John Shiklam writes on the pains and sorrows of textile workers in Kaduna, Kaduna State, who have been out of job for about 10 years without being paid their entitlements and gratuities following the closure of the textile industries
He lives in a besmirched one room apartment with his 12 children at the Makera area of Kakuri, a suburb of Kaduna, Kaduna State. The large compound looks dilapidated and filthy with all sort of dirt littering everywhere. He is the only occupant of the clumsy compound.
The children, especially the little ones were looking malnourished, some without clothes. Their father, Mallam Tanimu Danladi, a former employee of the Kaduna Textile Limited (KTL) was not looking better either. He was looking unkempt and haggard.
He is one of the thousands of the Textile workers who lost their jobs following the closure of the KTL sometimes in December 2002 among other textile companies.
Danladi is in his late 50’s and hard spent more than a decade of his adult life working at the KTL until the company was closed down with no entitlements or gratuity.
His greatest challenge is how to feed his family of 13: his wife and his 12 children. Life has been rough with him all these years as he struggles to make both ends meet.
“As you can see, 14 of us are living in one room. I, my wife and our 12 children are sleeping together in this room,”he said in Hausa language.
Danladi was initially occupying two rooms before he lost his job and they could afford to feed well and send the kids to the school. But now none of the children is in school as his major concern now is how to provide food and other basic things for his family.
His landlord had on several occasions threatened to eject him from the one room apartment for his inability to pay the monthly rent of N1000.
“I have not been able to pay the rent now for many years, initially the landlord wanted to throw me out. He once dragged me dragged me to the rent tribunal, but after realising that I was in a hopeless situation, and considering my children, he eventually asked me to stay in the house until my situation improves.”
According to him, his large family was a blessing from God. “My wife gave birth to three sets of twins, that is why I have 12 of them,” he explained.
He has tried his hands on many things in a bid to provide for his family. From doing menial jobs to Okada business.
His wife is a full time house wife so the burden of providing for the family rests on him. Of his 12 children, the most senior of them managed to finish secondary school, while four others are in primary school courtesy of some good neighbours who are sponsoring them.
Equally touching is the story of Mrs. Elizabeth Ishaya, who is now the bread winner of her family when her husband, who was working at the Arewa Textile, lost his job and later became paralysed.
Accoding to her, after the textile company was closed down, her husband was riding Okada until he had a terrible accident and he became paralysed.
According to her, “when my husband was working at the KTL, I was supplementing his income with my petty trading. I was selling things like palm oil, Kerosene and other foodstuff within our neighbourhood in Nasarawa area of Kaduna. As a result of the little support, my husband was able to save money with which we built the house we live in.”
But for Ishayas hings take a different turn when the Arewa Textile was closed down. Her husband became jobless and her family of three children had to depend on the little business.
But the business eventually crumbled because according to her, people within the neighbourhood who were also facing the biting effect of the closure of the textiles were collecting things on credit and were unable to pay and the business eventually crumbled.
She now go about hawking fruits like pawpaw, pineapple and water-melon on the street, the effect of which is telling seriously on her health.
“So I resorted to hawking fruits in order to have something to feed the family. I walk around every day with heavy load and at the end of the day I had to take panadol to reduce the pain and stress of trekking all day,” she said.
To Musa Ibrahim who was working at the Arewa Textile before its closure about nine years ago, life has been terrible. “We are finding it extremely difficult to cope in this harsh economic condition of the county.
“As a man I have to struggle to find what I can do. We involve ourselves in all kinds of menial jobs at construction sites. My wife roasts corn on a daily basis. “Sometimes I go to assist people on the farm after which I get paid, I operate Okada when there is nothing I can do. Anything that can bring some legitimate money we do it. I have four children; two are out of school because I cannot fund their education. The remaining two are in primary and secondary school, and I am struggling to pay their school fees. Accommodation has been the worst. The landlord has threatened to eject me in the room and palour I am renting at the moment.
“The landlady understands the situation and she has been patient because when I was working I used to pay her promptly. I want the company to be re-opened so that we can be paid our entitlements,” Ibrahim pleaded.
Also lamenting their condition, Lawal Garba who is the chairman, Notex-Fintex Workers Assembly, said they have been without jobs in the past eight to nine years.
According to him, many people had died waiting to be paid their entitlements by the textile companies, adding that several homes have been destroyed because the man cannot provide for his family.
