The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has suspended the issuance of licences to applicants on the free trade zones at the airports until conflicts in the regulatory framework between it and the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) are resolved.
This is as stakeholders have decried the multiple regulations between FAAN and NEPZA, saying it is one of the major factors slowing the growth of free trade zones.
Managing Director, FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, who gave the suspension notice to intending free trade zone applicants, said at the Lagos Airport alone, there are two free trade zone operators, while additional two companies have applied.
He explained that the five international airports in the country have been designated as free trade zones and warned that if not well-regulated, it might be a big challenge for the country in the future.
However, the General Manager, Vicven Integrated Services and one of the panelists at the first Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) National Aviation Conferences (FNAC) Mr. Obinna Emeazo, said there was the need for policy harmonisation by government agencies – FAAN and NEPZA – to ensure smooth growth.
Emeazo, who spoke as a panellist on the topic: ‘Special Economic Zones at the airports and trade facilitation: Growing revenue and the national GDP,’ identified infrastructure and inconsistent government policies in the Free Trade Zones as factors which led the death of Tinapa Resort in Cross River State.
He said the rot in Tinapa was due to government policy somersaults and lack of infrastructure.
According to him, Tinapa was designed to flourish with the approval of $5,000 worth of goods for local consumers, but was later brought down to $330, thereby discouraging investors.
Emeazo decried that the change in policy by the government had negatively impacted on the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), especially in exports.
He said: “Tinapa Resort started well and so many investors were attracted by the benefits, but along the line, it was brought down to $330, which led to the dwindling of the growth of the resort.
“Everyone, especially tourists, go to Tinapa to shop and enjoy their holidays. So, it is an inconsistency on the part of the government.You brought out policies that attracted investors and in mid-way, you changed such policies. If they have to focus on the special economic zones, we have to make it right. NEPZA must stand its feet and make it strong. The regulations must be strong.
“If you cannot manufacture, you cannot export. How much are you able to attract? When was the last time you heard about Tinapa? It is still at the elementary stage and one would have expected that it would have gone beyond that.”
On the multiple regulations between FAAN and NEPZA slowing down the growth of free trade zones in the country, he stressed that both agencies had to harmonise their policies for the progress of the country.
“NEPZA has to show strong leadership and must be able to show strong collaboration with other agencies. You have the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which is tax; there is still an argument on the tax investors enjoy. Some states still come to tell the investors to pay tax. They should be able to bring all the states together.
“In their board of directors, you see all the government agencies like customs, finance ministry, FIRS and others, yet you do not see a strong stakeholder like FAAN. At the level of implementation, FAAN will tell you it is against its own approval,” he said.
The FAAN MD had also insisted that FAAN and other relevant authorities like the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should be represented in the board of NEPZA to be able to address the challenges in the system.