Experts in the maritime sector have backed the suspension of license issuance for new Free Trade Zones (FTZ) by the Federal Government while undertaking audit of existing ones.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, recently announced the suspension of licence for new FTZ.
While inaugurating a panel to evaluate the performance of FTZs, he said until the panel completes its assessment, the suspension remains.
Some of them said the review of the FTZ may expose the infractions at the zones.
A maritime lawyer, Mr. Kingsley Omose, said many of the existing FTZs are mere tax avoidance schemes. He said the government should adhere to the law of the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and regulations establishing FTZ. “The federal government should make NEPZA the sole regulator of FTZ across Nigeria.”
President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licenced Customs Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, said FTZs were created to generate employment but have failed to attain that.
“Free Trade Zone is backed by the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but the suspension is for the government to know if illegalities existed in the Free Trade Zones. This is because the FTZ was created by the government to create employment, wealth and for industrialisation and to improve the nation’s economic fortune. That has not happened,” he added.
A member of the Nigerian Port Consultative Council (NPCC) who spoke in confidence however urged the Federal Government to scrap existing FTZs and issue policies that will ensure that Nigeria is not short-changed by the future FTZ managers.