By James Emejo and Folalumi Alaran in Abuja
The Managing Director/Chief Executive, Nigeria Export Processing Zones (NEPZA), Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to fastrack approval for the establishment of offshore banking to enhance the operation of free trade zones in the country.
He emphasised the challenge of accessing foreign exchange faced by operators in the zones as a result of absence of offshore banking.
Speaking when he guided the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo on an inspection tour of the Kano Free Trade Zone (KFTZ), he said although the authority was in touch with the CBN committee saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the off-shore banking comes to fruition, “but we are, however, soliciting the intervention of the minister for approval to be given without further delay.”
In a statement by Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Mr. Martins Odeh, Adesugba said, the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCTA) presented the country with an exceptional life line to reboot its economy.
He said there was no better time to take advantage of the lofty opportunities provided by the agreement for countries in Africa to seamlessly trade among themselves.
He added that all enterprises operating in the country’s 44 zones were being galvanised to use the trade agreement which commenced January 1 to stay competitive and relevant.
The NEPZA boss said the visit of the minister was a clear indication that the federal government was keen on utilising the zones as a gateway to swiftly revamp the economy.
He said: “The recent approval of N35.4 billion by the federal government for the improvement of electricity infrastructure in both Kano and Calabar free trade zones remains a stride that shows President Muhammed Buhari’s confidence in the scheme’s ability to fast track the country’s industrialisation.
“The authority remains grateful to both the president and the minister for this great feat. As can be seen, the Kano FTZ remains viable in spite of the power challenge.”
On his part, however, the minister described the Kano free trade zone as one of the flagships of the country’s economic zones scheme, adding that NEPZA had done a lot to keep the operations in the zone going.
Adebayo said the authority must be supported to carry out its mandate effectively.
He added that the federal government was committed to repositioning the scheme to make the zones attractive, more profitable and competitive in order to maximally draw from the benefits accruable from the AFCTA.
On the planned concession of the Kano and Calablar zones, the minister urged investors and operators in the two public zones not to fret, adding that their interests would be protected during the negotiation of both deals.