Amending the principal laws establishing the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA, and Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, OGFZA, to remove the flaws will benefit all Nigerians, managing director of OGFZA, Okon Umana, has said.
Speaking in Onne, Rivers State, during an interactive forum with editors on Friday, Mr. Umana said the contention over the ongoing attempt by the National Assembly to amend their foundation Acts were not necessary.
Mr. Umana said the attempt by the lawmakers has come at the right time when the federal government was focused on diversifying the economy.
Apart from deepening specialization and efficiency in the oil and gas sector, he said the amendments would strongly encourage investment in the non-oil sector.
“l expect that when the amendments are passed, they would remove all imperfections in the two laws, thereby putting both OGFZA and NEPZA on the right path to fulfilling their mandates for the good of the economy and overall benefit of Nigerians,” Mr. Umana said.
With oil and gas as the mainstay of the country’s economy, he said Nigeria had realised the need for a specialised free zone specifically for the industry to provide a base to support operators.
The bill to effect the amendments, which has already passed first and second readings in the National Assembly, is facing serious resistance from some persons who appear threatened by prospects of an independent entity to regulate operation of a free zone for oil and gas sector.
However, Mr. Umana, who was appointed late last year to spearhead the management of the agency, wondered what the real motive of those opposing the review of the legal franework was.
“What is the interest of those trying to stop the review of a law that is not perfect and has been in operation for over 20 years and is overdue for a review?
“If they support the review of the law establishing a sister agency to remove inherent flaws, why are they opposed to OGFZA also doing so to strengthen its mandate?” he asked.
The managng director used the occasion to present OGFZA’s recently unveiled three-year strategic roadmap aimed at growing investment in the oil and gas free zones by 50 per cent.
He said the roadmap, which spells out the goals, vision and values that would drive its operations, highlights how its mandate would be realised as the premier government agency for the promotion of investment in the nation’s oil and gas free zones.
One of the ways to attract more investments in the free zones in the country, he pointed out, included to create more access to OGFZA through its repackaged website and bi-weekly newsletter to enhance interaction with existing and prospective investors.
With the oil and gas free zones already a success story, with more than $20 billion worth of investments attracted to the country since inception, and more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs created, Mr. Umana said plans were on to establish more of such zones.
“Apart from the Warri oil and gas free zone, we are working to establish three free zones in Ibaka, Ibeno and Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State. We are also looking at a location in Delta state for another free zone.
“We are determined to ensure that Nigeria benefits maximally from all the oil and gas free zones in the country. We have already taken steps to provide the right foundation to ensure effective and efficient service delivery to our clients in line with global best practice,” he said.
On the revenue side, the OGFZA boss said between January 2010 and December 2015, the Nigeria Customs Service generated about N143.2 billion from the oil and gas free zones alone, while the Nigerian Ports Authority raked in $2.1 billion and N19.3 billion.
The drive for new investments in the zones, he explained, would be facilitated by a corporate culture of integrity, respect for investors, due process, transparency, accountability and passion for customer-centric engagement with investors.