By Peter Uzoho
Operators in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, and the maritime sector have hailed the takeover of the Export Free Zones involved in oil and gas activities in Nigeria by the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), saying the development is in line with relevant Nigerian laws.
The stakeholders also applauded the political will demonstrated by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, on their correct interpretation of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Act (NEPZA) Cap No 107, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 and the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act Cap 05 LFN 2010.
They also applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for standing firm on his avowed
determination to correct the wrongs of the past.
Before Otunba Adebayo became the supervising minister, NEPZA had undertaken the functions of OGFZA, which by law, has the oversight responsibility over free zones involved in and gas activities in Nigeria.
In a statement issued at the weekend, the operators, who identified themselves as “Concerned Maritime Professionals,” accused NEPZA of frustrating foreign investments by colluding with few companies, which were scared of competition and hell-bent in creating monopoly.
“NEPZA colludes with paper-weight Lagos-based companies that parade themselves as free zone stakeholders to frustrate foreign investments in the free zones and create monopoly.
“Nigeria is in need of foreign investments due to persisting COVID-19 pandemic and the dipping price of oil; therefore the government’s initiative is laudable in the sense that it would usher in transparent operation of free zones in Nigeria. It will boost more investments and end the era of monopoly in the free zones.
“It has become obvious that NEPZA failed to carry out the role of free zone manager
“It did not encourage new investments and it caused frustration and suffering to existing foreign investors in a bid to satisfy its greed,” the group explained.
The group argued that NEPZA’s activities brought negative image to Nigeria and scared current and potential investors from the free zones.
“NEPZA is the only government agency under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment that gives the minister headache because of its incompetence and previous fraudulent deals.
“Indeed, Otunba Adebayo inherited a lot of mess in NEPZA and has done a lot to clean up the agency and carry out reforms but the agency has continued to demonstrate incompetence in the management of the free zones.
Most of the major international oil companies (IOCs) had also expressed reservations over the alleged monumental fraud, which is an act of economic sabotage.