The Nigerian government has suspended the issuance of licences for the operation of the Free Trade Zones (FTZ) in the country.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, announced the decision on Monday at the inauguration of the panel set up for the evaluation of the performance of FTZs.
He stated that all applications for FTZ licences would henceforth not be processed, pending the completion of the panel’s assignment.
Adebayo noted that the key objective of the panel led by him was to provide a set of recommendations to improve the government’s strategy on FTZs based on a thorough evaluation of the current operations of FTZs.
He noted that the panel would work through the context of the terms of references provided to deliver a clear and detailed report within eight weeks of inauguration.
The panel, which also has as a member the Minister of State in the ministry, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, will map out and implement clear strategies to evaluate the operations of recipients of FTZ licences for the purpose of delivering world-class FTZs, as expected under the Presidential Priority Projects (PPP).
Adebayo was worried that FTZs have not performed to expectations in terms of impacting positively on the industrial development of the country as witnessed in developed countries.
“It is important to note that FTZs in most developed countries have contributed successfully towards their industrialization process; the model was adopted by the Asian Tigers and today, most countries, including African countries are beginning to key into the idea,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Sayo Ifedayo.
The minister added, “Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) has begun delivery of world-class FTZs across the country.
“However, due to poor implementation, we are yet to take delivery of the dynamic potentials of FTZs as an instrument for economic growth.”
He disclosed that Nigeria presently has 33 licenced FTZ operators in the country but only 12 were operational due to poor implementation.
According to the minister, the performance of FTZs licencees has been below expectation and this heavily impacts the ability to deliver on crucial priority areas of the government.
“FTZs are key to the nation’s push towards industrialisation and will have a significant impact on Nigeria’s trade and economic fortunes which is greatly required given the current economic challenges. Globally, FTZs account for 68 million jobs and generate USD 500 billion annually.
“The sector can be extremely lucrative if executed efficiently and we must aim to improve the operation of our zones,” he said.