By Josephine Isaac
The Nigerian Economic Zones Association (NEZ Association), the umbrella body for Investors and enterprises operating the country’s free trade zones has raised eye brow on news reports credited to Hon Oluwole Oke, Chairman Public Account Committee over purported recovered N17billion from companies operating in the zones, describing the reports as ” falsehood mixed with ignorance.”
Oke was quoted by some news media as revealing alleged recovery of missing N17 billion revenue generated by some companies operating within the Free Trade Zones and presently domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Describing the reports as “a blatant misrepresentation of facts,” the Executive Secretary of the association, Mr Toyin Elegbede said “there was no recovery of any such amount from its members as claimed by the lawmaker,” stressing that “the committee chairman is either misinformed or engaging in deliberate twisting of facts to suit a purpose we are yet to be aware of.”
“From all available facts, the money the committee chairman referred to must have been a mix up of the N15 billion allocated to a company incorporated by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment under the former Minister, Mr Okechukwu Enelamah.
“The said money has nothing to do with loss of revenue. Our members submit annual audited reports to the regulators, NEPZA and OGFZA, both of which review or query such reports,”Elegbede said.
He also faulted the committee chairman on querying the relationship between the operators of the free zones and companies operating under them during the committee’s interaction with the Acting MD of Dangote Industries FZ, adding “we think the committee chairman is misrepresenting what the law says on how economic zones should operate.”
“Each zone has a licenced operator under whom licenced enterprises operate. We will plead that the committee deliberately study how economic zones operate. This will avoid insinuations and blackmail especially when affected enterprises in the zones are operating under tax exemption regulations.
” In the exercise of its powers, we want to note that the National Assembly enacted the laws including the enabling laws of NEPZA and OGFZA which govern the entire economic zones ecosystem. So we cannot claim the public account committee does not know the law. We can only urge the committee chairman to avoid actions and activities that may weaken and discourage the growing foreign investment into Nigeria’s economic zones.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has recorded huge gains in the industrialisation of Nigeria through the special economic zones. We appeal to our lawmakers and all leaders to sustain this growth irrespective of political affiliation”, he said
Mr Toying Elegbede
Executive Secretary, Nigeria Economic Zones Association
Wednesday May 11, 2022.