The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and the Cross River State Government have agreed to work together to revamp the Calabar Free Trade Zone (FTZ).
The authorities agreed to put in place measures to restore the status of the zone when the NEPZA Managing Director, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, visited Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross River in Calabar.
A statement by Mr Martins Odeh, Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA on Friday said that Adesugba was on a three-day working visit to Calabar to ascertain the state of the zone.
The managing director said that there was urgent need to restore the status of the free trade zone.
Adesugba said that this was in line with the initial plans of the Federal Government for the zone to be a special business enclave that would provoke economic growth and industrialisation in the southern region and the country as a whole.
He, however, noted that the zone was now a shadow of its former state; as 33, out of the 65 enterprises in the zone, had left.
“What we have seen is a sad commentary, and measures must be taken very urgently by both the state and the Authority to revamp the zone.
“The status of Calabar, as the first capital of the Nigeria and its location as a coastal city, had encouraged the Federal Government to site the zone here in the first place.
“But the worst has happened here. It is about time we came together to change the narrative, as the zone still holds a lot of promises,’’ he said.
Adesugba said that NEPZA was prepared to partner with the state to develop pragmatic strategies to revive the zone, adding that a joint committee would be constituted to midwife the process.
“We have done similar thing with the Lagos State Government and that has deepened the level of trust between us and the state significantly. We will, through this synergy, begin to appreciate the FTZ concept better.
“I will like to reiterate that the scheme is a global economic concept and not a Nigerian creation. If we can tame the zone very well, both the state and the country will experience unimaginable economic growth.
“The Cross River government must seek to leverage on the gains inherent in the scheme,’’ he said.
On the deplorable state of some of the federal roads in the state, the NEPZA boss said President Muhammadu Buhari had demonstrated the political will to rehabilitate most of them.
He said that the state could also intervene to reduce the infrastructure deficit outside the zone.
The governor, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, commended the president for appointing Adesugba as head of NEPZA.
He said that the development had re-awakened the interest of investors in the scheme.
Ayade said the Calabar Free Trade Zone was meant to be the flagship of the country’s free trade zones scheme, adding that the state was prepared to partner with NEPZA to tackle some of the challenges facing the zone.
He said that the zone was a huge investment of the Federal Government which the state had helped to protect over the years, adding that urgent measures were truly required to salvage the zone.
“We are committed to joining forces with NEPZA and other relevant stakeholders to remodel the zone’s operations, with a view to eliminating the encumbrances that continue to force investors out of the place,’’ Ayade said.
Meanwhile, NEPZA has also agreed to partner with the Cross River Chamber of Commerce and the state branch of National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) on plans to boost investment.
The partnership, which will be anchored on the platform provided by the Gulf of Guinea Commission, will attract investments to the area.