Honourable Emmanuel Jime is the Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA). Though newly saddled with the responsibility of promoting exportation and free trade zone in the country by President Muhammadu Buhari, Hon. Jime does not need a lengthy introduction because he has built reputation in political spheres of Benue State and Nigeria at large, having served as a member of House of Representatives from 2007 to 2015, representing Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency. Economic Times, Nigeria’s Factual Economic Magazine, caught up with him at the just concluded 2017 management retreat organised by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in Markudi, Benue State capital where he opened up on his very ambitious plan of maximizing benefits and coverage of Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Nigeria. His enthusiasm about creation and licensing of private FTZ to boost investment, industrialization and sustainable growth of the economy are here captured by the Managing Editor, Yusuf Issa An-Nuphawi. Excerpts:
We understand that this management retreat may likely introduce innovation into the existing framework of NEPZA. What is your position on this?
Thank you. First of all, I want you to know that I am new in this office. I assumed the office just three weeks ago. However, what we are doing now is appraising of good work of my predecessor so that we can have very clear understanding of where to start and make NEPZA great. I’m lucky, I have a strong management team that I met on ground.
What are your immediate plans for NEPZA and how do you intend to achieve them?
Many people don’t understand the major statutory functions of NEPZA, many don’t know of free trade zone. NEPZA is responsible for promoting and facilitating local and international investments into licenced Free Zones in Nigeria. The Authority has licensed 34 FTZ across the country. Some of the Zones cater for a specific area of economic enterprise while others are more general in nature. There are currently over 300 licenced Free Zone enterprises operating in the various Zones across the country. We want to create more awareness about NEPZA, get more states and organised private sectors understand benefits of FTZ so that they can explore it for economic growth.
How do you intend to make NEPZA attractive to investors and state governments?
Let me tell you something very important, NEPZA provides rewards and incentives for different types of the Free Zones. We have different types of free zones; Export Processing Zones, Free Trade Zones, Border Free Zones, Export Farms, Science and Technology Parks, Tourism and Resort centers, and other more specific specialised Free Zones. By the time they key into any of these, they will benefit from tax waiver, tax holiday and other incentives.
The Federal Government is committed to actualization of its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), how do you intend to support the government in that direction?
We want to get more states involve in FTZ. We are passionate about what we do. Within a year or two we can deliver the real advantages of free trade zone in the country. Partnership with the state governments and organised private sectors who are interested in free trade zone is important. For now, there is no any private owned FTZ in the country, we want to register and issue as much as possible licenses to interested private organisations. A zone can be operated by the public or private sector or a combination of both. It is our responsibility to ensure that our client’s operational and strategic objectives are realised through responsive, cost effective and efficient services and instant pragmatic solution to their needs. Therefore, by getting more states and private organisations involved, more jobs are created and the government’s revenue will also increase.
What are the procedures for registration of FTZ?
You will get licensed to operate FTZ through application and approval. The President has the sole authority to declare a free trade, however, what NEPZA does is to facilitate the application and exercise the order of the President. Benue State, for instance, has applied to us and now awaiting the Presidential approval. We are encouraging other states to also come forward and explore FTZ. China’s economic magic is anchored around its innovations in the FTZs. And this is why we must market the concept to all industry stakeholders so as to remove all misconceptions, close all gaps and do away with red tape so that our FTZs can attain the roles envisioned for them in the regulatory framework.