It is almost 20 years since the Kaduna Textile Limited (KTL), Nigeria’s biggest and first textile company, closed its gates and set lose thousands of workers without benefits into the streets.
The closure of KTL was followed swiftly by other textile companies such as Arewa textile, Nortex, Fintex and others due to a combination of complex factors that include harsh economic policies, obsolete equipment, lack of capital and irregular power.
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History records that when KTL first opened its doors to the general public in 1957, it was a significant event in Kaduna, the then capital of the Northern Protectorate.
KTL’s establishment was quickly followed by several other large textile companies such as Nortex in 1962, United Nigerian Textiles Ltd (UNTL) in 1964 and Arewa Textiles in 1965. However, when in 2002, KTL went under, it was only a matter of time before Arewa textile and Nortex followed suite in 2005.
The UNTL which closed in 2007 was later revived in 2010 and most recently, as the last textile company standing in Kaduna, laid off about 300 staff, giving a hint that the 56-year-old company may well be on its way to joining its predecessors.
Kaduna State was once the centre of Nigeria’s textile industry with about 13 large textile companies lined up around the state’s industrial layout in Kakuri, Kaduna South Local Government Area.
What remains of the moribund companies however today, is nothing more than a carcass of some sort. Though the gates appear chained and under lock and key, business owners have found use for the frontage of the textile companies.
For car dealers and those in the business of washing cars, Kachia road, where some of the factories are lined up, provides the strategic location to showcase their business.
Car wash take over frontage of moribund textile companies
Though the facilities of the moribund textile companies have for over a decade remained locked from the outside world, they appear old and weary even to passers-by.
Iliya Sanusi, 68, who was born in Kaduna reminisces about the “good old days” when the textile factories employed thousands of the country’s workforce.
He said, “the textile industry was the largest employer of labour in those days and it was a big thing to work with KTL specifically. Seeing what is left today pains me because it has become a waste,” he said.
Attempts to speak with business owners who have found use for the surroundings of the once flourishing companies failed as they feared Daily Trust report could get them evicted by the Kaduna state government.
For the moribund companies along Kachia Road up to Kalapanzin Barracks, the frontage has been taken over by car dealers while car wash businesses also use the space to make brisk money due to its strategic location.
Arewa textiles, together with Supertex and Unitex, our correspondents observed are on Kachia road. Though their gates appear locked with chains, the generous spaces in front of the companies provide convenient location for car sales.
Multiple security teams now guard KTL
At the Kaduna Textile Limited, our correspondents gathered that because of the level of vandalism that followed the closure of the company 18 years ago, security agents have been brought in to secure the 19 hectares land mass of the company.
According to the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), a development agency owned by the governments of the 19 northern states, KTL was closed down in 2002 by the workers union due to the company’s inability to meet their demands.
However, Daily Trust gathered that shortly after it closed, miscreants took over the premises, ransacking what they could and carted away many of the factory’s machines and valuables.
Security agents at the premises told our correspondents how equipment worth millions of naira where stolen, roofing sheets yanked out as well as building blocks and metals carted away.
Though some parts of the facilities such as stores remain in good condition, it was observed they have been leased out as warehouses for private businesses.
The spaces of other buildings that have lost their roofing were equally rented out to farmers and private business owners who sun-dry grains.
Unlike the recent case of Gaskiya Textile Mill in Kano which sold some of its properties and made the proceeds available to settle workers, the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) said it had hoped that Arewa Textiles and KTL would do same before the KTL specifically was completely vandalized, making the sale of its equipment and other properties almost impossible.
We are concerned about activities around KTL and Arewa textile – Union
According to the union, the textile companies though almost all moribund are grouped into two classes; those that have paid the benefits of workers and those that are yet to.
The NUTGTWN told Daily Trust that because of this, all activities in and around the companies have become of great concern to them, especially those moribund companies that are yet to pay workers benefits.
NUTGTWN National President, Comrade John Adaji said their members who worked with Fintext and Nortext were paid their gratuity while Arewa textile and KTL which had a unilateral closure almost 20 years ago are yet to pay the entitlements of their almost 6,000 combined workers. “This is even as the workers won a court judgement against Arewa textile,” he said.
“Whatever happens around the premises of Arewa textile and KTL is of great concern to us because there are cases where benefits have not been paid and so it attracts our attention to ensure our members get justice,” Adaji said.
He further said even though the union has set up a committee to investigate the leasing of the front premises of Arewa textile, the issue with the textile company is complicated. Arewa textile is privately owned and the shares largely owned by late P. S Achimugu whose London-based daughter, Dr. Nemile Achimugu is now the link to the union.
“With Arewa, we have judgement but it is judgement without justice because even though the court awarded that the owner should pay the benefits, this has not happened. It is now 17 years since Arewa textiles closed and the only link we have is the daughter of the owner Dr. Nemile Achimugu who is permanently in London,” said Adaji.
He said because the company was deeply indented to Union bank, the bank had appointed a receivership who is now claiming ownership of the company and doing everything possible to recover the loan facility given by their principals.
“So, whether it is the daughter of the owner or the receivership that is leasing the premises of Arewa textile is what we at our level have set up a committee to investigate and report back to us,” he said.
Our correspondent made attempt to reach Dr. Nemile Achimugu but her phone number was switched off.
Stores in KTL rented out to pay security – NNDC
The KTL is now collectively owned by the 19 Northern states and like Arewa textiles, it also did not pay the benefits of workers.
The New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) said the premises of KTL was not under lease but that some of the warehouses and stores were rented out for the purpose of raising funds to defray the cost associated with securing the large factory premises.
Asked if proceeds from the rent will be used to offset workers’ benefits, the Head of Investment Supervision for the NNDC, Hamzat Khalil, said: “the rental income was to meet the immediate financial obligation required to secure the huge factory premises. A separate arrangement to handle the issues of workers benefits is being considered by the Board and would be presented to the Northern States Governors Forum for approval as soon as possible.”
He said based on the security arrangement, the premises are guarded by the KTL securities, Nigeria Police from Kakuri police station, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and a unit of Operation Yaki Patrol team who are paid monthly allowances.
Speaking on the level of damage suffered by the company, Khalil said almost all useful equipment have either been vandalized or stolen but said several criminals had been arrested and prosecuted. He further said efforts being made to secure the company has not yielded the desired result due largely to the size of the company and the destruction of the perimeter wall by miscreants.
“Settlement for the workers is being considered and all options are on the table including shaking out none-core assets to raise funds for that purpose. The KTL has enough landed properties some of which may generate enough funds when converted to cash to enable it settle the outstanding liabilities,” he said.