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FG approves 2 Public Free Trade Zones as concession to private investors

by Christiana Gokyo, Jos

The Federal Government has commenced the process whereby two Public Free Trade Zones, located in Kano and Calabar, would be concession to private investors to manage.

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Professor Adesoji Adesugba, disclosed this, while briefing Commerce and Industry Correspondent Association of Nigeria (CICAN), in Abuja, on some of the achievements recorded between 2020 and 2023 when he took over the affairs of the Authority as the Managing Director.

He said, the process for the concession of the two Free Trade Zones is being handled by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).

According to him, the process for concession of the two zones’ earlier attempt was without reaching conclusion level but now the process, being restarted again by the BPE, will allow the private sector to manage them.

Prof Adesugba noted that, “There is the need to put several measures in place to promote industrialization, in order to boost our economy and create more jobs into the country.”

Already, he said, the Authority has a system in place in the promotion of industrialization where it can use Stock Exchange to raise and promote companies or investors coming to set up their businesses in the Free Zone, which he believes will be to Nigeria’s benefit.

He observed that, despite some of the good policies aiming at industrialization by the government, the implementation to carry out such policies is lacking, and assured of the Authority’s readiness to partake in the aggressive implementation to promote industrialization in the country.

According to him, NEPZA has not only set up the Special Economic Zone Security Unit with some of the Management Staff trained by the Directorate of State Security Service to work in conjunction with Department of State Security Service (DSS), but the Authority also sets up a training institute, which is located in Kano, to train not just the Management Staff but all Staff of the Free Zone Scheme to ensure that there is greater knowledge, understanding and synergy between each other.

Prof. Adesugba further explained that the Authority is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to get approval for Offshore Banking process in the Free Zones.

He also stated that, NEPZA is working with Dubai Stock Exchange and Nigeria Stock Exchange as well as the Security and Exchange Commission to put together within the law to have a special list of companies in the Free Zone.

“We negotiated with the committee; we have agreed on the way forward and with this, we are waiting for the Central Bank to endorse the document so that we can have a vibrant free zone capable of being competitive,” he stressed.

Prof. Adesugba elaborated that, “So far, we have 541 enterprises operating in the Free Trade Zones, but we need to be more aggressive in making Nigeria’s free trade zones more enterprising as the target is to have at least 10,000 Free Trade Zones,” adding that, Ogun and Delta are already leading the way.

The Managing Director noted that, “This is very important because these zones are not only services in Nigeria but also the African continent – with over 70,000 jobs being created.”

While commending the Lagos State for utilizing the Free Zones fully, he said that “Out of 30 functional free zones in the country, 18 are located in Lagos, including Lekki Free Zone,” and called on other state governments to borrow the leaf from Lagos State Government and embrace free zones as the only economic development in the country.

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