By Nkiruka Nnorom
The Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria ( CIPPON), charged with the duty of regulating, controlling and managing the affairs of printers and related matters in Nigeria, has lamented the arbitrary increase in the cost of papers in Nigeria and blamed foreign cartel involved in the importation of paper for the hike.
The President and Chairman-in-Council of the Institute, Mr. Olugbemi Malomo, said the Nigerian printing industry, which employs over 10 million Nigerians within its value-chain, is currently under siege by few foreigners who monopolize the market and make it impossible for Nigerians to freely import paper into the country.
According to Malomo, paper is the biggest raw material and constitutes more than 50 percent of any printing contract, but the cartel has been increasing the prices of papers daily unabatedly.
He said although the Institute recognizes that the price has increased across board due to the rising exchange rate, he explained that the increase in the cost of papers, which is currently around 300 percent, far exceeds the increase in exchange rate.
He added that not only do these foreigners sell papers at higher rates, they also are competing with indigenous printers on the commercial side, taking their business, since most of them are unable to match their prices, thereby raising antitrust issues.
“The consequence of this is that members of the Institute are beginning to sell-off their equipment and lay-off staff almost on a daily basis, due to lack of jobs and the fact that they have to return LPO of the jobs they got but cannot afford to execute due to rising cost of papers.
“Additionally, with the increasing costs in printing due to the progressively unending rise in paper costs, prices of books will go up, and ultimately put critical books and textbooks beyond the reach of students. If this trend continues unabated, there will be massive unemployment that could disrupt the country’s fragile peace,” he said.
On its part, the president noted that the Institute has been engaging the Ministry of Trade and Investments on the need for a lasting solution to scarcity of paper. He added that Nigeria has three papers mills, all of which are completely moribund.
The Institute has made some presentations to the government on suggested short and long-term solutions, which ought to be given consideration without delay.
He added that our neighboring country, Ghana, is already making efforts towards its own paper mill, which will extensively target the Nigerian market. He therefore urged the office of the National Security Adviser to urgently step in to prevent the consequences of massive unemployment in the printing and graphic communication industry.