The Federal Government has said that the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority’s (NEPZA) accelerated initiatives at designating willing Universities as Special Economic Zones was aimed at speedily reconfiguring the country’s academic environment to match with global trends and competitiveness.
Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, the Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, made the remark while playing host to Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode SAN, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation and Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, MD/CEO NEPZA in his office on Tuesday in Abuja.
Adebayo said that the country’s industrialisation process could become much more prolific and all-encompassing when the country was able to coordinate its universities to also operate as profitable industries through the free zone scheme.
“The MD NEPZA has given a brief background of what this is all about and let me assure you that it is something that the federal government will be interested in.
“It is indeed a unique idea to be able to make the academic institutions have the freedom to breakaway from the over-dependence on government for funding. Once this initiative gains popularity, universities across the country will become centers of not only human capital development but of wealth creation.
“I am delighted with the strong partnership the university of Abuja has created with NEPZA and the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) to pull this project through.
“You have to move fast so that we can get all things sorted out as quickly as possible. I will, however, like to assure you that you have my 100 per cent support.’’ the minister said.
On his part, the VC said that the visit was a follow up to a preliminary technical session held with NEPZA recently, adding that the both parties had worked assiduously in ensuring that the project was realized at the short possible time.
Na’Allah explained that the project required the blessing and support of the minister and the federal government, adding that the designation of the university as a special economic zone would not only put an end to our history of incessant strikes, but would transfer enormous wealth into the hands of all members of the university community.
He said further that the university was endowed with a number of solid minerals at commercial quantities, adding that opening the campus space for external investments using the free zone concept would be a landmark achievement.
“We want the university to become the richest institution in Nigeria. We will open the space for tourism, estate, mining, agriculture, car production plants, dairy farms, light rail services etc. Our proximity to the city and the airport makes movement seamless. This is our thinking, this is our project,’’ the VC said.
Speaking, Kayode also former president of ACCI, and Head of the Technical Committee, expressed delight to be part of the project.
He said that the ACCI had sourced sufficient investors and international financial bodies that had bought into the project.
“We are expected to reconfigure the way the country’s universities are run using the university of Abuja as a pilot scheme.
“We have been to some of the great universities around the world and seen that those institutions have direct influence in the development of their host cities. This is what we want to replicate here.’’ Kayode said.
You may recall that NEPZA and the Ekiti State Government are working on processes to establish the “Knowledge and Technology Special Economic Zone’’ in Ado Ekiti, just as it received an application from the Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti (ABUA) for a similar project.
The NEPZA boss, therefore, said that the Authority was on the verge of showing how the university and chains of industries could jointly be operated within same location to enhance the country’s industrialisation process.