Economic Zones Target 350,000 Direct Jobs

Terhemba David Nongo,

James Emejo in Abuja

Acting Managing Director, Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Mr. Terhemba David Nongo, wednesday said about 350,000 direct jobs and over a million indirect employment opportunities would be created when the seven Economic Free Trade Zones (EFTZs) spread aacross the country are fully operational with world-class infrastructure and investments.

He said lack of funding by previous administrations had constrained the viability of both Kano and Calabar free trade zones.

But, he assured that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has since inception improved funding of the free trade scheme with total budgetary support totalling N100 billion.

He added that the funds had been used in upgrading facilities in Calabar free trade zone as well as completing Kano free trade zone, which would soon be ready for commercial operations.

He said the provision of power remained the major obstacle in the operation of both Kano and Calabar zones, adding that about $15 million was required to provide 15 megawatts of power to the duo.

Speaking at an interactive session with journalists, Nongo said the Buhari administration “has given us adequate funds. If we don’t perform, hold us responsible because we are funded but we need to also market.”

He said if the current funding pattern is sustained, “we should be able to complete about four trade zones in two years.”

The current administration had announced plans to establish seven new free trade zones in Lekki, Ilorin, Makurdi, Sokoto, South-east, North-east and Ebonyi.

He also said designs for Lekki, Makurdi, Sokoto and Ilorin zones were almost completed.

Providing further updates on the scheme, the NEPZA boss said products from the free trade zones would be strictly for exports in order to earn foreign exchange.

According to him, Kano free trade zone is expected to be powered by December to commence full operation, adding that a total of N10 billion would be spent on it.

“We want to diversify from oil into manufacturing. That is our plan for the new NEPZA and for the new free trade scheme and it is fully supported by President Buhari. He has given us adequate funds. If we don’t perform, hold us responsible because we are funded but we need to also market,” he added.

He said: “There are two basic things in economic free trade zone which is the infrastructure and legal framework.

“We had the legal framework by then but didn’t have the infrastructure due to poor funding.

“In 1994, the Abacha regime declared Kano as a free zone. Today we are in 2019, which is about 15 years and Kano free trade zone is not yet fully completed.

“Between 1994 and 2015 when Buhari came to power, the funding was nothing to write home about. We did the fence but we could not provide infrastructure because there was no funding.

“President Buhari went to China in 2016 and met the Chinese president who then advised him that if Nigeria must develop economically, it should invest funds in economic or free zones.

“When the President returned to Nigeria, for the first time, since the creation of NEPZA, he made a budget of N50 billion for the free economic zone scheme.

“This money was to be used in upgrading facilities in Calabar free trade zone and also completing Kano free trade zone. In 2018, another provision was made of N50 billion. That’s the first time the scheme was funded in this country.”