The role of the academia in any government effort to bring back to life the moribund textile industry in Nigeria cannot be wished aside if it must be met with success.
This was the view of a university lecturer, Dr Abdullahi Danladi, of the Department of Textile Science and Technology, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Speaking during an interview against the backdrop of the concerted effort being made by the Kaduna State government under the administration of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, to revive the textile industry in the state, Danladi commended the governor’s effort while at the same time stating that the academia was an essential element that could make significant contribution.
According to him, the academia is the sector that produces the technical manpower for the industry, its products are the brains responsible for the functioning of the textile manufacturing sector and as such any effort targeted at revamping the industry must involve the trainers.
He anchored his view on the argument that the success story that the industry was yesterday, the technology and the manpower it would need to meet the demands of the 21st century are the brainwork of the academia and as such, any repositioning that would meet current demands must not leave out the university producers of manpower.
“They need to consult the academia where we produce the manpower for the textile industry. The role of the academia is crucial. So any attempt to refurbish the textile industry without the contribution of the academia is not likely to achieve the desired result,” Danladi said.
Speaking further, he said unknown to many people the Department of Textile Science and Technology has links to several other sectors of the economy such as agriculture and the petrochemical sector.
“There is interface (with agriculture and petrochemical) because we are highly related.
In ABU, we have School of Agriculture, there is Fibre Technology, there is Institute of Agriculture Research with which we conduct joint research when our students carry out their academic studies. We go there and do research on cotton production, cotton properties.
There is the petrochemical industry also. Right now we have our graduates that are working in the petro chemical industry,” Danladi stated.
He further pointed out that the petrochemical sector has areas that students from his department are also versatile in.
“There is the production of polymer, there is production of fibre, or polyester fibres, nylon fibres (in the petrochemical sector). They need somebody with textile background to guide them in polymer, and some of our students work there,” he explained.
“Right now, some of the research papers written are after some of our students have been to these industries. They don’t only go to textile industry, they also go to petrochemicals, oil mills where they interact to have the proper knowledge so that by the time they come back we now integrate all the knowledge that have been learnt.”
He pointed out that contrary to public perception, Textile Science and Technology academic department had much to contribute to the national economy but the state of the textile industry had not been helpful in this regard.
“This is one unfortunate situation,” he said. “If the textile industry that are making money die, you can understand what a research department will be like.
But if the economy is buoyant and the production is there then the policy of the government to integrate the research institutions like my department and others like it would bring to light the contribution of a research centre like this department.
Such integration would be useful to the economy because if there is a problem they can pass it on to the research institutions for study.
We have the expertise. Our people can go to the field, carry out the research, collaborate and use our knowledge to proffer solutions to whatever challenges confront the textile industry.”
He lamented that the unenviable state of the industry had placed a question mark on the viability of a department that dealt with textile because parents and potential students worried about job prospect.
However, when people came to the department to ask questions about this, they got to know that textile department was wider, more dynamic and there was no reason to worry about job prospects.
“When people come in here they discover that it is not just in the textile industry that our graduates can work, but that the nature of our course is so dynamic that you can fit into many other places,” Danladi, an associate professor, said.
“For example there is laundry. It is not just enough to produce cloth, you have to maintain it. To do so you need some guides in how to maintain and these are part of what we teach our students here. So we have graduates that have set up laundry companies and they are doing well.”
While commenting on the relevance of the textile industry to the Nigerian economy in general, Danladi who was the Head of Department of Textile Science and Technology, and had worked in the textile industry in time past, said the contribution of the industry is crucial now more than ever, especially with the dwindling revenue from the oil sector that the nation had always depended on in the past.
“The importance of textile industry to the national economy cannot be overemphasized, because it is a day to day affair,” he said. “You can never see somebody without clothes on. If you go to any function you see people dressed up.
That shows it is a consumable that people use. So everyone needs it and this shows to you how important it is. Most people also have more than one pair of clothes.
So if there is anything that affects the life of more than 170 million people and which they use daily, then you can understand the impact the textile industry can have on the economy if it is properly handled.”
He was of the opinion that part of the problem confronting the Nigerian economy would not be there if the textile industry had been effectively handled. “If attention is to be given to the Nigerian textile industry the problem with the economy will not be there.
There are people with the know-how. For instance, in this department, we have been graduating people for the past 35 years. A lot of them end up working elsewhere rather than in the textile industry,” he said.
“So year in year out, students go out of school and there is no textile industry to accommodate them. You can see the kind of frustration. If the textile industry is active, youth would be employed and market people would have things to sell.”
Danladi estimated the kind of revenue that should be accruable to Nigeria from production and sale of textile materials in billions of dollars assuming the industry was working.
“Definitely, it will run into billions of dollars,” he said. “I may not be able to give you the exact figure but it will run into billions of dollars, because the textile industry is large. If we are able to satisfy the internal needs we can go ahead and export.
But the fact is, it is going to be difficult to meet the production for domestic needs. So new industry could spring up. Nigeria can go ahead and set up more industry not only to produce for local demands but also to export. We can do it.”