Adire intellectual theft from China is killing our industry — Chairman, Ibile Aparrel

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The Chairman of Ibile Aparrel, Chief Ogunfidodo Micheal in this interview with UTHMAN SALAMI, AKINYELE KEHINDE and KAYODE TOKEDE said imported Adire from China is killing locally made products, stressing that the government not placing a ban on imported textile from China is contributing to job loss in the country. The Babalaje Kemta Adire also disclosed that insecurity has contributed to declining revenue recently, stressing that government’s weak policies in the sector are denying its contribution to the nation’s economy.

Briefly tell us how you started Adire business?

It’s a family business from my maternal side. It’s a generational thing from my great Grandmother. Personally, in my own case, it was just a coincidence because I used to be a computer lecturer. But I studied marketing economics. Incidentally in the year 2001, my mother was a little bit strong. So I went around often to help her.

When I saw the way things were done, I encouraged them to input some changes. I put some changes in place. Eventually, as the clients were coming, they were marvelled at the way I attended to them. So my mother felt so relaxed since her clients took a liking to the way I did things.

The second day, my mother called me to come over and help her again. The third and fourth day was the same story. So I had to tell her that I had my own work that needed my attention. Truth be told, I kind of enjoyed doing it. All the theories I had amassed at school like customers relations and other marketing strategies were judiciously put into use. Eventually, I fell in love with it. Till then, I have never regretted being into this business for a day.

How do you source materials amid foreign exchange devaluation?

Basically, we that produce actually source for our materials local. But the majority of the people source their own materials outside the country. This is because most of the textile companies in Nigeria are not functioning.

Even those who are functioning do not really produce what we use? This is because what we do has to be 100 per cent or at least 80 per cent cotton. Considering the price also, the price at which they sell is far higher than the one coming from outside. So our raw materials are basically imported.

What can you say is responsible for the non-functioning of the Nigerian textile industry?

It boils down to government’s misplaced priorities. For instance, there is Nigerian Export Commission Council who are supposed to propagate what we produce in Nigeria to the outside world, are not doing enough.

But the truth is, is what we produce 100 per cent indigenously made? Like Adire specifically what we produced is 70 per cent foreign.

The only thing that we put into use is our human intellectual ability. The cloth is imported. The dye is imported. All other chemicals we used are all imported but these are things that can easily be made here if the government had put their priorities in the right perspective and identify that they have a promising sector of business.

Provide them with exactly what they want that will make their business more convenient. Adire is a kind of business that can make this country one of the greatest in the world. There are three basic human needs; food, shelter, and clothing.

People cannot be walking around naked. This industry can employ millions of people. But those raw materials have to be sourced from here. If the materials are sourced locally, everything will be easy. It is not something that an individual can do. It is the government that will ensure that all those things are solved. The chemical we are using is end product of crude oil. If all our refineries are working, the sky is the limit for this sector.

Since all these chemical materials are made outside, How convenient is it for you to source for materials judging with the fact that there is devaluation of foreign exchange?

It has never been convenient. For instance, yesterday I bought hydrosophur for N1500 and later that same yesterday, the same chemical component was sold for N2500.

Everything goes to the cost of production. Something I was selling at the rate of N5000, presently now, by the time I produce, the cost of production is already N5000. Will I still sell at N5000? So it’s never been convenient. The dye we use to get for N3000 is now sold at N4000.

To even produce in large quantities is a problem. Even if you employ more people to help in the production, you will need to pay them. We are limited to production because we have limited manpower and the cost of raw materials that are incessantly going up. None of the producers are finding it easy to produce in this era.

What are the challenges and successes of Adire as textile industry in Nigeria?

The major problem has always been sourcing for the raw materials. Fund is not always the problem of Adire. If you say fund and you get it, what will you use those funds to buy? Nothing! So don’t give me money. Provide me with raw materials and I will be very happy. BOI is giving funds to buy what? To buy what we cannot see?

If you really want to do something, get us the raw materials, and we will produce. If we cannot get the raw materials, fine, but ensure all those moribund textile companies where we can easily get the raw materials from are working to capacity.

If we get the raw materials ready, we will be happy. The prices of products have continued to shoot up due to the non-availability of raw materials. We cannot produce in large quantities and we certainly cannot produce as we want.

