The Senate Committee on Trade, Industry and Investment has urged the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) to vigorously push for the amendment of its Act to tie all loose ends in its mandate of regulating the country’s free trade zone scheme without further delay.
Chairman of the committee, Sen. Francis Fadahunsi, made the remark during an oversight visit to some free trade zones in Lagos.
The free zones visited are: Quits Aviation, NAHCO, ASL, Pan African, LADOL and Snake Island Integrated FZ.
The committee is scheduled to continue the tour of Lekki FZ, Lagos FZ, Dangote FZ and Eko Atlantic FZ between Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Fadahunsi said the excavation of perennial crisis between NEPZA and the Onne Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) must be put to rest, adding, that the existing laws that established both agencies gave them distinct functions.
He explained that: “going by NEPZA Act 63 of 1992, the Authority is bestowed with the sole mandate of regulating the Nigeria’s Free Trade Zone Scheme. NEPZA by this Act is a regulatory body.”
The chairman of the committee, however, explained that OGFZA was also a creation of the parliament in 1994 with a clear mandate to operate as a zone in the downstream sector in Onne and Okpokri in River State.
“If the agency wanted to enlarge its powers to cover the entire country, the operators should also come up with a bill seeking amendment of the Act. OGFZA has never been a regulatory body’’, Fadahunsi said.
He said the committee was more concerned with the two agencies performing their duties to grow employment and revenue for the government, adding that the regular squabbles were clear act of economic sabotages that government would no longer condone.
Meanwhile, Fadahunsi expressed satisfaction with the huge contributions of zones and their enterprises to the national economy, adding that the new NEPZA management had ignited the return of confidence and passion of the operators of the scheme.
According to him, while the committee will insist on the operators remaining faithful with payment of levies to the relevant agencies of government, it will, however, ensure that the business environment is made less cumbersome to operate in.
Fadahunsi further said that the zones and enterprises should frequently adopt back-up integration where local partnerships were encouraged for speedy transfer of technology and economic growth.
Other members of the committee on the trip were Sen. Ishaiku Clinton Abo and Sen. Tolulope Adebiyi.
The two senators had also expressed confidence in the scheme, describing it as a worthy business model that could truly fast track the country’s industrialization if maintained diligently.
On his part, Alhaji Adamu Fanda, NEPZA’s Board Chairman, said the Authority would perform better if placed under the supervision of the Presidency, saying that was the position in all of the countries where the scheme had succeeded.
“The United Arab Emirate adopted this scheme in 1987 while Nigeria embraced it in 1992, leaving UAE to just be ahead of us with just five years. UAE has used FTZ to attain inconceivable development strides but our case is different’’, Fanda said.
He, therefore, said that it was high time the government contemplated ceding the operation of the scheme to the private sector while still reserving its regulatory powers.
“The country’s free trade zone can only be successful like those of China and UAE if built on cost benefit analysis. It will be more profitable with the private sector taking full charge while NEPZA supervises.