James Emejo in Abuja
The World Bank and the International Financial Cooperation (IFC) have expressed interest in the development of the Akwa Ibom Free Trade Zone project towards the economic benefits of Nigerians.
This is as the acting Managing Director, Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Mr. Bitrus Dawuk also said it hopes to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) to the economy through new partnership with the World Bank and the International Financial Cooperation (IFC), which aims to boost infrastructural development of free trade zones across the country.
The World Bank made its intention known when a delegation from the Bretton Woods institution and IFC paid a courtesy visit on the NEPZA boss in Abuja.
The leader of the delegation, Mr. Feyi Boroffice, had shed light on how the World Bank had been part of the Dangote Refinery and fertilizer plant project in Ibeju Lekki, suggesting the need for a replication of such a massive project across other zones in the federation.
He said: “We are also very interested in the Akwa Ibom Free Trade Zone project which we understand is under your authority’s supervision as we appeal to you and the authority to give us the opportunity to participate in the project for the total economic benefit of Nigeria.
“Just go through the zones, this is exactly development; you have zones and investors coming. A good example is what is going on in Lekki, I don’t think we have ever had an investment of that scale.
“If you look at Dangote complex in the private sector it never happened. This should be over $11 billion to $12 billion, it has never ever happened, this is trailblazing.”
He, however, noted that the regulatory laws of NEPZA, as captured in the 1992 establishment decree presently constituted a major hindrance which needed to be amended to encourage foreign investors and in order to replicate similar achievement by the Dangote Group of Companies.
He, said there should be a legal framework across the zones to improve the union between NEPZA and the World Bank.
Dawuk, however, emphasised the fact that NEPZA’s obsolete legislation which is currently undergoing amendments by the National Assembly,
constitutes one of the bottlenecks militating against optimal performance of existing economic zones, stressing that its amendment was capable of generating billions of dollars of investments into the country.
Nonetheless, he said the authority was ready to collaborate with both institutions to harness the potentials of the free trade zones.
He added: “NEPZA is ever ready to work with the World Bank and the IFC in giving Nigeria a world class free zones as there are already measures in place to review the outdated regulations of NEPZA to make it more favourable for Foreign Investors to come in and invest in the country.
“I will be on your neck from now on, especially in areas of training of my staff for optimum performance.”
Also, the IFC representative, Bambo Kunle-Salami, said what the World Bank does is to provide funding and advice to the public sector and government while the IFC dwells more on Private sectors.
She said: “We do the same thing the World Bank does but what we do is that we only deal with the private companies. We also provide funding and provide advice to private companies.
“So in Nigeria, we have been active for over 30 years. I will just mention a few projects you are aware of. You all know Dangote cement plants, when Nigeria had no cement capacity, we financed that plant from its very beginning, the world zones were able to finance them as well. We as the International Finance Corporation, we deal with the private sector.”