A policy group in Nigeria has described the N14.3 billion diversions claims by the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) as an attempt to mislead and misinform the public.
The Global Economic Policy Initiative, GEPIn, said NEPZA is the clearest form of corruption in Nigeria and should be immediately investigated by Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies, EFCC and ICPC.
Speaking to journalists in Asaba, Delta state, GEPIn President, Bernard Okri explained that the N14.3 billion budgeted for Nigerian SEZ Investment Company Limited (NSEZCO) by the Federal Government is only a fraction of what is required for it to take off.
“NEPZA is deliberately trying to mislead Nigerians with the false stories they are putting in the public space and as a seasoned economist, I can tell you that they have managed to get the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment to do their bidding at the detriment of Nigeria’s progress.
Okri explained that NEPZA is a regulatory agency and cannot perform the duties of a facilitator. “NEPZA was established by Act No. 63 of 1992 as an agency of government with responsibility for licensing Free Zones and regulating the Free Zone Scheme in Nigeria. Does their power translate to poking their nose in NSEZCO beyond licensing? That is the questions Nigeria should be asking.
He noted that not many know that NSEZCO the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) is the shareholder, holding the Federal Government’s interest of 25% in NSEZCO while the balance of 75% is currently held in trust on behalf of other prospective shareholders.
“AfDB and other big institutions hold the 75% stake in NSEZCO and they are instrumental to achieving the goals of industrialization in Nigeria. NEPZA is crying wolf over the N14 billion put down by the federal government who owns only 25%, the owners of 75% are going to invest ten times that amount.
Okri explained that because it is a PPP both the federal government and the private entities involved must commit financially to the cause. “What we have here is an agency of government trying to sabotage one of the laudable projects of this administration and I think those behind this should be punished immediately.
“This government cannot say it is fighting corruption and an agency like NEPZA will be allowed to run a corrupt agenda. The agency must be put in its place.
He warned that the agency is frustrating pilot projects in their first phase like Enyimba Economic City in Abia State; Lekki Model Industrial Park in Lagos State and Funtua Cotton Cluster in Katsina State.
“One of the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (ERGP) identified the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as a major strategic tool to accelerate the implementation of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) but what do we have, an agency of government frustrating the ERGP.
“Even worse is the fact the agency is trying to override the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment. The leadership of NEPZA should be suspended in the interest and growth of Nigeria.
Okri argued that the action of NEPZA has sent many investors packing from Nigeria. “How can we grow our FDI when agencies with little or no knowledge of their scope of work frustrating investors. This bottleneck should be removed immediately,” he said.