Nigeria’s three paper mills, the Nigeria Paper Mill Limited [Jebba, Kwara State], the Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company Limited [Oku-Iboku, Akwa Ibom State] and Nigerian National Paper Manufacturing Company Limited in Ogun State have all become inoperational.
The privatization of the companies failed to yield positive results over the years and have since, forced the economy to depend on imported paper for its needs, Naija News reports.
The National Bureau of Statistics has revealed in its latest data 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.
The development is seen as embarrassing and worrisome to know that its African counterpart, Egypt currently has 25 paper mills but Nigeria which has even bigger population have no functional paper industry.
Lamenting the situation, 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, told newsmen during an interview that the local paper industry was dying and in need of urgent government intervention.
She said in her interaction with The PUNCH that Nigeria needs to have a functional paper industry.
Bakare-Okeowo 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.
The three paper mills companies the country had prided itself with are no longer operating even at half of their capacities, Bakare-Okeowo noted.
Naija News understands that the NNMC Limited, Oku-Ibokun, had been taken over by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria.
While Jebba and Iwopin are reportedly not functional.
Experts in the know had told the publication 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,” one of the sources who pleaded anonymity had told the PUNCH.
In his contribution, a former Director-General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, RMRDC, Peter Onwualu, and Director at RMRDC, Abimbola Ogunwusi, have said that the inability of the three paper mills to work cost Nigeria about N180bn annually.
It was revealed 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.
While the Iwopin Pulp and Paper mill, on its part, was built to produce 68,000 tons of fine writing, printing and cultural papers.
On the other hand, the Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company’s newsprint mill had an installed capacity of 100,000 tons of newsprint per annum.
However, the mills have reportedly failed to meet demands due to the country’s lack of capacity to produce major inputs such as long fibres.
Also, dependence on imported long fibre pulp and chemicals as well as epileptic energy supply were critical challenges in the industry.
There are, however, new paper firms that are expanding into investments.
Dahua Paper Company is planning to invest $500m in tree plantation in Ogun State to enable it to get raw materials for paper production. Another is Onward Paper Mill, which recently signed a recycling agreement with Tetra Pak. Bee Paper is also one of the new companies that have sprung up to replace unfunctional paper mills.
It is worthy to know that the paper industry global big business, and a career of firms, including newspaper companies, depend on paper for sustenance.
The global paper and pulp market were $348.43bn in 2019, according to Statista, and this is expected to reach $679bn by 2027, but Nigeria is not in the party.
Many players say the paper industry collapsed after privatisation in the 2000s as due diligence was not done before selling the paper mills’ assets.
A researcher at Nasarawa State University, Zaccheaus Tunde Egbewole, suggested in his paper that “the only and urgent remedy is to put in place machinery for massive sustainable wood production.”
Fibrerther said, “The use of indigenous wood species and agricultural residues should be encouraged for long fiber pulp production. Efforts should further be made for a stable power supply from the national grid to ensure the sustainability of industrial growth most especially in the pulp and paper industries.”