In­side Rivers’shoe in­dus­try man­aged by north­ern youths

Sunday Trust - - FEATURE -

From Vic­tor Har­court

TE­dozie, Port he gi­gan­tic old Daily Times build­ing lo­cated on the pop­u­lar Ik­w­erre Road in Port Har­court of­fers tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion to hun­dreds of Hausa youths who ex­hibit tal­ents in footwear man­u­fac­tur­ing. These youths, mainly from Ji­gawa, Kastina and Sokoto states, have ac­quired and are us­ing skills in the art.

Dif­fer­ent sizes of footwear such as palm san­dals, slip­pers and san­dals de­signed by the youths were on dis­play when our re­porter vis­ited their work­shop at the en­trance of the old Daily Times build­ing. The con­spic­u­ous lo­ca­tion of the work­shop has made their fin­ished prod­ucts a cyno­sure of all eyes as peo­ple come in to pa­tro­n­ise them.

Prior to their re­lo­ca­tion to the present site, the youths were some­where on the same Ik­w­erre Road. How­ever, in the for­mer lo­ca­tion, they were con­stantly ha­rassed and “hounded” by rev­enue col­lec­tors and touts en­gaged by coun­cil of­fi­cials. The ha­rass­ment has de­creased with their re­lo­ca­tion.

De­spite their chal­lenges, one is amazed at the zeal, dex­ter­ity and skills em­ployed in pro­duc­ing the footwear. The se­ri­ous­ness and com­mit­ment shown by these youths leave much to be de­sired.

When our cor­re­spon­dent vis­ited the work­shop, the en­tire premises was frenzy as every­body was busy try­ing to outdo one an­other on the num­ber of foot wears to pro­duce for the day. The unity and love among them is quite un­like is found in other places where footwear are pro­duced.

With the cur­rent in­crease in crime across the coun­try, where many youths are in­volved in acts such as kid­nap­ping, armed rob­bery, oil bunker­ing, pipe­line van­dal­ism, among oth­ers, the ar­ti­sans have taken a right step in ac­quir­ing skills in footwear man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The Hausa footwear de­sign brand came on board in Port Har­court about 14 years ago when a Sokoto-born in­dus­tri­al­ist opened a work­shop in Port Har­court to mend shoes. The busi­ness meta­mor­phosed into footwear man­u­fac­tur­ing where youths from dif­fer­ent parts of the North were en­gaged to ac­quire the skills.

Jamilu Lawan is one of the ar­ti­sans. He said, “I came to Port Har­court in 2009 and some­body in­tro­duced me to this place. I thought it was dif­fi­cult to learn the skill un­til I came close to those that were into the busi­ness. I learnt how the leather was cut into dif­fer­ent sizes, de­signed and gum ap­plied. In 2012, I was able to mas­ter the skill and started pro­duc­ing my own brand.

“I pro­duce as many as 30 pairs of slip­pers of dif­fer­ent sizes on daily ba­sis. We pro­duce all kinds of footwear. We browse the in­ter­net to get de­signs and cus­tomers also give us spe­cific de­signs,’’ he said.

An­other ar­ti­san, Yunusa Ab­dul­lahi, who hails from Ji­gawa State, said he learnt the trade from his brother who had been in the busi­ness since 2000.

“I learnt the skill from my el­der brother. He has been train­ing peo­ple in the art. I learnt the skill in 2014. We get raw ma­te­ri­als from Aba and Port Har­court. Peo­ple come here on a daily ba­sis to spec­ify what they want,” he said.

Ab­dul­lahi said he paid his bills from the busi­ness with­out stress.

Zakariya Bala who hails from Kastina State and is a 200 level stu­dent of the Katsina State Uni­ver­sity said, “I learnt this skill about two years ago. I was born in Rivers State. My par­ents live in Port Har­court. Each time we are on va­ca­tion I use to come here to learn. The skill is not dif­fi­cult to ac­quire once you ded­i­cate your­self to it. I learnt it on part time ba­sis be­cause of school,” he said.

An­other ar­ti­san, Jib­rin Muhammed, from Ji­gawa State, said, “I started man­u­fac­tur­ing footwear about 17 years ago. We work in groups and pro­duce about 30 pairs of dif­fer­ent sizes on daily ba­sis. We are do­ing very well, but our ma­jor chal­lenge is the task force men that come here of­ten to de­mand for one levy or the other.’’

Ab­dul­lahi Garuba who also hails from Ji­gawa State said he ac­quired the skill from Benue State. He said he had been the busi­ness for 18 years and had been us­ing the pro­ceeds to take care of his fam­ily and sib­lings.

He said he trained peo­ple from dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try such: es­pe­cially then Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and peo­ple from the Niger Delta.

He called on both the fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments to as­sist them in the ac­qui­si­tion of so­phis­ti­cated sewing machines that would im­prove their trade.

Mary Peters, the only fe­male trainee at the cen­tre, said she was en­gaged in the trade early last year. She said she hoped to open her work­shop as soon as she grad­u­ated.

Mr. Akam George, who is an ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Footwear Mak­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (FMA), said he and some of his col­leagues had trained many peo­ple in the art.

George said, “We use qual­ity ma­te­ri­als for our prod­ucts. There are var­i­ous cat­e­gories of raw ma­te­ri­als we use. We al­ways en­cour­age our mem­bers to use qual­ity ma­te­ri­als such as good leather and gum. We had cases where peo­ple buy made in Nige­ria footwear and few weeks af­ter ev­ery­thing wears out. There­fore, we use qual­ity ma­te­ri­als. I be­lieve that is the only thing that can sus­tain us in busi­ness.’’

He called on both the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments to as­sist them by pro­vid­ing them with be­fit­ting work­shop that can ac­com­mo­date their mem­bers, as well as pro­vide them with mod­ern work­ing tools.

Dahiru Adamu is the Chair­man of Mile One Footwear As­so­ci­a­tion (MOFA). He said footwear man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness was a prof­itable ven­ture, but ex­pressed re­gret that gov­ern­ment was not en­cour­ag­ing them.

There­fore, he called on gov­ern­ment to pro­vide a big­ger ac­com­mo­da­tion that would take all their mem­bers.

Dahiru Adamu

PHO­TOS:

Mary Pe­ter, a fe­male trainee Vic­tor Edozie

Fin­ished prod­ucts ready for mar­ket.

Slip­pers and san­dals also ready for mar­ket

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