James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo, yesterday said the federal government had suspended further issuance of licences for the operation of the Free Trade Zones (FTZ).
Adebayo, during the inauguration of the panel set up for the evaluation of the performance of FTZs, explained that all applications for FTZ licences 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.”
According to him, the country currently has 33 licensed FTZ operators, and that due to poor implementation, only 12 are operational.
He said the key objective of the panel, which he is chairing, is to provide recommendations to inform government strategy on FTZs based on a thorough evaluation of the current operations of the zones.
In addition, the panel will work, based on the terms of references, to deliver a 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 a member, will map out and implement strategies to evaluate the operations of recipients of FTZ licences for the purpose of delivering world-class zones as expected under the Presidential Priority Projects (PPP).
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Sayo Ifedayo, the minister expressed concern that the country’s FTZs have not lived up to expectations by impacting positively on the industrial development of the country as witnessed in developed nations.
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 USD 500 billion annually.
“The sector can be extremely lucrative if executed efficiently and we must aim to improve the operation of our zones.”