By James Emejo
The federal government has commenced a process that will lead to the review of the legal framework of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) Establishment Act 05.
The move is expected to reposition the agency for optimal performance and maximise opportunities for the country.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, said the Act required, “serious look over to remove ambiguities and inconsistencies in order to achieve clarity and enhance effectiveness”.
Speaking at the opening of the FMITI stakeholders’ forum for the amendment of the OGFZA Act, he said the inadequacy of the Act had also led to avoidable inter-agency conflicts and hampered the authority in the executive of its mandate.
He said Nigeria was the pioneer in specialised economic zones, having established the first oil and gas free zone under Act 8, of March 1996 in Onne, Rivers State, adding that the country occupies the pride of place in a global industry that boasts of no fewer than 5,383 special zones as at 2019.
But Adebayo expressed regret that despite the foresight of pioneering the niche industry of special free zones, the inadequacy of the law empowering the regulatory agency for the economic zones had not allowed the country to reap optimal benefits.
He added: “This forum represents the search for a solution to the paradox of the first becoming the last, of good thinking being marred by poor execution.
“The paradox becomes more obvious when seen in the context of countries such as the United Arab Emirates, China, and Turkey to name but a few, which operates both the specialised and non specialised free zone regulatory models with better results than countries that operate the single regulatory model.”
He said the success story in the countries cited leverage on the superiority of specificity and specialisation which Nigeria pioneered through the OGFZA Act but had unfortunately failed to take full advantage.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Mariam Katagum, said the review was necessary to reduce the challenges and constraints faced by the OGFZA which plays both a strategic and catalytic role in economic development particularly in employment creation, contribution to GDP, zero oil plan, skills development and industrialisation and technology and innovation.