Nigeria paper imports hit N297bn in six months, as mill collapses

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Nigerian paper mills have collapsed years after privatisation, forcing the country to depend on imported paper for its needs.

The data from the National Bureau of Statistics data, revealed that Nigeria imported paper and its allied products worth N296.696bn between July and December 2021.

While paper valued at N188.137bn was imported in the third quarter of 2021, import in the last quarter of the year was estimated at N108.559bn.

A former Chairperson of the Pulp, Paper and Packaging Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Chief Executive Officer of FAE Limited, Mrs Layo Bakare-Okeowo, said the local paper industry was dying and in need of urgent government intervention.

She said, “We need to have a functional paper industry in Nigeria. Egypt has 25 paper mills but how can Nigeria with a bigger population have no functional paper industry.”

Bakare-Okeowo, according to The Punch, said governments at various levels must provide the right enabling environment for the industry to operate.

“This is a sector that has been abandoned. Let us forget about what has happened to paper mills and focus on the crisis in the paper sector. We want the government to save this sector by providing the enabling environment,” she noted.

Nigeria once had three paper mills in the country: the Nigeria Paper Mill Limited located in Jebba, Kwara State; the Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company Limited, Oku-Iboku, Akwa Ibom State; and Nigerian National Paper Manufacturing Company Limited in Ogun State.

But the mills are no longer operating even at half of their capacities.

The NNMC Limited, Oku-Ibokun, is said to have been taken over by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria.

Jebba and Iwopin are struggling. Sources in the sector told The Punch that some of the investors who bought the paper mills from the government since the 2000s had been merely interested in importing papers while claiming to be producing them locally.

“They also did not invest in them. Some of them also did asset stripping,” a source, who did not want his name mentioned, said.

According to a former Director-General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, RMRDC, Peter Onwualu, and Director at RMRDC, Abimbola Ogunwusi, the inability of the three paper mills to work cost Nigeria about N180bn annually.

They noted that the Nigeria Paper Mill, Jebba, produced 65,000 tons of kraft paper, liner and chipboards, sack kraft, fluting media and corrugated cartons per annum as of 1965.

 

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