By Bennett Oghifo
The Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) has begun the process of implementing the provisions of its enabling law and Federal Government directives ceding regulatory control of all Oil and Gas Free Zones in the country to OGFZA.
A statement by officials of the authority, yesterday, said the information was contained in a letter, dated 17 November 2016, the Chief Executive Officer of OGFZA, Mr. Umana Okon Umana sent to the Managing Director of Lagos Deep Offshore & Logistics Services Limited (LADOL) and to the Managing Director of Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ).
Umana said the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority had “decided to carry out the full implementation of the law and (federal government) directives,” which vest control of the oil and gas free zones in the country in OGFZA.
He informed the managements of both LADOL and SIIFZ that “henceforth their free zones will be licensed and regulated by OGFZA by virtue of the statutory provisions in section 5(2) of the OGFZA Act and other relevant laws as well as other directives of the Government on the take-over of all Oil and Gas Free Zones in Nigeria.” He said the take-over process would take 30 days from 17 November.
The take-over process is to give effect to section 5(2) of the OGFZA Act which states that “The Authority shall have power to takeover and perform such other functions being hitherto performed by NEPZA as they relate to export of oil and gas from any of the Export Processing Zones established by Nigeria Processing Zone Act.”
Secondly, the takeover is in part an implementation of Federal Government directive as contained in the Extraordinary Government Gazette No. 12 (vol. 101) of February 2014 entitled “Free Zones (Monitoring & Regulations) Order 2014.” Section 1(a) (b) of the gazetted Order states as follows: “As from the commencement of this Order, the Authority (OGFZA), in addition to its functions under the Act, shall be responsible for the: Licensing of all Oil and Gas Free Zones located within the Customs territory; and Publication of all operating standards to be observed in the Free Zone from time to time.
“It should also be noted that the Government White Paper on the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies of March 2014 upheld the autonomy of OGFZA and confirmed the mandate of OGFZA “to regulate Oil and Gas Free Zones in Nigeria.”
The statement said, “In spite of the extant provisions of the law and government directives, compliance with respect to a number of Oil and Gas Free Zones was not forthcoming. Because of the non-compliance by a few Oil and Gas Free Zones, OGFZA on 7 February 2008 sought the interpretation of the provisions of NEPZA Act and OGFZA Act from the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as to which of the two agencies was vested with the responsibility for regulating the Oil and Gas Free Zones in Nigeria.
“On 25 March 2008 the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation gave his interpretation of the laws as follows: Para 6: “Consequently, the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority is expected to concentrate on its functions as provided for in section 4 of the Act while Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority should have jurisdiction over Oil and Gas Free Zones in Nigeria.
“Para 7: In line with the contemplation of the 1996 Act, the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, in accordance with section 5(2) of the Oil & Gas Export Free Zones Authority Act 1996, is expected to handover to the Oil & Gas Free Zones Authority, all functions being hitherto performed by it as they relate to the Export of Oil and Gas from any of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones and Free Zones in Nigeria.”
According to officials, “It is for the above reasons that OGFZA has taken the step mentioned earlier to implement the law and the various directives of the Federal Government with regard to regulatory control of the Oil and Gas Free Zones in the country.
“The respective managements of the Oil and Gas Free Zones concerned have been duly informed of the commencement of the implementation process. We expect full cooperation and compliance in the interest of the nation.”