The Nigerian Textile Industry is approximately 50 years old. Any one who visits Nigeria for the first time will be impressed by the textiles, its richness, colorful elegance, artistic qualities, style, and texture. Such is their passion for clothes that the Nigerians even store the clothes that their grandparents had been wearing. Technologies used in cloth-making in Nigeria had been developed over the centuries. Earlier during the 90s, textile industries were at its peak with 124 companies in existence. Cloth-making is one of the most important technical activities for the people of Nigeria. But currently, there are only 45 textile companies in existence. This is a shocking reduction of 64%. Despite the fact that global textile trade is on a boom, these industries are gradually diminishing in Nigeria. The reason behind this is the inflow of smuggled foreign textile products into Nigerian markets.
Huge quantities of both new and second hand garments from Asian countries are flooded in the Nigerian markets. Domestic markets are facing a major threat from smugglers importing cheaper textile fabrics from other countries and selling them at a price, which is lower than the market price of garments manufactured locally. This has led to the closure of 65 textile mills and a layoff of about 1, 50,000 workers during the last decade. Data quoted by a Nigerian Garment union states that more than one million people, whose job was indirectly related the textile industry like cotton farmers, traders, suppliers etc have lost their source of revenue as a result of these shutdowns.
Goods are mostly smuggled into Nigeria through Benin Republic. Benin is a main market for Malaysian and Chinese goods that are smuggled through sea and land borders. Goods loaded at Benin the previous day will be ready for sale in all the major Nigerian markets early morning the very next day. Likewise, there are almost 149 permeable borders in Nigeria which are not controlled by the customs department. In the Northern part of Nigeria, there is a desert, through which goods can be smuggled easily. A few years ago, the Government has placed a ban on the import of textile goods into Nigeria. Later, it banned the exports of all lubricants needed by the Nigerian industries. But, this ban had only been lucrative for the smugglers. The tariff rates were normal before the ban. Now after the ban, goods are smuggled into Nigeria without any taxes paid, thus making the Governments efforts a failure.
Prices of local materials in Nigeria are higher as the manufacturers use generators to run their machines due to the non-availability of consistent electric power. Much money is spent on diesel, generators and black oil. This makes the domestic products more expensive making way for the entry of foreign products into the market. In countries like China, the production cost is very low due to availability of cheap labor and stable power supply.
Compared with the textile products smuggled from China, India and other Asian countries, quality of the garments produced in Nigeria are much better. Most of the textile products coming from these countries contain hazardous chemicals that are used for waxing and printing the clothes. Garments with wax prints are very popular in Africa. These clothes are manufactured specifically for smuggling and hence do not adhere with the quality standards. Many chemicals used in printing these kinds of clothes are banned by the WTO as harmful to human skin. Most chemicals are used for leathers. They are used in clothes to make African prints and are sold at a very cheap price in the market. Despite that the Nigerians know about the health hazards in using these garments; still they are ready to compromise with the quality for the sake of buying cheaper clothes. Though they are aware of the chemicals used, and its adverse effects, still they continue to buy them just because of its low prices. Some people even believe that imported textiles have much better quality than locally manufactured clothes.