By James Emejo
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, Monday said the federal government has suspended further issuance of licences for the operation of the Free Trade Zones (FTZs) in the country.
Speaking during the inauguration of the panel set up for the evaluation of the performance of FTZs, he said all applications for FTZ licenses will henceforth not be processed pending the completion of the panel’s assignment.
He said: “It is important to note that FTZs in most developed countries have contributed successfully towards their industrialisation process. The model was adopted by the Asian Tigers and today most countries, including African countries are beginning to key into the idea.
“Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) has begun delivery of world-class FTZs across the country. However, due to poor implementation, we are yet to take delivery of the dynamic potentials of FTZs as an instrument for economic growth.”
Adebayo further disclosed that the country currently has 33 licensed FTZ operators in the country, adding that due to poor implementation, only 12 are operational.
He said the key objective of the panel headed by himself was to provide a set of recommendations to inform government strategy on FTZs based on a thorough evaluation of the current operations of the zones.
In addition, the panel would work through context of the terms of references provided to deliver a clear and detailed report within eight weeks of inauguration.
The investigative panel, which also has the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Mariam Katagum, as member, will map out and implement clear strategies to evaluate the operations of recipients of FTZ licences for the purpose of delivering world-class FTZs as expected under the Presidential Priority Projects (PPP).
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Sayo Ifedayo, the minister particularly lamented that FTZs in the country have not lived up to expectations in terms of impacting positively on the industrial development of the country as witnessed in developed countries.
He said: “Currently, the performance of FTZs licensees has been below expectation and this heavily impacts our ability to deliver on crucial priority areas of the government.
“FTZs are key to the nation’s push towards industrialisation and will have a significant impact on Nigeria’s trade and economic fortunes which is greatly required given the current economic challenges. Globally, FTZs account for 68 million jobs and generate $500 billion annually.
“The sector can be extremely lucrative if executed efficiently and we must aim to improve the operation of our zones.”