By Godwin Oritse
National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, has expressed concern over the proliferation of Oil and Gas Free Zones, OGFZs, across the country.
According to the group, the development is against the law establishing such zones.
In a petition to the President, dated December 16, 2016, and signed by its president, the group said the development was affecting employment generation and wealth creation in the economy.
It also said the current legal instrument for the designation and establishment of oil and gas export free zones had been abused, adding that the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act 8 of 1996, section 1 (1), designated the geographical area of Onne/Ikpokiri, Rivers State, as the only Oil and Gas Free Zone in Nigeria.
The group said: “The Act geographically confines the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone to Onne/lkpokiri area of Rivers State, which is specified by the Act as (FREE ZONE) and not zones which, by the provision of the Act, restricts any further designation/declaration of any area as an Oil and Gas Export Processing Zone in any part of the country, except Onne/Ikpokiri.
“The establishment of any other Oil and Gas Free Zone in Lagos, Warri etc, contravenes the provision of Act No. 8 of 1996 that specifies the geographical location of (Onne/Ikpokiri) as the only designated site for Oil and Gas Export Free Zone as prescribed in section1-(l) of the Act.
“Any other Oil and Gas Export Free Zone, apart from the legally designated site in the Act, contravenes the provision of the Act, which, thereby, invalidates the present existing Oil and Gas Free Zones in Warri, Lagos etc.”
The petitioners also pointed out that the port at Onne was not a free port or special purpose port, adding that it was like every other port or terminal in Nigeria, under the jurisdiction of the Nigerian Ports Authority by function, operated by private operators like PTML that is under Greenfield lease agreement, Port and Cargo, APM Terminals etc under concession agreement.
The freight forwarders said Onne Port was contained in second schedule of the Port Act (section 30(2) part 1-(3), while the Free Zone function as contained in section 5(1), excluded the function of the port and was not tied to the port by statute and could not be linked or given special status.
“The Port of Onne is not a Free Port and has no legal preference to be designated as Oil and Gas Export Terminal based on established legal instruments.
‘’There is no provision in any legislation that designates Intels or any other facility in the country as an Oil and Gas Terminal or Port.”