By Chris Ndibe
Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, the Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), has inaugurated a 14-man Freedom of Information Act Committee as a measure to scale-up compliance level in ethics and governance.
The Committee that will interface with the public on behalf of the organisation on issues bordering granting of information by Section 2 of the FOI Act is in line with government’s specifications on ease of doing business.
A statement on Wednesday by Mr. Martins Odeh, Head of Corporate communications in NEPZA, reported Adesugba’s expectation that the new development would place the Authority on integrity weighing scale.
Adesugba added that the move would also enhance transparency, integrity, accountability, and due process.
“Presently, the Authority has against it, two pending lawsuits for inadvertently failing to respond to demands for information by the litigants, just as we have numerous such requests that are yet to be treated.
“I am calling on those who instituted the lawsuits to withdraw same following our moves to do things differently. I also plead with those whose requests are yet to be processed to bear with us.
“I have gone through the FOI Act, and I can see that the Act can easily be breached because of the limited number of days one is expected to respond, but we must comply with the law. The committee will henceforth be responsible for the receiving and processing of requests within the stipulated period of seven days.
“I am seeking an understanding of the public as we are prepared to do things differently to ensure full compliance with the FOI Act. I had upon my resumption, visited the Nigeria Investment and Promotion Commission, NIPC that had always ranked very high in Ethics and Governance Compliance, and we intend to adapt their template, and beat them to it in a short time.
“I have, however, seen that the NEPZA website is static. We need to redesign it to give room for more information to be put out. The public is always eager to know about the accounting procedure, budgeting, procurement process, contracts bidding process and such other aspects that can likely heighten public incredulity. The public has the right to know what we do here,’’ Adesugba said.
He said the committee members would be trained to increase their capacities in tracking information within the system with the view of releasing same to the public, stressing that talks were underway with the Ethics and Governance Institute from the Federal Ministry of Justice to build the capacity of the committee.
Meanwhile, the new NEPZA boss had tasked the Authority’s branch of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN to join forces with the management in delivering on the agency’s mandate.
Adesugba said this in a meeting with the Comrade Samari Yakubu-led Executive to discuss the challenges and prospects of the organisation.
The NEPZA Chief Executive explained that the union must redirect its focus from “combative” to “developmental” unionism, adding that the agency had a primary mandate of stimulating production, creating jobs, generating revenues, generating Foreign Direct Investment, FDI and industrialising the country.
“We, therefore, required a workforce that can key into our mandate, so the government’s expectation on the organisation to kick start the economic recovering process affected by COVID-19 pandemic was not eroded,’’ he said.
Adesugba further said he was strategically laying a foundation for the establishment of some specialised free zones in the non-oil sector with medical and agricultural products leading the pack, adding that the two sectors have robust value chains that can quickly re-energise the economy.
He said NEPZA’s current staff need was not more than 350, adding that: “I wonder why a previous administration recruited an additional 270 people, who are being paid and have no offices or assignments’’.
Adesugba further said: “ we will have to think out of the box to engage these young recruits in our effort to ignite the country’s industrialization. We hope to use some of the unutilised recruits in investor relations and marketing’’.
He said staff welfare would be given serious attention as doing so, would enhance productivity and industrial harmony.
“I am also a comrade and a second generation of the labour movement. My father, Comrade Sampson Adesugba was Secretary-General of the Post and Telecoms Workers Union for ten years and President of the same union for another ten years, and he was one of the founders of the Trade Union Congress. At a point, he was the oldest labour leader in Nigeria.
“On my part, I was once the Chairman of the Industrial Arbitration Panel, resolving labour disputes in our dear country. So, I have a full grasp of what we all want, with the ultimate goal of developing our country for the benefit of all Nigerians. I need your commitment to work and support us all to succeed,” he said.
Yakubu, had expressed delight on the appointment of Adesugba as the Authority’s substantive managing director, stating that his enviable track records in public and private sectors had automatically endeared him to the staff.
He also explained that the MD’s years of experience in free zone conception, investment promotion and management positioned him as the right person to reposition the organisation, adding that the union had unflinching commitment toward his success.