The Federal government of Nigeria has commenced a review of the Act establishing oil and gas free zones authority in the country, a move meant to remove irregularities, ambiguities and enhance effectiveness in the sector.
At a stakeholder’s meeting to review the OGFZA Act, Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo called for stakeholder’s input to ensure there are no imperfections in the sector. The meeting was organized by the ministry to examine and improve the law through an amendment bill that would reposition the agency.
“Nigeria is the pioneer in Specialised Economic Zones (SEZs) with the establishment of the first oil and gas free zone Act No 8 of March 29, 1996, in Onne, Rivers, which was supervised at the time by the then Ministry of Commerce,” Adebayo said. OGFZA was created by the government to promote investments in the nation’s oil and gas free zones.
The minister noted that the need to review the Act backing the agency is based on the experience and observation that it required a serious evaluation to remove ambiguities and inconsistencies, achieve clarity and enhance effectiveness.
Over the years, inadequacies in the act led to avoidable inter-agency conflicts and hampered OGFZA in the execution of its mandate, hence the decision to create a platform to engage stakeholders for the best possible outcome, the minister added.
Adebayo urged the focus to suggest pathways for the legal framework that would make the act the most effective oil and gas free zone regulatory agency. The ministry will also look at the situations in all the agencies it supervises with a view to “repositioning them for the important task of developing the non-oil sector.”
Umana Okon, OGFZA Managing Director, expressed worry over imperfections in the act which was put in place 24 years ago. According to him, without an appropriate legal framework, it cannot exercise its mandate appropriately.
Okon urged the stakeholders to look into areas such as concession of taxes, supervision, and conduct of export free zones, licenses permit and tax incentives for investors. The review, therefore, would attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into the nation’s oil and gas free zones.
By Ahmed Iyanda.