By Francis Ogwo
The issuance of licences for the operations of Free Trade Zones (FTZs) across the country has been suspended by the Federal Government.
This was made known by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Chief Adeniyi Adebayo, during the inauguration of the panel set for the evaluation of the performance of FTZs, on Monday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a statement by the Special Assistant on Media to the Minister, Ifedayo Sayo, quoted Adebayo as stating that all applications for FTZs licences would not be processed pending the completion of the panel’s assignment.
Adebayo noted that the key aim of the panel was to provide a set of recommendations which would improve government’s strategy on FTZs, subject to evaluation of their current operations while adding that the panel would also look at its other terms of reference to provide a clear and detailed report in 9 weeks of inauguration.
The Minister also pointed out that the Minister of State in the ministry, Mariam Katagum, as a member, has been mandated to create key strategies that would evaluate the operations of the recipients of FTZs licences which according to him would help in delivering world-class FTZs, as expected under the Presidential Priority Projects (PPP).
“It is important to note that FTZs in most developed countries have contributed successfully to their industrialization process. The model was adopted by the Asian Tigers and today, most countries, including African countries, are beginning to key into the idea. Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), has begun delivery of world-class FTZs across the country.
“However, due to poor implementation, we have yet to take delivery of the dynamic potentials of FTZs as an instrument for economic growth.”
Adebayo lamented that 33 FTZ operators were issued licenses in the country but only 12 are operational due to poor implementation stating that the current performance of FTZ licensees was not encouraging and not meeting key government priorities.
Note that the Free-Trade Zone refers to an area within which goods may be landed, handled, manufactured or reconfigured, and re-exported without the intervention of the customs authorities.
It is only when the goods are moved to consumers within the country in which the zone is located that they become subject to the prevailing customs duties.
The FTZs are very critical for the country’s industrialization and account for 68 million jobs with $500 billion revenue generated annually.
Some of the functional FTZs in the country include Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone, Lagos Free Trade Zone, Lekki Free Zone, Newrest Airline Services & Logistic EPZ, Dangote Industries Free Zone, Ladol Free Zone, Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) among others.