Stakeholders hail Malami, Adebayo on OGFZA’s takeover of Export Free Zones
Stakeholders in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, as well as the maritime sector have hailed the takeover of the Export Free Zones involved in oil and gas activities in Nigeria by the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), which is in line with relevant legislation.
The stakeholders also applauded the political will demonstrated by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and his counterpart in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, on their correct interpretation of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Act (NEPZA) Cap No 107, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 and the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act Cap 05 LFN 2010.
They also hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for standing firm on his avowed determination to correct the wrongs of the past.
Before Otunba Adebayo became the supervising minister, NEPZA had undertaken the functions of OGFZA, which by law, has the oversight responsibility for free zones involved in and gas activities in Nigeria.
The industry operators, in their separate interviews, accused NEPZA of destroying foreign investments by colluding with few companies, which were scared of competition and hell-bent in creating a monopoly.
Engr. Frank Obi, a freight forwarder operator said, “Even now that government has done the correct thing, NEPZA is busy sponsoring articles by faceless groups against the ministers, and the federal government, instead of accepting that it has failed and embracing the reforms initiated by the minister.
“NEPZA colludes with Lagos-based companies that parade themselves as free zone stakeholders to frustrate foreign investments in the free zones and create a monopoly.
“Nigeria is in need of foreign investments due to persisting COVID-19 pandemic and the dipping price of oil; therefore the Government’s initiative is laudable in the sense that it would usher in the transparent operation of free zones in Nigeria. It will boost more investments and end the era of monopoly in the free zones.
“It has become obvious that NEPZA failed to carry out the role of the free zone manager. It did not encourage new investments and it caused frustration and suffering to exist foreign investors in a bid to satisfy its greed,” he explained.
Another stakeholder who spoke to journalists on condition of anonymity alleged that NEPZA’s activities brought a negative image to Nigeria and scared current and potential investors from the free zones.
According to him, NEPZA’s name is synonymous with failure and incompetence, which drive away investments.
“NEPZA is the only government agency under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment that gives the minister headache because of its incompetence and previous fraudulent deals.
“Indeed, Otunba Adebayo inherited a lot of mess in NEPZA and has done a lot to clean up the agency and carry out reforms but the agency has continued to demonstrate incompetence in the management of the free zones.”
Most of the major international oil companies (IOCs) had also expressed reservations over the alleged monumental fraud, which is an act of economic sabotage.