“The failure of our employers to pay us our entitlements, have subjected us to all forms of dehumanising experience as many of us cannot provide for our families,” Garba said.
Since the closure of the textile companies, the workers have formed an association known as Coalition of Closed and Unpaid Textile Workers Association (CCUTWA), which they are using to draw attention to their plight.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY, the chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the association, Mr. Wordam Simdik, disclosed that hundreds of his members have died as a result of sicknesses which they could not afford to seek medical attention as a result of frustration.
“You can imagine somebody with 12 children living in one room. We have been owing house rent for over 10 years, the same landlords have ejected many of our colleagues while some are kind hearted and they understand our plight.
“Our daughters have become technical prostitutes in the cause of hawking sugar cane, oranges in a bid to make both ends meet. Some of our members are doing commercial motor cycling known as Okada. They hire and at the end of the day they make returns to the owners.
“Some families have scattered as a result of the father’s inability to provide for the family. Some women have left their husbands because of the terrible situation of things. Quite a number of textile workers have died waiting for their gratuity.
“There is the case of Audu Jaba who lost his two children because he had no money to take them to the hospital when they fell sick. His wife could not bear the pain and the manner which the children died and she became paralysed and later died. Audu himself also died some few months after without the benefits he was expecting from KTL which he spent much of his life.
“We also have the case of Abdulrazak Bankole who died of frustration when he couldn’t raise N1,000 to buy drugs for his sick daughter. The girl also died few days after her father’s death.
“Most of the women that brew Burkutu, (the local liquor) are wives of textile workers. Those who patronised the Burukutu joints are the textile workers that lost their jobs. They go to such places and buy Burukutu for N5 to drink to forget their problems temporarily.
“Many of the women you see carrying heavy load of yam, fruits and vegetables on their heads and roaming the streets as well as those roasting corn on the roadside are our wives, it is so sad,” Simdik said.
Simdik wondered what had become of the N24 billion that was voted for the revival of the textile companies in Kaduna by the Federal Government.
He said his association had made several efforts to impress on the 19 Northern governors who are owners of KTL to pay the benefits and gratuity of the workers without any positive response.
He alleged that part of the problem of KTL was massive corruption on the part of the management and called on the Northern governors to prosecute those who wreck the company to its present level.
There are about 11 textile companies in Kaduna which provided employment and business opportunities to hundreds of thousands of people. They include Arewa Textile Plc, Fantext Nigeria Ltd, Notext Nigeria Ltd. Super text Ltd. United Nigeria Textile Ltd. All of them have closed shop for one reason or the other with the exception of UNTL, Chelco and Poly Fibre which are said to be operating at low capacity. It was leant that UNTL had just issued a two week suspension to its workers.
THISDAY gathered further that Poly Fiber, Supertext and UNTL paid all the entitlements of their workers when they closed shop while companies that didn’t pay the gratuity of their workers include Fantext, Notetext, Arewa textile and KTL.
As part of efforts to revive the KTL, its owners, the 19 Northern states governors were said to have constituted a committee made up of five governors, headed by the Governor of Kwara State to work out modalities for bringing back the company to life.
However, it was learnt that after the committee submitted its report, some of the governors allegedly insisted that those who ruined the company must be brought to book before their states can make any monetary contribution towards injecting life into the company.
Some key management staff of the company were said to have been dominated by some particular states, this is in addition to the fact that some of the governors were said to have been unhappy about the employment ratio of their states.
Investigations further revealed that, apart from the problem of power and other sundry issues that have been an impediment to the smooth operations of textile industries in Kaduna, some of them are heavily indebted to banks and the banks have taken over their premises.
All the industries that have been closed have become a breeding ground for reptiles while their equipment and machines rot away.
Investigations by THISDAY also revealed that the security men guarding the premises were conniving with some unscrupulous people to steal some equipment.
Some parts of the machines and equipment which are very expensive are being vandalised by thieves with the active collaboration of the security guards.
A couple of years ago, the Federal Government approved the release of N24 billion for the resuscitation of ailing textile industries in Kaduna and another N15 billion for the Kaduna Independent Power Project (IPP) as part of efforts to revive the textile industries which is the largest employer of labour. Despites the release of funds the textile industries in Kaduna are still comatose.