Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) appealed to the National Assembly to assist in securing a robust appropriation, to boost the development of Special Economic Zones.
According to a statement issued on Thursday, in Abuja, by Martins Odeh, Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Adesugba made the appeal at agency’s presentation of its 2022 budget at the National Assembly.
The NEPZA CEO explained that ensuring an improved system and re-alignment of the operations of the free trade zone business ecosystem could only be realised by huge investments on infrastructure.
“Infrastructure development in the zones is the ultimate attraction to this concept. We shall not be dissipating too much energy in promoting the concept if the right infrastructures are in place.
“China has about 3000 state-of-the-art free trade zones and has leveraged on them to transform its economy to an enviable form. This is indicative of the socio-economic possibilities embedded in this global concept.
“We need to, therefore, rethink our strategies to improve appropriation and funding of the free trade zones if the country truly aims at using it to accelerate economic growth,’’ he said.
Adesugba pointed out that NEPZA had developed a formidable SEZs structure that could stand the test of time.
“What is, therefore, required is the political-will to substantially enhance its funding.
“If we failed to do this, the country will finally become a dumping ground for goods and services from other African countries due to the current trade liberalisation regime allowed by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
“Nigeria must become competitive by being a producing nation as opposed to being a consuming nation,’’ he said
The NEPZA Boss further explained that part of the country’s economic recovery plans revolved around the development of key special economic zones, and that the scheme could fix a greater percentage of the country’s dwindling sectors, if properly developed.
“The Free Trade Zone Scheme is a wonderful global economic model with the capacity to transform economies, but it is indeed a multi-billion-naira venture.
“Countries that are reaping from this model continually inject funds into it.
“We, therefore, invite the members of the two committees to take NEPZA and the zones as their pet projects.
“I believe the time has come for the members of these committees to also embark on inspection of some private zones, in order to reshape their perspectives on the potentials of this great scheme to change the country’s economic landscape for the better,’’ Adesugba said.
The managing director, however, pointed out that the country’s free trade zones had fared much better under President Muhammadu Buhari’s six-year-old administration than in the last two decades.
He reiterated that while the country was only able to establish two public zones in 30 years, the Buhari administration had laid the foundation for the establishment of additional six.
Adesugba also said that the Authority was appreciative of the president’s relentless push for the upscaling of electricity and other vital infrastructure in the two public zones located in Calabar and Kano.
He noted that the government had also displayed sustained commitment to the free trade zone international regulations by not engaging on any untoward actions that could thwart the smooth operations of the private zones and their enterprises.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sa’idu Alkali, Senate Committee Chairman on Industry, Trade and Investment, has described the free trade zone as a veritable economic intervention scheme that could fix the country’s many economic challenges, if adequately funded.
Alkali stressed that the committee was not averse to ensuring NEPZA got adequate funding for proper development of the scheme.
Similarly, Rep. Femi Fakeye, Chairman, House Committee on Commerce, aligned his position with Sen. Alkali, stating that the committee had enormous powers of appropriation that could empower NEPZA to propel the development of the scheme for the overall benefit of Nigerians.
Fakeye, however, said that the committee would henceforth increase its oversight visits to both the Authority and the zones in view of their importance to national development and growth.