The speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has thrown his weight behind efforts by the National Assembly (NASS) to amend the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) Act of 1996.
In his opening remarks at the public hearing on the bill to amend the OGFZA law in Abuja, organised by the House Committee on Commerce, Dogara said he was convinced deliberations at the public hearing would lead to appropriate review and correction of any ambiguities that may exist in the OGFZA Act.
Dogara, represented by the deputy chief whip of the House, Pali Iriase, said such amendment would “empower the agency to focus its resources on developing and promoting tailored investment packages and incentives for oil and gas free trade zones to further promote the diversification policy of the Federal Government.”
Giving reasons why the OGFZA Act should be amended, Dogara explained that since the law was enacted in 1996, much had changed in the global marketplace that had made the law obsolete and created the imperative to bring it up to date with current realities.
“We all do appreciate the fact that global investment climate has changed drastically since the days when the legislation was enacted in 1996.
“The global competition and scramble by various countries for available foreign investments has since grown much stiffer and complex also.
“The House under my leadership shall continue to be responsive to global economic trends and will endeavor to always take proactive steps together with the Executive arm and its agencies to make new laws and review outdated portions of existing laws that tend to reduce Nigeria’s competitiveness as the premier investment destination in Africa,” he said.
Dogara noted that Nigeria pioneered oil and gas free zones as a means for accelerating economic development, adding that it was a thing of pride that even developed countries such as Russia and the United States felt the need to borrow from Nigeria’s success in oil and gas free zones development. He also noted that the free zones under OGFZA attracted more than 170 foreign companies, generating more than N162 billion in revenues for the Federal Government.
In a welcome address, chairman of the House Committee on Commerce, organisers of the public hearing, Sylvester Ogbaga stressed the importance of the oil and gas free zones, saying: “There is no doubt, the existence of the Oil and Gas Free Zones has increased the tempo of economic activities in our ports and have helped to deepen the economy of Nigeria”
In their presentations at the public hearing, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, managing director of OGFZA and Mr. Emmanuel Jime, managing director of Nigeria Exporting Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) said their submissions for the hearing had earlier been transmitted to the supervising ministry—Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment—which would harmonise both submissions and forward a common position of the ministry to the House Committee on Commerce which was considering the amendment bill.
After the hearing on the OGFZA amendment bill, the public participation in lawmaking shifted to the bill for an Act to establish The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport of Nigeria.