The Buhari Administration has suspended the approval of new licenses for the operation of the Free Trade Zones. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Adeniyi Adebayo announced the suspension on Monday at the inauguration of the panel set up for the evaluation of the performance of FTZs.
He said all applications for FTZ licenses will henceforth not be processed pending the completion of the panel’s assignment.
He noted that the key objective of the panel headed by the Minister was to provide a set of recommendations to inform government strategy on FTZs based on a thorough evaluation of the current operations of FTZs.
The minister said the panel would work through context of the terms of references provided to deliver a clear and detailed report within eight weeks of inauguration.
The Panel which also has the Minister of State in the Ministry, Amb. Mariam Katagum as member; is expected to map out and implement clear strategies to evaluate the operations of recipients of FTZ licenses for the purpose of delivering world-class FTZs as expected under the Presidential Priority Projects.
He said that FTZs in the country have not performed to expectations in terms of impacting positively on the industrial development of the country as witnessed in developed countries.
Mr Adebayo said it is unfortunate that while FTZs have been able to serve as catalysts for economic development in other countries, such could not be said in Nigeria.
He blamed the inability of the country to take advantage on the benefits of the FTZs on poor implementation of the policy on Free Trade Zones.
He said that Nigeria presently has 33 licensed FTZ operators in the country but added that due to poor implementation only 12 are operational.
Adebayo said, “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.
“Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment 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.
“Currently the performance of FTZs licensees has been below expectation and this heavily impacts our 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 $500bn annually.”
Mr Adebayo said the sector can be extremely lucrative if executed efficiently, noting that the government would do everything possible to improve the operation of the zones.