The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has assured the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) of the State’s preparedness to collaborate with the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) to create an enabling environment that could position Free Trade Zone scheme to drive economic growth through private enterprises.
Sanwo-Olu made the remark when Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, NEPZA’s Managing Director paid him a courtesy visit on Thursday at the Lagos House Marina.
Sanwo-Olu said that the free zone scheme could be used as a catalyst for exports and development, adding that it could become the country’s economic engine room when properly managed.
“What you see around the world is that many countries have been able to turn their free trade zones into a catalyst for export and development. It is only when those kinds of things happen that you can see the real growth of the economy attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and creating a competitive environment.
“Lekki Free Trade Zone is the biggest in the country and for us, it has come into reality. We are indeed happy in term of investment that is coming there and those that would still be attracted to space.
“We are going to partner with Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority to build a good platform for foreign businesses and international direct foreign access to come to this environment and the country and our people would be the direct beneficiaries of those investments,’’ the governor said.
Sanwo-Olu also said: “we can see real growth happening in our economy and we can open up the economy bigger and better than where we get it.”
On forming a partnership with NEPZA, the governor said the need for such collaboration with the federal agency was the right synergy that could move the country’s economy forward.
“I think it will be a big shame for all of us in our own time if we cannot double or triple what we met on the ground. We need to improve on what we met and take it bigger and higher,’’ he said.
The governor further said: “we need to have a zone that is alive that people can see real genuine opportunities and will not constitute a problem to the wheel of progress’’.
“Lagos is indeed ready to collaborate with Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority to create a platform where businesses can thrive in the country because it is a critical authority and an intervention agency that can take this country forward.
“Indeed, if we use the free trade zone scheme very well, it can become part of our developmental strategy. We need to build virile enterprises and begin to look beyond oil. We need to look for other non-oil export and the free zone can give us all that opportunity,’’ Sanwo-Olu said.
The NEPZA said that the Authority had a conspicuous presence in the state, adding that 14 out of 42 free zones in the country were located in Lagos.
Adesugba explained that zones presented huge potentials for economic growth, adding that if fully put to use could provide both direct and indirect employment for thousands of the state’s teeming population.
“We truly need to work together to get it right. Free zones concept should be supported by the government. We are very positive that the collaboration between the agency and Lagos State Government will be helpful to both the state and the country,’’ he said.
In another development, Adesugba had solicited the intervention of the Federal Airport Authority (FAAN) to consider temporarily writing-off rent and other charges for some struggling airline service enterprises operating within the free trade zones scheme at the airports as palliatives for lack of operations occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic.
The NEPZA boss made the remark while on a working tour of Newrest ASL, LSG Sky Chefs Things Remember, Quits Aviation Services, NAHCO and Servair Pan African Catering Service Free Trade Zones on Thursday also in Lagos.
Adesugba also said that it was possible for all enterprises operating in the country’s zones to benefit from the Federal Government palliatives extended to some sectors of the economy.
“I will discuss the possibility with the Honourable Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otumba Adeniyi Ademola if this can be activated through the Presidential Committee on Covid-19.
“Some critical sectors of the economy have benefitted from the largesse.
Enterprises operating in the zones are critical to the industrialization of the country, and therefore, required support at this difficult times,’’ Adesugba said.
He, however, expressed satisfaction how all the companies had comported themselves during this pandemic, adding that it was heartwarming that they had not considered embarking on mass retrenchment which could impact negatively on the county’s unemployment situation.
The NEPZA boss promised to continue to support and partner with the enterprises to solidify the free trade zone concept in the country, adding that all concerns raised by operators would be dispassionately looked into.