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Free Trade Zone

NIWA advises to deregister indicted boat operators

By Anthony Areh 

The Lagos Area Office of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) warned boat operators henceforth deregister and withdraw operational licences of indicted operators. 

The warning follows what NIWA described as the disturbing and worrisome boat accidents on Lagos Waterways in recent times. 

The Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Mrs Sarat Braimah, said in a statement that the company would also prosecute indicted operators. 

She said the regulatory agency would no longer fold its arms and watch deviant operators doing things that would result to loss of lives. 

“We have tried to provide the needed enabling environment for the operators, including training programmes to expose them to operational standards yet some have chosen the path of desperation and dangerous behaviours, leading to loss of lives and property.” 

Braimah said that the company had run out of patience with recalcitrant operators, noting that no operator would go unpunished for committing any indiscretion. 

She disclosed that pre-boarding formalities targeted at passengers’ awareness would now form part of the enforcement regime to help stabilize and encourage first timers. 

“Those afraid of water transportation will adhere to safety measures, particularly during turbulence on the waterways. 

“Time has also come for passengers to take responsibility, listen and obey boat crew when emergencies or turbulence occur. 

“Sadly, some passengers go into frenzy and panic mood, triggering fearful alarm and causing bedlam leading to avoidable deaths,” she said. 

According to the manager, detailed take-off protocols, pre-boarding checks and physical inspection of use of life jackets are to be introduced. 

She said also that unscheduled and random checks of boats to ascertain their seaworthiness will be part of the new safety measures. 

“The new dawn will be implemented to the letter with passengers addressed in English, Pigin English and the three major dialects – Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa before take-off. 

“We are going to step up our awareness programme for stakeholders in this month of August and beyond. We are determined to arrest this situation and hereby enjoin all hands to be on the deck,” Braimah said.  

Export authority assures free trade zones of robust engagement

By Chris Ndibe

Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), has assured operators of Free Trade Zones (FTZs) of an active and result-oriented stakeholders’ engagement.

A statement by Mr Martins Odeh Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA on Sunday in Abuja, said Adesugba aknowledged all the knotty issues the FTZs and SEZs operators were facing.

He said that challenges facing efficient operations of the zones could be resolved by productive engagement among agencies with mandate touching on the sub-sector.

“I am committing myself to a well-structured interaction and collaborative partnership with the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Inland Revenue Service and all sister agencies to iron out outstanding issues.

“Our first task is to go back to the basics of why the FTZs and SEZs were set up in the first place.

“We will then proceed to reviewing why the FTZs and SEZs must work at this critical time of looming economic recession.

“It will also interest all stakeholders to note our operating environment now with the imminent coming into force of AfCFTA and associated stiff competition for Foreign Direct Investment,” he said.

Adesugba noted that the zones must work, because Nigeria must manufacture and produce goods for export now more than any other time.

The NEPZA boss also said for Ngeria to manufacture well, investment would be enabled by creating the right climate.

He said that without creating enabling environment, investors would head to other jurisdictions.

“More critically, we need the zones to create jobs and escape the building time bomb created by deepening unemployment.

“So, we have good reasons why other stakeholders must listen to resolve the operational challenges facing the FTZs and SEZs’’, Adesugba said.

The NEPZA chief, while also urging operators to play by the rule, said it was incumbent on all to observe corporate governance and transparency.

He said that such best practice would make the sector become even more attractive.

The statement quoted operators who spoke as expressing relief that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed an all-round professional who had theoretical and practical understanding of the sector to lead the management.

They were quoted as saying that they were elated the management was now led by an industry player.

The operators listed their challenges to include taxation burden, multiple regulatory structures, offshore banking issues, infrastructure deficit, among others.

The NEPZA management and the operators agreed to be holding a quarterly review meeting to resolve operational challenges, the statement said.

Minister inaugurates panel for reforms of Calabar, Kano SEZs

By Chris Ndibe

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Adeniyi Adebayo, has

inaugurated the Transactions Implementation Committee (TIC) for the reforms of Calabar and Kano Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

Members of the committee were drawn from the ministry, NEPZA, Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and BPE, among others.

At the ceremony in Abuja, he said the private sector investment in the Nigerian economy, especially the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), would reduce government’s financial burden.

The ceremony was reported in a statement by Mr Haruna Ibrahim, Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations Unit of the ministry, said that SEZs investment would reduce associated business risks.

According to Adebayo, the private sector will also introduce innovative ideas to the management and operational frameworks of SEZs.

The minister said that such investment would bring about improved performance in the areas of employment generation, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and export promotion.

Adebayo said that there were presently 34 SEZs in Nigeria of which Kano and Calabar SEZs were owned by the Federal Government.

He said that the rest were either privately-owned or joint venture between private and respective state government.

He noted that SEZs had been pivotal in the economic growth and development of several countries, namely; South-East Asia and Southern America including China, India, Brazil and Mexico, using private sector to drive the nation’s industrialisation and economic growth.

The minister added that the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) was established by Decree No. 63 of 1992 to handle the responsibilities of licensing, regulating and promoting free trade zones in Nigeria.

Adebayo urged members of the committee to work assiduously for the accomplishment of the task ahead.

He was optimistic that the proposed concession transaction of the zones would cause a major revitalisation of the Calabar and Kano SEZs and would serve as a catalyst for transforming them into World Class Standard.

Also, the Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr Alex Okoh, emphasised the critical importance of carrying out the national assignment.

He said that the Kano and Calabar Economic Zones were important to the industrial development of the country.

Okoh stated that the two zones would improve export promotion; a good source for FDI and economic growth and development of Nigeria.

More pilot free trade zone reforms experience to be spread across in China

By Xinhua

China’s State Council has issued a circular on the dissemination of the sixth batch of pilot free trade zones reform experience, from the report of Shanghai Securities News on Wednesday.

The pilot reforms to be spread across the country included, 31 reform items of five areas, involving financial opening up, supervision, trade facilitation, investment management and human resources.

Sun Yuanxin, a senior professor on free trade zones of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said that the new items to be promoted cover a wide range of areas and many of them are deeply specialized, reflecting the integration of the institutional innovations.

According to the circular, nine reforms will  be disseminated nationwide in the field of investment management, including the joint filing system of licenses for publication distribution, online distribution, green channel for power project approval and intelligent declaration service for small-scale Value Added Tax (VAT) taxpayers.

In trade facilitation, seven items would be promoted, such as innovation in financial leasing and automobile export, regulation model of bonded goods in processing trade related to plane making industry, return center warehouse of retail cross-border e-commerce and intelligent service for import and export declaration.

In the area of financial opening-up, four items including factoring companies accessing the central bank’s credit information system, green debt financing instrument innovation and securitization of intellectual property rights would be promoted nationwide.

Chen Bo, a professor specialised in free trade zones at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, said that intellectual property securitisation can make intellectual property capitalised and traded, which is conducive to manufacturing industry upgrade and the development of high-tech enterprises.

Another highlight of this batch of pilot reform experience is the facilitation measures for human resource, including the direct recognition of the vocational qualifications of some skilled personnel from Taiwan and a one-stop services platform for personnel crossing the border.