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Investors threaten to divest over free trade zones reform

The investors described the proposed reform as “a ploy to destroy multi-million naira private investment in the free zones”.

Investors in the Nigeria free trade zones (FTZs) have threatened to divest from the zones over a proposed reform by the federal ministry of industry, trade and investment (FMITI).

This is contained in a recent statement signed by Yusufu Abdullahi, director of the Snake Island Integrated Free Zone, Lagos, on behalf of the investors.

Free trade zones are areas in which businesses are exempted from the normal regime applicable in Nigeria, however, the government expects such companies to boost national exports, create jobs and help in diversifying the country’s economy by bringing in new activities.

“It is not possible for private sector investment to be transferred into an unknown unlegislated institution ‘OGFZA’ “

Two bodies were established by the federal government for effective management of the general and specialised free trade zones, which are the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) located at Onne Port in Rivers state.

According to the statement, the move comes as the FMITI had proposed to transfer supervision of such private sector investment from NEPZA to OGFZA.

The investors described the proposed reform as “a ploy to destroy multi-million naira private investment in the free zones”.

They explained that FMITI had directed NEPZA to transfer five selected free zones (Dangote Industries Free Zone, LADOL Free Zone, Snake Island Integrated Free Zone, Tomato Industrial Park, and Olokola Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone) regulated by the authority to OGFZA.

According to the statement, NEPZA refused to comply with the ministry’s directive.

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The investors therefore called on NEPZA’s board to meet with stakeholders “to listen to our concerns on this issue and collate coordinated views and inform FMITI before going to FEC with a memo.

“The course of action is to prevent possible disinvestment in the Free Zone Scheme because the affected Zones are all Private Sector Direct Investment without a single government grants.

“It is not possible for private sector investment to be transferred into an unknown unlegislated institution ‘OGFZA’. White Paper cannot be substitute to National Assembly constitutional powers and authority to legislation.

“In conclusion, Membership of the Committee are Political Office Holders and Public Servants who do not have investment in the free trade zone but are willing to frustrate and destroy billions of dollars of private investment collaboration in the scheme.

“It is self-interest composed Committee that is not ready to advance Nigeria progress and development but advance personal interest”.

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