Executive Secretary of Africa Free Zones Association, Chris Ndibe, has advised the Federal and Borno State Governments to consider developing the free trade zone (FTZ) at Banki, a border town between Borno State and Cameroun.
He said in an interview with THISDAY that if the FTZ 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 more youths would be engaged in gainful employment.
Noting that the Borno State government didn’t do much with regards to operationalising the FTZ, he advised that greater efforts 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 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 recognises 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.”