Calabar Free Trade Zone
By Jude Okwe
Investment at the Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ) between inception at 2001 and 2011 stands at N24 billion, even as 34 manufacturing companies are currently operating at the zone, THISDAY has learnt.
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Dr. Sina Agboluaje, revealed this in Calabar on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of CFTZ.
A breakdown of the companies doing business at the nation’s premier export processing zone showed that seven companies are providing services, four into enterprises trading in various line of businesses, five firms in oil and gas, others at various stages of development, while seven companies are under construction.
He said in the last ten years, CFTZ recorded direct employment of 2,727, and indirect employment of 5, 373; making the zone to have a total staff strength of 8,100, noting that this number will increase by the time the seven companies under construction take off.
Agboluaje acknowledged that the achievements of the zone may not have met the expectation of members of the public, but pleaded with them “to understand that the terrain in which we operate has been somewhat difficult, that is why we seek your cooperation and patience so that we can nurture this project to its adulthood”.
The managing director expressed confidence that “the economic magic this scheme has achieved in turning the fortune of many economies around will also happen in Nigeria. With the creation of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment headed by Dr. Olusegun Aganga and Dr. Samuel Ortom, the future is bright and hopeful.”
Other achievements recorded in the last one decade include the acquisition of 70 hectares of land at Odukpani for the construction of a truck park; attraction of the presence of Globalscan (inspection) agent; Standard Organisation of Nigeria; National Oil Spill Detection and Regulatory Agency (NOSDRA); National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA); the Police, Nigeria Customs Service, and State Security Services.
He said despite these modest achievements, CFTZ has not been without challenges, and listed them to include the June 12, 1993 annulment of the presidential election which scared foreign investors away; ban on logging of wood in Cross River State resulting in five companies that use wood as raw materials to close shops, and the initial ban preventing companies from selling to the Nigerian market..
According to him, following a new regulation authorising sale of goods produced at the zone in Nigerian market, a glut in investors soon ensued, resulting in the problem of inadequate land to accommodate them; shallowness of the Calabar seaport preventing bigger vessels from sailing in; overlapping of statutory responsibility of NEPZA and other government agencies.
The CFTZ also lacks “understanding of the workings of the scheme and its operations by other government agencies that are organic to Free Zone operations”, the managing director further revealed.
“With the initial 152 hectares of land exhausted, the government of Cross River State graciously granted approval for additional 68 hectares, which brings the total available land to 220 hectares. Even the additional land had long been fully allocated, though infrastructural facilities such as roads and erosion control are yet to be fully provided in the extension site”, he added.
The foundation stone of the CFTZ was laid by President Ibrahim Babangida in November 1991 while ten years later (November 22, 2001), President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated the N3billion project.