Stakeholders back reform as FG addresses challenges facing NEPZA, OGFZA
Stakeholders operating across Free Trade Zones in the country yesterday lauded the ongoing reform being championed by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo to reposition and strengthen the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA).
The stakeholders noted that the minister deserves commendation for the effort to amend the laws establishing free zones as well as other regulatory changes. In different reactions to the policy actions by the minister, Eko Support Services Free Zone, Lagos; Brawal Oil Services Limited, Onne, Rivers State; and Notore Power and Infrastructure Limited, Onne, commended Adebayo and the Minister of State in the Ministry, Mariam Katagum for taking steps to sanitise the sector while creating a level playing field for all stakeholders.
President of the Marine Club of Nigeria, Dr. Chinedu Jideofo-Ogbuagu and a director in the Institute of Export Operations and Management, Paul Olalekan Akande equally endorsed the reform initiatives by the ministry.
The stakeholder, however, urged the ministers to institute a technical audit of free zones in the country, as part of the reform, to determine their viability and relevance.
“The new dawn being initiated in the nation’s free zones industry should enjoy the support of all stakeholders who had despaired over the confusion and unnecessary bickering of the past,” Jideofo-Ogbuagu said.
The Chief Executive of Eko Support Services Free Zone, Seni Edu stated that the actions to reposition the sector was long overdue, adding that there was need for stakeholders to cooperate with the leadership of the ministry to achieve the right outcome.
Managing Director of Brawal Oil Limited, Charles Etugbo, who is also a free zone developer in Onne, Rivers State, described the reform initiatives of the ministry as “a bold and welcome step.”
Chief Executive of Notore Power and Infrastructure Limited, a part of the consortium that owns Notore Industrial City, a free zone developer in Onne, Femi Solebo, was optimistic that the developments in the ministry under the new ministers would bring clarity of policy to investors.
Solebo said he expects the ongoing reform programme to strengthen investor confidence in the nation’s free zones industry.
Adebayo had, after assuming office, launched processes to amend the principal laws that established both NEPZA and OGFZA to bring them in line with current realities in the industry, and strengthen the two agencies for better performance.
The processes, which kicked off with two stakeholders’ forums to mobilise ideas for a bill to amend the OGFZA Act of number eight of 1996, also was expected to host another forums to tap stakeholders’ inputs for the amendment of the NEPZA Act of 1992 but remained on hold due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
The extant Acts for both NEPZA and OGFZA are more than 20 years old and have been described by stakeholders as long overdue for review to make them relevant in an industry that has changed in many ways since the two laws were enacted. The amendments are planned to also address the question of ambiguity, particularly in the OGFZA law, which has been the source of inter-agency conflicts for years.