Executive Secretary of Africa Free Zones Association, Chris Ndibe, has advised the Federal and Borno State Governments to consider developing the free trade zone at Banki, a border town between Borno State and Cameroun.
He said in an interview with THISDAY that if the free trade zone had been in operation, the Boko Haram insurgency would not have happened.
Ndibe suggested that putting it into operation as quickly as possible will stem further tendencies to engage in violent activities as many more youths will be engaged in gainful employment.
Noting that the Borno State government didn’t do much with regards to operationalising the free trade zone, he advised that greater effort be invested in that direction.
He also wants concession of Tinapa and Kano free zones to commence in earnest while all other free trade zones in the country should be reactivated. To achieve this seamlessly, he suggested the involvement of private sector investors to partner with the government.
Ndibe also urged the government to revisit the act establishing the free trade zones authority, noting that having been set up by a 1992 act, the enabling legal framework is overdue for review. He said in some climes, such acts are reviewed every five years.
According to him, that of Nigeria shouldn’t be different.
He also spoke on the report of a workshop held in Calabar which extensively discussed the need for a separation of regulations function of the board from management function in the running of the free zones scheme.
According to Ndibe, the communique from the workshop stated that incentive for the zones should be aligned with other laws to avoid conflict.
Some of the resolutions are as follow:
*Create a governance achievement with business setting in mind and that knowledgeable persons and free zones experts to form members of board of the Free Zones Authority.
*The Nigeria Customs Service and other relevant agencies should be directed to evolve a processing system which recognizes free zone as a one-stop shop where bureaucracy is minimised and commercial activities fast-tracked.
*Lack of trust between Customs and Free Trade Zone Authorities has affected the growth of the free trade scheme.
Ndibe stated that AFZA was against the establishment of NIDZA “for it has nothing to do with FTZ or oil and gas trade zone.”
He added : “The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, through its Nigeria Content, should develop appropriate synergy with the free zones in order to ensure that their activities promote the achievement of significant local content in the oil and gas industry.”
The communique also suggested: “There is the need to stipulate, as a matter of policy, that the free zones should produce a comprehensive master plan as a precondition for recognition. This will ensure the orderly development, phase by phase, of such zones in line with national policy objectives. “
In particular, it said Tinapa should be revived by appointing a free zones development and management consultant to manage it, adding that the process of its privatization ought to have started.