By Favour Nnabugwu
ABUJA — THE Federal Government will soon carry out a comprehensive review of Free Trade Zones operations across the country.
Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, made this known in Abuja, yesterday, during an inspection tour of the manufacturing and trade facilities at Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort in Cross River State.
Aganga, however, noted that the proposed review of the operations of the FTZs was aimed at enhancing their capacity to create jobs, generate wealth and contribute significantly towards the nation’s economic growth and development.
He stated the review of the operations of the FTZs was borne out of the need to align them with the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
He lamented that of about 24 Free Trade Zones located across the country, less than 13 of them were functional, stressing that the review of the operations of the FTZs had become imperative given the new mandate of the Ministry of Trade and Investment to facilitate the inflow of Foreign Direct Investments, wealth generation and employment creation.
He said: “We are going to revisit the concept of the Free Trade Zones across the country with a view to reviewing their operations in order to align them to the Transformation Agenda of Mr. President and the new mandate of the ministry.
in the area of attracting Foreign Direct Investments, job creation and employment generation.
“The objective is to make the FTZs functional and efficient and contribute meaningfully to the country’s drive towards economic growth and development”.
He stated that the inspection of the facilities at the nation’s premier Free Trade Zone in Calabar, had afforded him the opportunity to access the level of implementation of Federal Government’s policies concerning the FTZs adding that the ministry would partner the Cross River State Government; management of the Calabar Free Trade Zone and investors to remove barriers militating against the smooth operations of the project.
He said, “I have held consultations with the Governor of Cross River state, the management of the Calabar Free Trade Zone; Tinapa as well as the manufacturers and investors in the FTZs. We have identified the problems militating against the full optimisation of the full economic potentials of the FTZs and what the government needs to do to help actualize these potentials .
“We have seen the products of the manufacturing companies in the FTZs and the current challenges they face with respect to enhancing their productivity and expanding their operations is very important because if productivity is enhanced, the companies will do more business, make more money and create more jobs. The creation of jobs is very critical to the Ministry of Trade and Investment”
He commended the investors in the Calabar FTZ for their confidence in the Nigerian economy and promised that the Federal Government would put necessary policies in place to boost their capacity utilisation.
He said, “One of the major challenges, which we all can work together to fix, is the idea of appreciating the items that are produced in the FTZs .Nigerians tend to generally feel that the items produced in Nigeria are inferior to the ones we import into the country. Some of the manufacturers that I spoke with confirmed that they find it easier exporting their products abroad than selling them in Nigeria even though these products are certified and meet international standards .
“This is one of the issues that we need to address so that we can have a healthy and supply side.The government also needs to do more to encourage the patronage of these high quality products”
Speaking during the minister’s visit, the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, said that state was ready to partner the Federal Government in order to ensure that the Calabar FTZ achieves its mandate of attracting Foreign Direct Investment, generate employment opportunities and generate wealth both for the state and the country.