Free Trade Zones Reforms: Labour Union Petitions President Buhari , Indicts Minister, Board & MD of NEPZA
The Leadership of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing the Minister of Trade and Investment, the Board Chairman, and Managing Director of free zone Authority of a desperate attempt to destabilize the free trade zones.
In a petition signed by Alade Bashir Lawal, its Secretary-General, the ASCSN) said it “forward to you the memorandum on the “Desperate Attempt by the Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo to subvert the activities of the Free Zones Scheme in Nigeria.
“We hereby plead with Mr. President to painstakingly look into this submission and urgently intervene in the matter with a view to saving the country from being ripped off through ill-advised policies that have the potential of satisfying individuals rather than the country as a whole”, the petition noted.
The union further accused the NEPZA Board and the Managing Director of the agency of complicity: “We are very suspicious of the role of the Chairman of the Board, Alhaji Adamu Fanda since he is a close political associate of the Honourable Minister, Otunba Adeniyi Richard Adebayo, and the Managing Director, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba in all these.
“It appears that they were brought to NEPZA as “Undertakers” that is, to supervise the dismembering of the Authority as a body. A few days after their resumption, they, with their cohorts in the Ministry made attempts to transfer some zones to OGFZA. The attempt failed woefully.
“The Managing Director and some of his Directors weré members of TWG. Where were they, when a decision that was to have a far-reaching effect on the corporate existence of NEPZA was being taken? Why would any MD or any of his directors append their signatures to such a report? “, the Union queried.
The union picked holds in the ministerial committee report, which recommended transit of NEPZA responsibility to Onne Oil and Gas Free Trade zone, describing the proposal as an illegal step designed to serve the interest of individuals rather than the nation.
“One of the set goals is to resolve the perceived ambiguity between the two Authorities, namely Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA). There is no ambiguity whatsoever, either in law or operations and if any ambiguity exists, the courts of law are there to resolve the same.
“The recommendation confirms the suspicions of the stakeholders that the entire exercise is just to strip NEPZA of its regulatory mandate and confer same on OGEFZA which had been a long time unwholesome ambition of OGFZA contrary to its enabling law, national objectives, and interest for the establishment of Free Zone Scheme in Nigeria and International Finance Corporation (IFC) who is the major financier of investment in Nigeria Free Zones” the petition affirmed.
“In response to the agitations of NEPZA workers and the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, on the said report, It is important for us to realize that NEPZA was set up by an Act of the National Assembly.
” The reformation of NEPZA is definitely not within the competence of NEPZA’s management. However, NEPZA is aware that there had been discussions on the remodeling of government and government agencies for efficiency from the time of the Steve Oransaye’s Panel recommendations.
“These discussions as far as we are aware are still ongoing and no decisions have been made, nor the enabling laws to effect such changes enacted. With respect to the said report of the committee from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, such report has not been officially communicated to NEPZA and at the right moment, the position of NEPZA will be conveyed by its board to the authorities”, the Managing Director, Prof Adesoji Adesugba said