As Nigerians are divided over Reps’ move to ban adire importation…

The recent move by the House of Representatives to ban the importation of the adire/kampala fabrics into the country is generating mixed reactions; TOPE SUNDAY writes.

Adire is a Yoruba word from (adi) “to tie” and (re) “to dye.” It’s an indigo reverse-dyed cloth that was first produced and worn by the Egbaland people in the Southwestern city of Abeokuta in Nigeria. The city was historically the centre of cotton production in the nineteenth century. And till now, in Abeokuta, adire business is striving daily in Itoku. Also, Osogbo is also reputed for making adire, but Abeokuta can be best regarded as the commercial centre of adire fabric.

However, the local production of adire also known as Kampala is being threatened by the importation of the fabric into the country.

OBJ raises the alarm

Kicking against the importation of the adire into Nigeria, former President Olusegun Obasanjo on October 25, 2023, urged the federal government to ban the importation of Chinese adire into the country, to save the local market of adire fabric from imminent “bastardisation” by the Chinese.

Obasanjo equally begged the government to do all its possible best to protect local production of adire from the imported Chinese adire and all other things that could be produced locally in the country.

He also appealed to the FG to revive the nation’s textile industries to make the raw materials for adire production available for local manufacturers and made a case for the establishment of a formal training institution where people would learn how to produce adire and be certified at the end of their learning period.

Ogun Assembly too

Also, on December 8, 2023, the Ogun state House of Assembly passed a resolution requesting that the state government put machinery in motion to stem the importation of adire/kampala by foreigners against local production.

 The passage of the resolution followed a motion moved by the Majority Leader, Yusuf Sheriff, seconded by the Minority Leader, Lukman Adeleye, and supported by other lawmakers during the plenary at the Assembly Complex, in Abeokuta

The sponsor, Babatunde Tella, while opening the debate, decried the influx of imported /foreign adire into the local market which had been eroding the rich cultural heritage of the people of the state. 

 He, therefore, called on the Ministries of Trade and Investment, Culture and Tourism as well as Women Affairs to investigate the matter, while pleading with the state government to partner with the Federal Government in assisting the local adire fabric makers to have smooth export of their product to protect the nation’s growing economy.

The Reps move 

In March this year, the House of Representatives also raised its voice against the importation of adire and asked the federal government to ban and criminalise its importation and other locally produced fabric imitations into the country.

The House said the move became necessary to protect the general local cottage industry and conserve the scarce foreign exchange.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion by Afolabi Afuape (APC-Ogun) at the plenary in Abuja, and the House urged the federal government to promote the local adire/kampala fabrics production industry in Nigeria, saying it would protect the general local cottage industry and conserve the scarce foreign exchange.

Moving the motion, Afuape said the influx of foreign imitations of adire/kampala, tie, and dye into Nigeria’s market had negatively impacted the local industry.

This, according to him, has led to a decline in the livelihood of local producers and job losses.

Adopting the motion, the House mandated its Committee on Commerce to collaborate with the National Directorate of Employment to establish formal training and orientation programmes for all local fabric producers.

Mixed reactions

To some Nigerians, adire fabric holds significant cultural and historical value for Nigeria, particularly to the Yoruba people, arguing that it serves as a visual representation of the Yoruba heritage, with each pattern and dye technique reflecting ancestral stories and symbolism. They contend that its importation from international sources threatens to dilute this rich cultural tradition by flooding the market with mass-produced imitations and designs that lack the authenticity and meaning of genuine, locally-made adire fabric.

However, some are of the view that local adire fabric should not be forced down their throats just as they took a swipe at the House of Representatives for its action. 

For Bernard Amarachi, the House of Representatives should not force the use or patronage of the adire fabric on any Nigerian, arguing that it is their choice to either buy local or imported adire.

However, Nwabuike Chidi is of the view that; “However, what I am saying is that they (Reps) didn’t stop you from using your tie and dye, they are just encouraging you to patronise your brother. If Innoson makes SUVs, we will encourage them to stop the importation of SUVs and patronise him.”

On his part,  Olaiya Benson who threw his support behind the call for the ban, requested that okirika clothes and, Tokunbo motor should also be banned.

He said: “They should also ban the importation of Okrika clothes, Tokunbo cars, and Tokunbo planes.”

Kicking against the importation of Chinese adire into Nigeria, Agbukor Desmond, said the development will keep weakening the Naira.

“We are allowing Adire and Kampala fabrics into the country and we are saying the Naira is weak against the US Dollar. God bless Nigeria. While the importation of adire fabric may offer a variety of choices to consumers, it poses a significant challenge to local artisans and craftsmen. The influx of cheaper, machine-made adire fabric from abroad cripples the local market and makes it difficult for traditional artisans to sustain their livelihood.

“This hurts not only their income but also their motivation to continue practicing and passing down their invaluable knowledge and skills to younger generations. The proliferation of imported adire fabric often overshadows genuine, locally produced fabrics that deserve recognition and appreciation. Traditional artisans, who have dedicated their lives to mastering the intricate techniques and designs of adire, are bypassed in favor of cheap imports,” he said.

Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a public affairs analyst, Comrade Olalekan Awojodu, who lauded the members of the House of Representatives for their intervention, the imported Chinese adire fabric will have a negative impact on cultural preservation, local economies, and the erosion of authentic craftsmanship of adire-making in Nigeria.

“This not only undermines their talent, but also diminishes the inherent uniqueness of the craft, replacing it with standardised patterns that lack the depth and cultural significance that authentic adire fabrics possess. Instead of relying on imported adire fabric, Nigerians should prioritise supporting local artisans, dyers, and weavers. By promoting and purchasing locally made adire fabric, individuals can contribute to the sustenance and growth of the Nigerian textile industry, safeguarding traditional knowledge and techniques.

“This commitment will not only preserve cultural heritage but also bolster local economies, creating employment opportunities and fostering a sense of pride and ownership within Nigerian communities.

As the importation of adire fabric gains popularity in Nigeria, it is essential to consider the negative impacts it poses on cultural preservation, local economies, and the erosion of authentic craftsmanship. By shifting our focus towards supporting local artisans and promoting the use of genuine, locally made adire fabric, we can ensure the continuity of centuries-old traditions and foster sustainable economic growth while preserving Nigeria’s cultural heritage for future generations. So, I must commend the members of the House of Representatives for their intervention to ban the importation of Chinese adire into Nigeria,” he said.