time until Nigeria gets to grips with the concept of religious finance, she is going nowhere economically. I simply do not see any other source of local industrial capital.

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