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 The Federal Government, under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, recognizes the vital role that Special Economic Zones (SEZs) can play in driving Nigeria’s industrial growth. This affirmation was made by Mr John Uwajumogu, the Special Adviser to the President on Industry, Trade, and Investment, during a roundtable meeting organised by the Nigeria Economic Zones Association.

The purpose of the meeting, held on Tuesday in Abuja, was to provide firsthand information to Mr Uwajumogu on the progress, challenges, and prospects of the scheme, as conveyed by the umbrella body representing all free trade zone stakeholders in the country.

Addressing the attendees, Mr Uwajumogu expressed the administration’s commitment to addressing the obstacles hindering the optimal performance of the SEZs.

He emphasized the government’s readiness to collaborate with free zone investors and relevant stakeholders to adopt global best practices within the scheme.

He further emphasized the administration’s determination to prevent the abuse of both local laws and international rules and regulations that govern SEZs.

“The potential for Nigeria to become an industrial hub in Africa, achieving high double-digit growth rates like China did using the scheme, is within reach,” stated Mr Uwajumogu.

He assured the stakeholders that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration fully understands the pivotal role of SEZs in catalysing industrialisation and is actively working to reposition the scheme for optimal performance.

Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Export Zones Authority (NEPZA), highlighted the significance of free trade zones as valuable assets for the country.

 He acknowledged the financial resources required to manage these zones and praised the federal government’s ongoing efforts to address infrastructure deficits within public and private zones across the country.

Adesugba emphasized the need for improved understanding of the scheme among policymakers and revenue generation agencies.

 He urged the new administration to work with the Central Bank of Nigeria to finalise the framework for the establishment of Offshore Banking for zone operators, facilitating easier access to foreign exchange.

Sen. Tijjani Kaura MFR, the Managing Director/CEO of the Oil and Gas Free Zones (OGFZA), described the meeting as a turning point for the sector, noting that Nigeria now has a businessman as its president.

 He commended President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his willingness to utilise the free zone scheme to drive real-time industrialisation, even when other state governors were hesitant to allocate significant state lands for private economic use.

Kaura expressed hope that the scheme would receive strong support and be revamped for the benefit of all citizens.

Prince Adetokunbo Kayode SAN, former Attorney-General of the Federation, emphasized the importance of aligning the work templates of all relevant government agencies in the sector to boost the operation of the scheme.

He also stressed the need for effective marketing of the scheme both domestically and internationally, highlighting its critical role in the survival of the free trade zone ecosystem and other businesses in the country.

Barrister Dele Oye, President of the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mining, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), condemned any agencies or individuals obstructing the scheme, labeling their actions as economic sabotage.

 Oye expressed the readiness of the Organized Private Sector (OPS) to collaborate with the government in exploring viable economic avenues that promote production and exportation, thereby addressing the imbalance in the country’s international trade metrics.

Chief Nabil Saleh, Interim Board Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Zones Association, congratulated Mr Uwajumogu on his appointment as Special Adviser to the President on Industry, Trade, and Investment, citing it as a well-deserved position.

Additionally, Mr Dinesh Rathi, the Managing Director of the Lagos Free Zone, in his presentation on behalf of the association, highlighted the immeasurable benefits of free trade zones and emphasizing the necessity of their continual embrace for the nation’s economic rejuvenation.

The Nigeria Economic Zones Association remains committed to fostering collaboration among stakeholders and promoting the adoption of global best practices within the free trade zone ecosystem.

Together, they strive to harness the transformative power of Special Economic Zones to drive Nigeria’s industrial growth and ensure a prosperous future.