The Presidency has expressed concern that the plans of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration to fast-track Nigeria’s industrial development through the Special Economic Zones was being misrepresented in the public, including at a recent public hearing in the Senate.
The Presidency, in a document made available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday in Abuja, said that SEZ was discussed and approved by the Federal Executive Council.
The Senate had recently rejected the N15.63 billion budget proposals of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for 2019 because of the Nigeria Special Economic Zones Investment Company, listed for N42 billion appropriation.
The document said there was a firm resolve in the Executive Arm of government to clarify issues and keep the SEZ plans and the strategy adopted and already approved by the FEC.
It said: “The discovery that a government parastatal in the Industry, Trade and Industry Ministry, the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) is said to have created a confusion when it’s top officials misinformed some members of the Senate about funds allotted for the implementation of the SEZ via the establishment of a PPP special vehicle firm named NSEZCO.
“While NEPZA had argued that the allocation of over N42 billion to NSEZCO ought to be allocated to it, rather than NSEZCO, the Attorney-General to the Federation (AGF) had clarified the law.
“The AGF explained that it was proper for the money to be allocated to the implementing liability company, NSEZCO, formed for the specific purpose as the Industry, Trade and Investment Minister had done.
“But despite the clarifications from the Attorney-General and the direction of the Industry Minister, officials of NEPZA were alleged to have surreptitiously taken the matter to some Senators causing a misunderstanding of the strategy adopted for the implementation of the Special Economic Zones.
“Both the president and the vice president are said to be concerned that such a conduct of some of NEPZA officials if proven would be a flagrant disobedience of clear presidential directives and initiatives.
“At the recent FEC meeting held after the Senate public hearing, sources said the Council, chaired by the President himself reaffirmed the plans and strategies designed by the Industry Ministry.
“A clarification from the Executive arm of government to the Senate on the issues it has raised on the interim company directors and the need for the investment firm, NSEZCO may have been delivered.”
The document said when the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, presented the ministry’s 2019 Budget details to the relevant Senate committee, questions were raised about the creation of a limited liability company with 25 per cent of Federal Government interest.
It said there were also concerns about the retention of three Federal Government officials as directors and the allocation of government’s funds to the company.
The document said between the Federal Government and the institutional investors, the investment company, NSEZCO, was expected to raise $500 million in equity by 2023.
It said: “While many of the strategic investors have already signed on, the MINE project which the NSEZCO will be delivering has secured significant international partnerships already.
“For instance Shandong Ruyi, the leading textile and garment group in China has already announced its commitment to invest $2 billion to the cotton, textile and garment industry for the Special Economic, (free trading) Zones the NSEZCO will put up in Abia, Kano and Lagos States.
“Equally, CCCG Industrial Investment Holding Company, CIHC, of China, which is ranked 91st in Fortune 500 and is the third largest international contractor in the world, has also signed a letter of intent to invest in the forthcoming Special Economic Zone in Lekki, specifically in the areas of power, water, access roads and bridges.
“These are some of the critical and significant plans that few NEPZA officials are trying to scuttle
“Some of the Special Economic Zone projects are the much talked about Enyimba Economic City in Abia, the Lekki-Epe Model Industrial Park, Funtua Cotton Cluster, and several others being planned for Edo, Kwara, Sokoto, Ebonyi, and Benue States among others.”
It said that the vision of the Buhari Administration was to make Nigeria the pre-eminent manufacturing hub in Sub-Saharan Africa and a major exporter of locally made products to West African sub-region, the rest of Africa and indeed the World.
The Project MINE (Made in Nigeria for Export), a Presidential Initiative under the supervision of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, was developed to establish “world-class” SEZs across Nigeria and boost the manufacturing of “Made in Nigeria” goods for export regionally and globally.
The Project MINE was designed to achieve some very important economic goals that would put Nigeria on the world map and increase manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP to 20 per cent.
According to the document, Project MINE will create 1.5 million new direct jobs and generate over $30 billion annually in foreign exchange earnings by 2025, amongst others.