The Senate Committee on Trade, Industry and Investment has described Dangote, Lekki, Alaro City, and the Lagos free zone which constituted the Lekki mega free zone quadrant and the Eko Atlantic free zone as multi-billion-dollar national assets.
Sen. Francis Fadahunsi, Chairman of the committee said this while the committee members rounded off their four-day oversight tour of the trade zones on Thursday in Lagos.
Fadahunsi said the business enclaves which haboured sea ports, oil/gas refinery, ware-houses, tank farms, logistics firms, real estates, manufacturing firms, world class medical centres as well as factories of various dimension would in no time begin to reflect in the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) significantly.
He explained that the country’s political leadership, relevant agencies of government and the public must be made to fully accept the free trade zone concept as socio-economic growth accelerator.
``We are amazed with the level of multi-billion-dollar investments attracted to the Lekki free zone quadrant which habours various mega projects of global magnitude.
``The committee is particularly happy with Alhaji Aliko Dangote and the other investors for considering Nigeria worthy to host those economic empires.
``The prospects of these mega firms will significantly improve the lives of Nigerians and the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) when fully operational. With this development, a new Nigeria is about to evolve’’, Fadahunsi said.
He further said the private operators and their investors in the bid to establish those zones committed huge resources to first reclaim implausible hectares of land from the sea and ocean, adding that the development also saved parts of Lagos from the regular threats of those large bodies of water.
``For instance the Eko Atlantic free zone is an amazing engineering masterpiece that has saved lives of citizens and their businesses in Victoria Island and the Lekki axis of Lagos. We were told the zone is capable of generating over 250,000 jobs when completed.
Fadahunsi also said: ``the investors need our support as the government has no option than to provide enabling environment and favourable legislation for the free trade zone to succeed in Nigeria’’.
On the prevention of zones’ operators from accessing foreign exchange, Fadahunsi promised that the National Assembly would ensure that the Central Bank of Nigeria granted the permit for the establishment of offshore banking for them to access forex without inhibition.
He said continuously denying zone operators and their businesses to access forex was inimical to the desire of government to use the zone scheme to industrialise the country.
Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone (NEPZA), who led the committee members to the zones, reiterated that the Authority was on a clear mission of ensuring that the zone concept succeeded in Nigeria.
Adesugba said the long-term benefits accrual to the nation from the scheme if allowed to grow would surpass the immediate temptation of using the enclaves to forcefully generate revenues.
``We have seen how countries that adopted that concept had widen their development skyline without putting undue pressure on the operators.
Free Trade Zone remains an independent country and operations there are exempted from taxes and levies. However, if their operations extend to custom’s areas, the tax exemption privilege is suspended. This is how the system plays out’’, the NEPZA boss said.