The Federal Government has allayed fears from investors that the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement would affect the operation of the Free Trade Zones in the country.
The Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Prof. Adesoji Adesugba said both the Federal Government and the Authority were leaving no stone unturned at leveraging on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement to boost the country’s trade zones’ competitiveness.
Adesugba, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of NEPZA made the remarks when guiding the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otumba Niyi Adebayo on an inspection tour of the Kano Free Trade Zone.
The NEPZA Managing Director reiterated that the AFCTA presented the country with an exceptional life line to reboot its economy, adding that 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.
According to him, all enterprises operating in the country’s 44 zones were being galvanised to use this trade agreement which commences January 1 to stay competitive and relevant.
He said, “The visit of His Excellency, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otumba Niyi Adebayo to the Kano zone is a pointer to Federal Government’s desire to use the zone as a gateway to swiftly revamp the economy.
“The recent approval of N35.4bn 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 industrialization.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Adesugba re-echoed the challenge of accessing foreign exchange faced by operators in the zones as a result of absence of offshore banking, adding that it was high time the Central Bank of Nigeria accelerated the approval.
He added, “We are in touch with the CBN Committee saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the off-shore banking is in place, but we are, however, soliciting the intervention of the minister for approval to be given without further delay.”
On his part, the minister described the Kano free trade zone as one of the flagships of the country’s free zone scheme, adding that NEPZA had done a lot to keep the operations in the zone going.
He said that the Authority must be supported to carry out its mandate effectively.
Adebayo also explained that the federal government was committed to repositioning the scheme in such a way that the zones would become 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 Calabar zones, the minister urged investors and operators in the two public zones not to fret, as according to him, their interests would be protected during the negotiation of the two deals.