The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) has lauded the Federal Government over its N50 billion allocation in the 2017 budget.
Managing Director of NEPZA, Emmanuel Jime, said the allocation which he described as a departure from the meagre amount given to the organisation in previous years will help it fund key projects.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Jime said the agency has kick started a number of programmes including initiating three new Industrial Parks. The parks, he said will help attract Foreign Direct Investments into the country.
He said the multibillion Naira parks will generate about 30,000 direct jobs and reduce the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria.
Explaining what he had done since assuming office some months ago , the Managing Director lamented that after many years of its existence, the agency which licences and regulates the Free Trade Zones (FTZs) in Nigeria had been unable to attain its full potential because of the perrenial challenge of funding.
He noted that whereas Nigeria had a total of 34 Free Trade Zones, only fourteen of them are functional at the moment. While expressing gratitude to the presidency for the allocation to the agency, Jime explained that though it is in the current budget, it may not solve all the problems of NEPZA. It represents a new level of commitment by the Federal Government towards tackling its funding challenges. He said that NEPZA was only able to attract not more than N2billion budget per annum in previous years.
The NEPZA boss explained that efforts were being intensified to upgrade the basic infrastructure in the Calabar and Kano Free Trade Zones to ensure they provided the needed conducive environment for investors and business growth.
He further disclosed that the agency has decided to adopt the Public Private Partnership (PPP)model in its operations since reliance on line budget funding will not be enough to carry out its mandate in the economy.
He said “We are working in collaboration with some of our foreign partners. Some of the funding is also coming from facilities that we have been able to access through international funding mechanisms.
“We have a partnership right now with General Electric (GE), a prominent power solution company. GE is now located in Calabar and that is a massive boost for what Calabar Free Trade Zone is going to turn into in a short while. The idea is for us to provide our own private source of power not in the way it has been done in the past where everything that was generated was released into the national grid.
“So in the case of Calabar and Kano FTZs, we believe that our partnership with GE will to the production of the kind of power supply that will be sufficient for those firms operating in the two facilities,” he said.
On the perception that the FTZs were facilities that have been encouraging smuggling and production of substandard products, he said that the NEPZA Act of 1992 was undergoing the process of amendment at the National Assembly to make provisions for sanctions on erring firms