OGFZA, NEPZA, NEZA pool resources to deepen free zones
Stakeholders gathered recently in Lagos to discuss how to make Nigeria’s Free Zone Scheme work better at a summit jointly sponsored by the Nigeria Economic Zone Association (NEZA), the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) and the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA).
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, OtunbaAdeniyi Adebayo, who declared the summit open, said the concern of government with the suboptimal performance of the scheme led to a ministerial audit in 2020, which examined the track records of free zone enterprises and their regulators since the inception of the scheme.
The Minister said the audit report, which was released in 2021, has been used to draw up the right course for the scheme that would soon be put into effect.
The Managing Director of OGFZA, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, delivered a goodwill message to the summit which he described as a timely intervention that should help to produce a roadmap to successfully address the existential problems facing the scheme such as lack of infrastructure; interference by other agencies and institutions in the running of the scheme; lack of proper understanding and appreciation of the scheme by stakeholders; and lack of adequate legalframework to facilitate its operation.
Mr Umana said the challenges cited have undermined the Free Zone sector and blocked it from becoming the vehicle for economic transformation that it was designed to be.
The Managing Director of NEPZA, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba praised the spirit behind the joint hosting of the conference, and called for the same resolve to find solutions to all issues in the way of the success of the Free Zone Scheme.
The summit was attended by the chairman of the interim board of NEZA, Chief Nabil Saleh; representatives of the Nigeria Customs Service, led by Deputy Comptroller General Ekekezie Chinwe; representatives of the Nigeria Immigration Service, led by Deputy Comptroller General Aliru Gisheri; leaders of Free Zone licencees, including Dangote Free Zone, Lagos Eko Support Free Zone, Notore Industrial City, Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone, LADOL Free Zone, Snake Island Integrated Free Zone, and the management teams of federal agencies, including OGFZA,
NEPZA, Federal Inland Revenue Service, and the Central Bank of Nigeria.