By Justice Ilevbare
The Federal Government on Mondays suspended issuance of licences for the operations of Free Trade Zones (FTZs) in the country.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Chief Adeniyi Adebayo, announced this at the inauguration of the panel on the evaluation of the performance of FTZs, on Monday in Abuja.
A statement by the minister’s Special Assistant on Media, Ifedayo Sayo, quoted him as saying that all applications for FTZs licences would not be processed until the completion of the panel’s assignment.
Adebayo said that the key objective of the panel, headed by him, was to make recommendations that would inform government’s strategy on FTZs, based on thorough evaluation of their current operations.
He said that the panel would also work its other terms of reference to provide a clear and detailed report within eight weeks of inauguration.
According to him, the panel, which also has the Minister of State in the ministry, Mariam Katagum, as member, will map out clear strategies to evaluate the operations of the recipients of FTZs licences.
This, he said, would help in delivering world-class FTZs, as expected under the Presidential Priority Projects (PPP).
The minister noted that FTZs in the country had not performed to expectations, especially in terms of impacting positively on the industrial development of the country, as being witnessed in developed nations.
“It is important to note that FTZs in most developed countries have contributed successfully to their industrialisation process.
“The model was adopted by the Asian Tigers and today, most countries, including African countries, are beginning to key into the idea.
“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 have yet to take delivery of the dynamic potentials of FTZs as an instrument for economic growth,” he said.
According to Adebayo, Nigeria presently has 33 licensed FTZ operators, adding, however, that only 12 are operational due to poor implementation.
He said that currently, the performance of FTZ licencees had been below expectation, thus heavily impacting on government’s ability to deliver on crucial priority areas.
“FTZs are key to the nation’s push towards industrialisation. Globally, they account for 68 million jobs and generate 500 billion dollars annually.
“The sector can be extremely lucrative, if executed efficiently and we must aim to improve the operations of our zones,” the minister said.