Stakeholders laud FG’s bid to audit existing free trade zones
Stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime sector have lauded the decision of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment under Chief Niyi Adebayo, to suspend the licensing of new Free Trade Zones (FTZs) and audit the existing ones.
They described the decision by the Federal Government to review FTZs as a welcome development which they said would expose the illegalities perpetrated by some zone managers who allegedly shortchange the Federal Government.
The stakeholders expressed optimism that the outcome of the review would help the Federal Government to cancel the licenses of unserious FTZ managers, and then issue new licenses to genuine local and foreign investors.
In separate interviews with journalists, the stakeholders called on the Federal Government to do a thorough review of the existing FTZs.
They alleged that some FTZ managers through sharp practices, discourage inflow of local and foreign investments in their zones, and then turn around to make false claims of championing investments in the media.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Chief Adebayo recently said the Federal Government had suspended further issuance of licences for the operation of the FTZs.
Adebayo, during the inauguration of a panel set up for the evaluation of the performance of FTZs, had explained that all applications for FTZ licences would henceforth not be processed pending the completion of the panel’s assignment.
He said: “It is important to note that FTZs in most developed countries have contributed successfully towards their industrialisation process. The model was adopted by the Asian Tigers and today most countries, including African countries are beginning to key into the idea.”
The minister said Nigeria currently has 33 licensed FTZ operators, stressing, however, that due to poor implementation, only 12 were operational.
One of the stakeholders and frontline maritime lawyer, Mr Kingsley Omose, said many of the existing FTZs were mere tax avoidance schemes, saying, “They have resulted in huge revenue losses to the Federal Government. So while a review of existing zones is welcomed, the review exercise needs to be thorough.”
Speaking on how the Federal Government should carry out the review, he said, “The Federal Government should make NEPZA the sole regulator of FTZs across Nigeria.”
On his part, president of National Council of Managing Director of License Customs Agents, Mr Lucky Amiwero, said the FTZs were created to generate employment but had failed.
According to some of the stakeholders, some FTZ managers merely secured large expanse of government’s land/swamp as FTZs and thereafter abandon the land to fallow without attracting investors.