Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adabayo
By Soni Daniel – Abuja
Ambitious move by the current Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adabayo, to properly locate companies and parastatals in the Export Procession Zones Authority and the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority has finally received the backing of key stakeholders in the industry who describe the measure as key to make progress in the critical sector of the nation’s economy.
Under the measures being put in place by the ministry, all companies and agencies operating in the oil and gas industry anywhere in Nigeria, are to come under OGFZA while all non-oil and gas-oriented exports firms and agencies are to report to EPZA to remove the confusion that currently reigns in the industry.
Accordingly, the stakeholders have tasked the minister to back up the repositioning project with the immediate amendment of both the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority Act of No. 8 of 1996 and the Export Procession Zones Authority Act of 1992 to pave the way for the seamless operations of the two key agencies of the government.
Key voices in the industry, who have thrown the weight behind the repositioning being spearheaded by the Minister, include: Eko Support Services Free Zone, Lagos; Brawal Oil Services Limited, Onne, Rivers State; and Notore Power and Infrastructure Limited, Onne, Marine Club of Nigeria and the Institute of Export Operations and Management.
Also endorsing the reform initiatives by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) are the president of the Marine Club of Nigeria, Dr Chinedu Jideofo-Ogbuagu and a director in the Institute of Export Operations and Management, Mr. Paul Olalekan Akande.
President of Marine Club of Nigeria, Dr. Jideofo-Ogbuagu and Mr. Paul Akande, a director with the Institute of Export Operations and Management, urged the ministers to institute a technical audit of free zones in the country, as part of the reforms, 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,” Dr Jideofo-Ogbuagu said.
Mr. Seni Edu, chief executive of Eko Support Services Free Zone noted that actions to reposition the sector were long overdue and urged stakeholders to cooperate with the leadership of the FMITI to achieve the right outcome.
Mr. Charles Etugbo, managing director of Brawal Oil Limited, a free zone developer in Onne, Rivers State, described the reform initiatives of the ministry as “a bold and welcome step,” while Mr. Femi Solebo, chief executive of Notore Power and Infrastructure Limited, part of the consortium that owns Notore Industrial City, a free zone developer in Onne, said, “Developments in the Ministry under the new ministers promise exciting period of policy clarity to investors.”
Mr. Solebo said he expects the ongoing reform programme to strengthen investor confidence in the nation’s free zones industry.
It will be recalled that soon after his inauguration as minister, Otunba Adebayo had 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 kicked off with two stakeholders’ forums to mobilise ideas for a bill to amend the OGFZA Act of No. 8 of 1996.
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.