Contributions of the Oil and Gas Free Zones to the success of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan

 

On the back of reforms initiated by the Buhari administration, confidence has returned to the Nigerian economy as investors take up positions with new commitments of over $40 billion in oil and gas projects

Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Free Zones have been important economic enablers over time. However, in the last two years following the reform initiatives being implemented by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Oil and Gas Free Zones have proven to be key drivers of economic growth and development, and have significantly enhanced the efficacy of the Federal Government’s economic programmes enunciated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. The reforms have helped to reposition the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), which is the free zones regulator, and used it to reinvent the free zones by turning them around to play their true role as efficient and effective hubs for investments and economic development.

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENTS: Reform-driven confidence in the economy has attracted more investments into the oil and gas sector. According to Dr Ibe Kachukwu, Minister of State in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, investors have made commitments worth $35 billion in new projects in the sector over the next few years. The investments come with the concomitant employment generation and more revenue to government.

PACESETTER IN THE EASE OF DOING BUSINESS: The evidence of positive change in both OGFZA and the free zones is clear in the performance of the Authority in the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business policy. In the 2018 ranking of government agencies in the implementation of the policy, OGFZA raced five places ahead of other 43 agencies to clinch the top spot as the best agency of government in the implementation of the policy on the Ease of Doing Business.

TIMELINES FOR CONDUCT OF BUSINESS: The turnaround in the free zones has quickened the pace of business in the zones. The turnaround time for obtaining a new operating licence in the free zones has been reduced from 28 days to 14 days. It now takes three days to renew a licence, a significant cut from 14 days. Cargo clearance in the free zones takes 48 hours to conclude, in the spirit and letter of the Ease of Doing Business policy.

NOTORE INDUSTRIAL CITY: Under its new leadership, OGFZA has licensed a new free zone developer within the Onne-Ikpokri Free Zone. Notore Industrial City, which received its Free Zone Developer Licence in November 20017, has the potential to make Nigeria a continental hub in gas processing and petrochemicals. The new free zone is expected to attract $5 billion in new investments and generate 15,000 new jobs.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS: A number of new projects are coming up in free zone development. The most important of these is the Brass Oil and Gas City, located on Brass Island, Bayelsa State. The Brass Oil and Gas City is licensed and soon to start operation. More than $3.5 billion investments are already committed to the project. Brass Oil and Gas City is designed to evolve into a world class export-oriented and gas processing hub with the potential to generate thousands of jobs.

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