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Stakeholders in the free trade zones sector have described as weak and illogical, the response of the management of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGEFZA) to the regulatory and constitutional issues raised in an editorial published earlier by a Nigerian newspaper- BusinessDay.

The stakeholders, whose reaction is contained in a statement issued under the umbrella of Concerned Free Trade Zones Stakeholders (CFTZS), said OGEFZA’s paid advertorial as response to their allegations, holds no water.

The group has, therefore, called on relevant authorities to urgently intervene in the matter, alleging that the government agency’s desire to expand its mandate beyond its constitutionally allowed scope could spell doom for the country’s already troubled economy.

The excerpt of the statement is posted below:

DECEPTION AND ECONOMIC SABOTAGE BY THE UMANA OKON UMANA-LED MANAGEMENT OF OGEFZA

1. On May 22nd 2020, an advertorial with the caption “Re: Baseless and Malicious publication in Businessday against OGFZA” was published by the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGEFZA) in response to an earlier publication on 21, May 2020, with the caption “Economic Sabotage by the Umana Okon Umana led management of Oil and Gas Export Free Zones Authority (OGEFZA) against select Free Zones licensed by Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA).”

2. The advertorial published by OGEFZA failed to address the core regulatory and constitutional issues raised in the editorial earlier published by The Concerned Free Trade Zones Stakeholders.

3. OGEFZA denied the obvious and in a bid to absolve itself of the glaring indictments, further exposed the truth and established the claims of the Concerned Free Trade Zones Stakeholders, the so called “anonymous group”.

4. Rather than present facts to counter the statement, OGEFZA is playing the victim and seeking to pass itself off as a Federal Government Agency without addressing the issues raised by stakeholders.

5. OGEFZA’s argument is illogical, weak and depicts a panic reaction by a body whose house is conspicuously on fire. This latest response by the Umana Okon Umana led management of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority is a calculated attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians and operators of the Free Trade Zones. Evidently, the management of OGEFZA is not aware of the saying “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones”.

6. OGEFZA has repeatedly sought ways to amend the Act and alter its legal name to “Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority” and conspiring with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to facilitate OGEFZA activity in acquiring coercive monopoly in oil and gas sector of the economy.

7. OGEFZA has once again shown its desperation by altering its legal name, deliberately deleting the word “EXPORT” and deliberately pluralizing the word “Zone” in direct contravention of an extant Act of the National Assembly without a formal amendment of same.

8. OGEFZA seeks to achieve two objectives: to absorb the private sector Free Zones operators in oil and gas logistics services into its fold and under the regulatory framework of OGEFZA and secondly to make Onne, Warri and Calabar ports, the only ports that can import oil and gas cargoes or discharge and load cargoes.

9. OGEFZA’s actions are clearly at variance with the Federal Government’s insistence on due process and it undermines the government’s agenda of positioning the country as a preferred investment hub. Rather than encourage investors, OGEFZA’s current stance antagonizes Free Zone developers and private operators.

10. At a period like this, when the country is facing a looming recession and untold economic hardship occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of the Federal government, understandably, is on growing the economy, boosting foreign direct investment and reducing poverty and unemployment. This is also in line with the mandate of The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to diversify the resource base of the economy by promoting trade and investment with special emphasis on increased production and export, as well as formulate policies that will help create wealth and stimulate the growth of the domestic economy through industrialization, trade and investment.

11. It is therefore important, as a matter of national interest, to draw a line between the illegal agenda of the Umana Okon Umana led management of OGEFZA and the open, free market and investment driven policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of HE. President Muhammadu Buhari.

12. The world is watching, therefore the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and indeed the Federal Government of Nigeria must not be seen to be aiding and abetting this unconstitutional effort of the Umana Okon Umana led management of OGEFZA.

13. This act if left unchecked, is capable of bringing the country to disrepute and sending wrong signals to international investors, financial and trade partners across the world.

14. The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment should disassociate himself from these nefarious plans which are capable of undermining the Presidential declaration and designation of these free trade zones, by annexing to OGEFZA, Private Investments without recourse to the approving Authority, Mr. President.

SIGNED
THE CONCERNED FREE TRADE ZONES STAKEHOLDERS

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