Sunday, 10th December 2023

Nigeria Free Trade Zone @ 30: Milestones and prospects – Part 2

By Martins Odeh and Golda Ukomadu
30 November 2022   |   3:57 am
It is again important to state that the scheme, even with its unparalleled incentives that appear like a comprehensive tax holiday still remains the Nigeria’s economic fulcrum.

Lekki Free Zone

It is again important to state that the scheme, even with its unparalleled incentives that appear like a comprehensive tax holiday still remains Nigeria’s economic fulcrum. 

After all, the overall objective for the adoption of the scheme is to create an enabling environment for export-oriented manufacturing in both the oil and non-oil sectors of the economy, a role it is currently playing very well in spite of some avoidable challenges.

It is, therefore, incontrovertible to aver that the federal government has within the last 30 years benefited enormously from the free zone operations through the consistent inflow of FDIs; DDIs, employment; foreign exchange earnings; technology transfer; and special skills transfer as earlier mentioned.

Interestingly, the prospect of the country’s 30 years free zone is further brightened by the country signing off to the Africa Continental Free Trade Act (AfCFTA) in 2020. It is a new business and trade agreement with 54 African countries merging into a single market of 1.3 billion people.

This agreement, with the merit of enhancing sustainable markets, will create an economic bloc with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion-dollars while generating a combined consumer and business spending of $6.7 trillion-dollars by 2030. 

Nigeria is, therefore, focused on using a variety of its economic frontiers, including the free zone to leverage on this agreement to expand its trading routes across the continent. 

To this end, NEPZA and OGFZA are beginning to activate their individual action plans to ensure that the country’s free zone lead the citizens to economic prosperity going forward.

This resolve is already being displayed by Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, the NEPZA’s Managing Director/CEO, who shows no hesitation in drawing more investments into the Authority’s free zone net having recently agreed to a partnership deal with Binance and Talent City to float the first Virtual Free Trade Zone in Africa. The Authority is seeking to use this new brand zone to break new grounds to widen the country’s economic opportunities.

The NEPZA’s boss’ singular goal is to engender a flourishing virtual free trade zone that will take advantage of the near $1 trillion-dollars virtual economy in blockchains and digital economy.

Adesugba’s performance and achievements within just two years as helmsman of the Authority are too numerous and commendable and these accomplishments occured because of his firm focus and knowledge of the free zone concept. 

This thoroughbred investment promoter has also recently encouraged the licensing of the Hydropolis Free Trade Zone in Kainji, Niger State where an initial capital of 1 billion-US-dollars shall be committed to its development.

The zone, described as first of its kind in the North Central region, shall be a replica of the Lekki industrial corridor. The positive impact this multi-billion-dollar business ecosystem will bring on the economic and social life of the people can only be imagined.

In a similar vein, OGFZA has made an enormous impact on the development and economic growth of the country since its inception in 1996.  Basically, its vision is to be that premier agency of government responsible for promoting, securing and sustaining investments in the nation’s oil and gas free zone. 

On the other hand, the Authority has the mission to facilitate public-private partnership investments as a vehicle for promoting accelerated growth and development.

So far, OGFZA has grown the number of its free zones and volume of investments by licensing more investors and new oil and gas free zones namely: 
Onne/Ikpokiri Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State, 1996
Warri Oil and Gas Free Zone, Warri Port, Delta State, 2011  
Brass Oil and Gas City, Brass Island, Bayelsa State, 2015  
Eko Support Services Oil and Gas Free Zone, Apapa Port, Lagos State, 2015
Notore Industrial City, Onne, Rivers State, 2018
Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone, Akwa Ibom State, 2020
Bestaf Maritime Industrial Oil and Gas Free Zone, Kirikiri, Lagos State, 2022.

Today, OGFZA boasts of having the largest Oil and Gas Free Zone in Africa. It has in its profile, the Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone, located in Akwa Ibom State with 50, 216 hectares cutting across six local government areas. Also, OGFZA’s flagship Oil and Gas Free Zone Onne in Rivers State has been adjudged the “Most successful free zone in the world.’’

The Oil and Gas Free Zones (OGFZs) have helped to deepen the economy of Nigeria by providing specialized regulatory supervision and services, thereby repositioning the country as a leading player in oil and gas activities in Africa and have attracted major International Oil Companies (IOCs) who use the free zones as hubs for their business transactions covering the entire Gulf of Guinea to Southern Africa.

From the above, one can see how OGFZA has also ensured that enterprises under its supervision continued to lubricate the country’s economic wheel. For instance, as at 2015, investment inflow into the free zone represented 65.5 per cent of total investment of the nation. Little wonder the agency has its cabinet filled with local and international awards such as Specialism Award, Bespoke Incentives and Large Tenant Awards from 2017 to 2022. These are all fDi awards, a Magazine of the Financial Times of London.

In 2019, OGFZA also received the Award of Excellence in Productivity and Innovation in e-government from the National Productivity Centre. This year, OGFZA again, emerged tops alongside two other agencies on the PEBEC’s Ease of Doing Business ranking crowned as the most efficient agency of government; a feat the Authority has maintained these past years. 

To further propel the Authority to deliver more, the president in July appointed Sen. Tijjani Kaura, MFR; as its Managing Director/CEO to succeed Chief Umana Okon Umana, now Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Kaura has told everyone who cares to listen that his tenure would be to grow the inflow of investments in a torrential manner with strict focus on corporate governance, transparency, accountability and due process.

In conclusion, it is alright for these two agencies to roll out the drums to celebrate, but whilst doing so, the government and other vital collaborative agencies helping to nurture the scheme should brace up to eliminate all superfluous tendencies preventing the country from realizing the full potentials of this global business concept.
Odeh is head, corporate communications, NEPZA
Ukomadu, is head, corporate communications, OGFZA