By James Emejo
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has emphasised the need for the country to ensure effective and efficient functioning of the Export Processing Zones in the buildup towards the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCTA) which is scheduled to kick off by January 2021.
He said Nigeria, must as a matter of national emergency, ramp up industrialisation and manufacturing activities by repositioning the economic zones to attract foreign investments into the country.
The speaker said efforts must be made to remove all bottlenecks in the way of functional EPZs going forward in order to be fully prepare for the AFCTA as well as generate massive jobs for the unemployed youth and enhance our foreign earnings.
Speaking when he received the newly appointed Managing Director, Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, in his office, Gbajabilamila warned that the country faces enormous challenge ahead of the AFCTA implementation particularly in the areas of manufacturing and industrialisation.
He said: “We must act proactively so that we don’t become a dumping ground for other African nations. Our best option in this circumstance is to immediately set machinery in motion to ensure the effective functioning and flourishing of our Export Processing Zones.
“We must remove all bottlenecks and perfect all stumbling blocks. We will then be fully prepared for AFCTA and also generate massive jobs for our unemployed youth and enhance our foreign earnings.”
In a statement by Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Mr. Martins Odeh, Gbajabiamila, also vowed that the National Assembly would give total support towards the revitalisation of the free trade zone.
He said: “As things stands today, we have no choice than to make the free trade zones function productively. How can we compete successfully in a post-Covid-19 world and under AFCTA regime? How can we ensure a sustainable recovery from the pandemic? How can we make Nigeria the number one investment destination? It is mainly by boosting our manufacturing and export capacity, the twin tasks the Export Processing Zones are set up to achieve. We in the legislature will provide legislative and budgetary support to NEPZA to achieve its mandate. “
He said: “I am particularly elated that President Muhammadu Buhari fished out and appointed a seasoned investment professional as the Managing Director of NEPZA. Mr. President made the right choice and I personally convey our appreciation to Mr. President for this.
“I know the new MD very well, his passionate commitment to the sector is never in doubt and his readiness to deliver is well known within the Industry. I urge the new MD to put on his innovative cap by driving the robust functioning of the zones”.
Responding, however, Adesugba expressed appreciation for the pledge of support from the speaker, noting that it would spur him and his team to squarely face the challenging task of enthroning a robust, job creating and wealth making economic zones.
He said: “On behalf of NEPZA, I assure Nigerians that we will take the bull by the horn. We will ensure effective functioning of the zones to generate jobs, wealth and industrialisation in line with the cardinal goals of President Muhammadu Buhari.”