Early 1960s/1970s, the Federal Government established three pulp and paper mills. They are the Nigeria Paper Mill Limited (NPM) in Jebba, Kwara State. NPM was established to produce Kraft paper for the packaging industry. Also, Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company Limited (NNMC) in Oku-Iboku, Akwa Ibom State, and the Nigeria National Paper Manufacturing limited (NNPMC) in Ogun State, was established to produce bond paper.
Based on research, two of the mills (NPM and NNMC) were performing well, operating at optimum capacities. For instance, NPM produced 40,480 tones of Kraft paper in 1985 and 42,960 million tons in 1986 representing 62.3 percent and 66.17 percent capacity utilization respectively. This consequentially reduced the level at which Nigerian Publishers imported paper. Furthermore, the volume of newsprint production rose from 28,927 tones in 1989 to 37,581 in 1990 and due to the optimal capacity utilization of the mill, importation of newsprint reduced to a minimal level. While the third pulp and paper mill (NNPMC) was abandoned in 1983 till the time it was shut down completely in 1998. In addition, the mills depended on imported long fiber pulp, pulping chemicals, management and technical expertise.
Fast forward to 1999, the government decided to improve the pulp and paper mills and directed the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to sell them to private investors by privatizing them hoping to revive the dying companies. But, reverse was the case because the decision later led to the liquidation of the paper mill. In 2006, Jebba paper mill formerly known as the Nigeria paper mill was acquired by MINL, a subsidiary of India’s Manaksia and since then, it has not improved because the owners are recycling paper rather than engaging in activities that would improve its fortune. Also, NNPMC in Ogun State now Iwopin Pulp and Paper Company limited was sold to an indigenous company know as Noxieme Technologies Limited has not improved. Till date, there has been no palpable activity in the company.
In the same vein, the story of the third pulp and paper mill (NNMC) is not different. It was sold to Negris Limited and since then till date, the company has been drowsy.
At the moment, it is reported that the nation is losing 180 billion naira on a yearly basis from the non-performance of the paper mills because Nigerian paper merchants now import paper from overseas and travel to as far as India, Dubai, Turkey and China to print their books. The inactivity of the paper mills in Nigeria also increases the level of unemployment in Nigeria as companies that would have employed thousands of workers are now defunct and jobs that would have been created are lost to other countries. It is our aim at BookRepublic, Nigeria’s foremost book industry magazine, to shine the light to the dark tunnels of the presently challenged industry, one by one, and join hands with relevant bodies to ensure our paper mills are not only resuscitated but work again at its fullest capacity