The Centenary City Project and Free Zone Disparity in Nigeria
The recent shameful ranting by some failed politicians led by Dr. Cairo Ojougboh against the Centenary City Project and their caustic political mudslinging against the champion of the project's well-planned development in the person of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, have indeed thrown up critical national development issues worth examining.
The Centenary City Project was one of the Legacy Projects initiated by the Federal Government as part of activities to celebrate Nigeria’s 100 years anniversary as a nation. The SGF, Senator Anyim, was directed by then President Goodluck Jonathan to coordinate the activities for Nigeria’s Centenary Celebration and the Centenary City as a purely and wholly private sector driven programme without any financial involvement by the Federal government.
The due process followed in securing land for the Centenary City Project is well documented and the records are available at the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA. Moreover, the entire transparent process and steps taken to establish, register and incorporate Centenary City PLC have been copiously documented publicly.
Also a public knowledge are measures used in: appointing and inaugurating Centenary City PLC’s Board with His Excellency Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), GCFR as Chairman, hiring its management. Also widely known are the withdrawal of the SGF as the Facilitator of the Centenary City Project after the inauguration of its Board, the groundbreaking ceremony of the Centenary City Project, the granting of a Free Zone status to Centenary City by NEPZA, and the commencement of the Centenary City Project by its principal developer – Eagle Hills International Properties LLC.
At present, the Centenary City PLC is a public limited liability company owned by forty-one well known, credible and verifiably organizations from Nigeria, UAE, and USA, and duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). And at US$18Billion, it is indeed the biggest single private foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria ever.
Clearly in my view, the Centenary City initiative of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration will remain one of the most outstanding legacies any administration will ever leave behind in Nigeria. Even when it has become fashionable to deny every achievement of the immediate past administration and denigrate and disparage everybody who served in it, the Centenary City will stick out as one well thought out, carefully planned, methodically implemented and socially and economically rewarding initiative of any government in Nigeria.
Nonetheless, one of the issues thrown up by the recent controversy is that The Centenary City Project was duly applied for and granted Free Zone status by the President at the recommendation of the Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Pursuant to the transformative economic programmes of the Federal Government, the activities of the Authority have been strengthened and this has led to the establishment of 34 Free Zones spread 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 licensed Free Zone Enterprises (FZEs) operating in the various Zones across the country.
Since the inception of the scheme, Nigeria's economy has witnessed tremendous patronage and steady growth through FDI inflow and revitalisation of local industries.
The Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) administers the incentives for all the variants of Free Zones ranging from Export Processing Zones, Free Trade Zones, Border Free Zones, Export Farms, Science and Technology Parks, Tourism and Resort Centers, and other more specialized Free Zones.
A Zone can be operated by the public or private sector, or a combination of both. NEPZA’s cardinal objective is to ensure that the operational and strategic objectives of free zone operators are realised through responsive, cost effective and efficient services and instant pragmatic solution to their needs.
ON GOING REFORMS at NEPZA
Nigerian economic reforms have succeeded in reshaping the investment climate with tremendous inflow of FDI especially in telecommunication, banking, manufacturing and agricultural, and with the Centenary City, real estate. The international business community needs to come and explore the abundant investment opportunities that are available in Nigeria Free Zones, either by locating in the existing zones or through the establishment of industrial cities, clusters and parks. Given the investment friendly disposition of Nigeria, there is no better time than now to invest in Nigeria Free Trade Zones – African’s most profitable economy.