Another major challenge that is affecting us is this intellectual theft. This is a peculiar threat posed by China. We would use our intellect to produce, draw and dye and come up with something special. But because everything is now on social media and the internet, the Chinese pick these designs from there, produce the inferior of the design and bring it down to the Nigerian market to sell at a lower price. Though it looks very much alike, it’s far from being at the level of quality of what we produced. Many people who did not know would think it’s Adire when it’s actually fake.

Many of those who wear Adire do not which is fake and original. Even I have seen it on national TV where a newscaster wore fake and imported Adire.

Someone like us will go and get raw materials only to be seized by the Nigerian customs. But a pirated one will come and enter this country unchecked.

This is one of the government’s misplaced priorities, I was talking about. They are using policies that are killing Nigerian indigenous business at the expense of foreign, fake and pirated cloth.

Nobody is saying anything about. No one is talking about it. The fake ones are too grossy and plain. Sometimes, we use our hands to make these original Adire.

The process takes time. But China who makes fake ones will steal our designs using a machine to produce them in mass quantities and then bring them down to our market to sell at the cheapest price like N2000 and N3000 while ours will be sold at N7000 or N8000. Which one do you think they will buy?

So how would you suggest these problems be solved by the government?

How did government allow things like this to happen in the first place? Whenever we travel to buy these cotton materials, you will make them understand that it will still need to be processed. This is because under the customs laws if it’s not a finished product, they will allow it. But these Chinese fake Adire are already finished goods, you can’t dye them.

All these fake products are mainly Petrochemical. You will not find it funny if you wear them in hot weather. It has its health hazard unlike those we produced here in Nigeria. How did they enter this country? Is it not through our borders? And it’s not even in small but very large quantities. This means someone knows how these things enter our market. If we want to progress in this country, we need to be frank with ourselves. Do we want to be a producing country or do we want to remain a consuming country?

What is the unique selling point of Ibile Apparel?

The Unique selling point of Ibile Apparel is the creativity and the uniqueness. It has to do with how you are able to think outside the box. I like to experiment and do things creatively in an unusual way. The uniqueness is our selling point.

Ogun state recently declared Adire as the official outfit of the state. To what extent has this contributed to the development of locally made Adire?

It’s a very good thing I must say because a lot of people have been patronizing since then. But the major problem is this imported Adire.

This is because only a few people can recognize them from the original Adire. Because of the poverty in the nation, people do not mind about quality anymore. They prefer something affordable and reasonable to quality and standard.

So they do not really whether it’s the real one or fake one. Though the government of the state has genuine intentions, they should look into these issues of imported and fake Adire that has almost crippled the market.

The implications of not dealing with these issues of imported and fake products are that we will continue to be promoting Chinese goods at the expense of local and indigenous products. This policy is making us create more jobs for China and while  millions of Nigerians roam the streets. This is not going to help our economy in any way.

What is your association doing with the sensitization and enlightenment of local people on the purchase of locally made Adire?

The association is trying its best. But like I said earlier, everything still tickles down to the poverty level of the people.

For instance, the least cost of Adire you can produce is N3000 when this fake one is sold at N2000. So, many people would rather go for the cheaper ones not knowing that what they are buying is fake.

As an association, we understand the plight of the people. But we are trying to let them understand the health implications of buying these Adire.

I should add that we are a little handicapped if the cost of these locally originally made Adire is on the rise due to the unavailability and expensive raw materials.

But if there is appropriate government intervention to ensure that raw materials are available and affordable for average producers, we all sing a new song. I pray and hope that in the nearest future Adire will not be past tense in the history of Abeokuta. The rate at which these imported Adire is flooding the market is very alarming and worrisome. This is not helping the industry neither is it helping Abeokuta and Nigeria as a country.

Why do you think Adire is mostly common in Abeokuta compared to any other place in Nigeria?

I disagree with this assertion. In fact, Adire is mostly common in the Northern part of Nigeria compared to South. If not the security challenges and other crises that are happening across the country, the transactions would have remained same.

People that patronize us are not even in the Southwest. People come as far as Maiduguri, Kaduna and the middle belt like Benue and Port Harcourt to buy Adire, and even outside the country. But things have slowed down because of the security level. Even people in Abeokuta, if not recently due to the state government policy, do not more often patronize Adire compared to other parts of the country.

Many people even come from Lagos to buy. So it’s not true that Adire is only famous in Abeokuta. And my message to everyone outside who will like to patronize Adire is to make sure that it is the authentic indigenously made in Abeokuta Adire. They should watch out for the new baby that is coming out soon called “Aredu.”