By Simon Jooda
The various measures that have been enunciated in recent times by the Federal Government particularly in the realm of rolling out of Executive Orders to eliminate difficulties in the Easy of Doing Business in all sectors of the economy and as such promote Foreign Direct Investment, FDIs, in Nigeria have undoubtedly, been very laudable and forward looking.
However, increase in the level of inflow of FDIs into the Nigerian economy, which should be the positive outcome of deliberate policies, could be a mirage, unless the agencies of government executing the measures carry out their assignments with sincerity and integrity, backed by the requisite political will. They must be seen to be fair and above board .Some of them have not lived up to this expectation.
For instance, the current unnecessary face off being orchestrated against oil and gas giant, Intels Nigeria Limited, INL, by the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, OGFZA, over various matters is portraying the Ease of Doing Business initiative in negative light and acting as a discouragement to the quest to attract FDI into Nigeria.
For the benefit of hindsight, a major issue of contention between the two parties is the refusal of OGFZA to renew the 2017 Operating License for Intels despite paying the licence renewal fee in full.The Free Zone Authority is insisting that INL has to pay all charges and fees demanded by it for the license to be released to INL.
There are also issues of imposition of land charges on INL by OGFZA , nullification of INL’s Industry Wide Standard Tariff, IWST and other port related charges and the OGFZA management’s penchant for conveying to agencies and clients messages that are injurious to INL business interest and reputation and the non-payment for INTELS’ premises occupied by OGFZA at Onne and Heliconia Park Estate.
The consensus in the oil and gas sector is that INTELS 2017 operating license should be released to it in the interest of justice and equity particularly when it has paid the fee while other debts owed it should also be paid so as not to put its business in jeopardy.Lawfully,, since S. 14 of the Free Zone (Tariffs & Other Charges) Order 2015 exempts Concessionaires like INL from OGFZA’s charges , INL should be excluded from the payment of lease charges.
Needless to mention that this development is quite unfortunate and antithetical to the government’s drive to attract FDIs into the country. It is indeed, a distraction and a source of discouragement to prospective foreign investors and the existing ones, who have looked up to Intels as a model of a successful FDI.
OGFZA being a government agency, its negative measures against INL have indeed been a paradox to the role it is expected to be playing in the implementation of the renewed efforts of the Presidency at attracting and boosting investments in Nigeria particularly in the oil and gas sector which is currently the mainstay of the economy.
It should also be realized that Intels, which founder is an Italian has overtime because of its accomplishments in Nigeria not just in the oil and gas sector but also in estates , concessioning projects and maritime , where it has in an enviable way , set up a model port in the country proved to be a very law abiding corporate entity which prospective and existing FDIs have looked up to.
Therefore, OGFZA and INL should urgently enter into discussions with a view to resolving the matters amicably. Politics in whatever guise should be removed from the negotiations while fairplay and transparency must prevail for the interest of the country’s economy. Otherwise, the current actions of OGFZA against INL cannot be said to be encouraging to foreign investors.