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Association denies N17b revenue recovery from free zone companies

By Anthony Otaru, Abuja
12 May 2022   |   1:41 am
The Nigerian Economic Zones Association (NEZA), has described as ‘falsehood mixed with ignorance’, reports making the rounds and credited to the House of Representative, Public Committee chairman, Oluwole Oke ....

The Nigerian Economic Zones Association (NEZA), has described as ‘falsehood mixed with ignorance’, reports making the rounds and credited to the House of Representative, Public Committee chairman, Oluwole Oke over purported recovered N17billion from companies operating in the zones.

Oke was quoted by some news media to have revealed alleged recovery of missing N17 billion revenue generated by some companies operating within the Free Trade Zones.

The reports also quoted him as saying that the alleged funds are presently domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The denial is contained in a statement signed yesterday by the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Economic Zones Association, Toyin Elegbede in Abuja.

The umbrella body for investors and enterprises operating within the country’s free trade zones, described the reports as “a blatant misrepresentation of facts”, as Elegbede said “there was no recovery of any such amount from its members as claimed by the lawmaker.

He stated that the committee chairman must have been either misinformed or engaged in deliberate twisting of facts to suit a purpose its members are yet to be aware of.

“From all available facts, the money the committee chairman referred to must have been a mix up of the N15 billion allocated to a company incorporated by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment under the former Minister, Okechukwu Enelamah.

“The said money has nothing to do with loss of revenue. Our members submit yearly audited reports to the regulators, NEPZA and OGFZA, which review or query such reports,”Elegbede said.

He also faulted the committee chairman for questioning the relationship between the operators of the free zones and companies operating under them during the committee’s interaction with the Acting MD of Dangote Industries FZ, adding “we think the committee chairman is misrepresenting what the law says on how economic zones should operate.”

“Each zone has a licenced operator under whom licenced enterprises operate. We will plead that the committee deliberately study how economic zones operate. This will avoid insinuations and blackmail especially when affected enterprises in the zones are operating under tax exemption regulations.

“In the exercise of its powers, we want to note that the National Assembly enacted the laws including the enabling laws of NEPZA and OGFZA which govern the entire economic zones ecosystem. So we cannot claim the public account committee does not know the law. We can only urge the committee chairman to avoid actions and activities that may weaken and discourage the growing foreign investment into Nigeria’s economic zones.

“The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has recorded huge gains in the industrialisation of Nigeria through the special economic zones. We appeal to our lawmakers and all leaders to sustain this growth irrespective of political affiliation”, he said.