The Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Hon. Emmanuel Jime, has said the majority of Nigerians, including sister-government agencies, do not understand the concept Free Trade Zones (FTZs), pointing out that only a massive public awareness programme can remedy the situation.
Jime, who spoke when eminent Benue sons in politics and the professions paid him a courtesy call in his Maitama- Abuja office explained that his familiarization tours of FTZs across the country as well as his interactions with key stakeholders since assumption of office have confirmed his position.
He regretted that decades after the advent of the FTZ concept, NEPZA was still at the level of explaining its mission to Nigerians when it should be concentrating its energies on its core-mandate of economic diversification and fast-tracking the nation’s industrial development.
Speaking further, the NEPZA helmsman said: “The misunderstanding or ignorance about our mandate is a serious matter. It even extends to the legal framework that defines our scope and guides our operations. And because of this pervasive misunderstanding, our work is meeting with needless frustrations or bottlenecks.
“And it doesn’t help matters at all that even those who should know about the mechanics or the dynamics of the Free Zone innovation and should be helping us to achieve its mandate of accelerating industrial growth are among the critical stakeholders that need being enlightened about who we are, why we are doing what we are doing and why they should be cooperating with us rather than what appears to be the competition that we are seeing.”
On the way forward, the managing director said the Authority was planning a roundtable, where all stakeholders would brainstorm and fashion a workable formula that frees the FZs to model those of China and other Asian countries.
“And, as I have said elsewhere, I am careful not to use words like conference or seminar or workshop. And the reason is because such words have been routinized; people associate them with talkshops or jamborees. But what we plan is a heart-to-heart, family meeting that gets to the root of the matter and resolves it, once and for all,” he added.
On when the roundtable holds, JIme explained: “It was earlier slated for this month, but the scale of planning, the logistics and the desire for optimum results may necessitate a slight shift. Management will take a decision on that this week.”
Speaking on behalf of the Benue Delegation, Prof. Terhemba Shija, said their visit was to congratulate him on his well-deserved appointment as well as ask God help him take NEPZA to the next level.