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By NBF News
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By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, Dr. Sina Agboluaje has said that the investment at the Calabar Free Trade zone stands at about N24 billion. Dr. Agboluaje who disclosed this last Thursday in Calabar, Cross River State on the occasion of the 10th year anniversary of the CFTZ said already, the zone has 34 manufacturing companies with about 8,000 people being employed.

He said: 'Looking at the journey so far and assessing our achievements, we can say as at today, there are 34 manufacturing concerns, seven companies providing services, four enterprises trading in various lines of business, five companies in the oil and gas are fully operational, others are at various stages of development.

Seven companies are under construction. Direct employment of 2, 727 and indirect employments have been achieved bringing the total employment opportunities to 8,100', he said.

The NEPZA MD also said that the achievements of the zone may not have met the expectation of members of the public but pleaded with them 'to understand that the terrain in which we operate has been somewhat difficult, that is why we seek your cooperation and patience so that we can nurture this project to its adulthood.' He expressed confidence that 'the economic magic this scheme has achieved in turning the fortunes of many economies around will also happen in our great country, Nigeria.

With the creation of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment headed by Dr. Olusegun Aganga and Dr. Samuel Ortom, the future is bright and hopeful'.  Other achievements recorded in the last one decade include the acquisition of 70 hectares of land at Odukpani for the construction of truck park; attraction of the presence of global scan [inspection] agent; Standards Organisation of Nigeria; National Oil Spill Detection and Regulatory Agency, NOSDRA; National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA; the Police, Nigeria Customs Service and State Security Services.

He said despite these modest achievements, CFTZ has not been without challenges and listed them to include the June 12, 1993 annulment of the presidential election which scared foreign investors away; ban on logging of wood in Cross River State resulting in five companies that use wood as raw materials to close shops and the initial ban preventing companies from selling to the Nigerian market.

According to him, following a new regulation authorising sale of goods produced in the zone in Nigerian markets, a glut in investors soon ensued resulting in the problem of inadequate land to accommodate them; shallowness of the Calabar seaport preventing bigger vessels from sailing in; overlapping of statutory responsibility of NEPZA and other government agencies.

The CFTZ also lacks 'understanding of the workings of the scheme and its operations by other government agencies that are organic to Free Zone operations', the managing director further revealed.

'With the initial 152 hectares of land exhausted, the government of Cross River State graciously granted approval for additional 68 hectares, which brings the total available land to 220 hectares. Even the additional land had long been fully allocated, though infrastructural facilities  such as roads and erosion control are yet to be fully provided in the extension site', he added.