The present management of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) appears to be leaving no stone unturned in breathing new life into the industrial activities in Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ). FELIX KHANOBA writes.
The commissioning of 500-KVA transformer at Esuk Utan, one of the key host communities of the Calabar Free Trade Zone, by the acting Managing Director of NEPZA, Mr Bitrus Dawuk, has rekindled hope in the readiness of government in turning around the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s industrial sector.
Inaugurated in 2001, CFTZ was established by the Federal Government as Nigeria’s first attempt at boosting its manufacturing base like some ‘Asian Tigers’ most of which today are emerging economies through the free zone concept.
CFTZ like others trade zones in the country oversee by NEPZA, allows interested persons to set up industries and businesses at a low cost and tax-free environment, with a major objective of boosting manufacturing and export activities in the country.
Calabar Free Trade Zone which also addresses challenges companies encounter in the areas of infrastructural development, overheads associated with capital intensive ventures, is said to have attracted over 7billion US dollars Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country and created thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
But despite having about 80 companies licensed to operate in the zone of which more than half are in operation, the zone has not been able to fully overcome its challenges, especially in the area of power supply.
Commissioning the transformer, the acting NEPZA boss, Dawuk, expressed the readiness of the present management of the regulatory body to upgrade CFTZ into a world class industrial estate.
The NEPZA acting managing director said the authority was working to ensure that the issue of power was put to rest in the free zone permanently.
“I was the general manager (finance) in the authority, and in that capacity, I knew a lot about the problem facing the Calabar Free Trade Zone. Let me state here that it is our resolve to make Calabar Free Trade Zone a world class free zone soon,” he said.
According to Dawuk, NEPZA would ensure that CFTZ achieves its mandate by making sure necessary infrastructures are provided to the zone in order to attract more industries to birth the desired industrial revolution in the country.
The NEPZA boss also flagged off the first quarterly investment forum at the CFTZ, in which he called on investors to leverage on the free zone as a credible investment haven even as pledged the Authority’s commitment to ensure staff capacity building.
Only last year, industrialists and other stakeholders at the CFTZ received training by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on eco–Industrial Park.
The training, which centred on resource-efficient and industrial synergy opportunity identification, was aimed at upgrading the present status of the free zone to an eco-friendly world class industrial estate.
Also, NEPZA had recently expressed optimism that its new partnership with the World Bank and the International Financial Cooperation (IFC) would bring about rapid infrastructural development in Free Trade Zones in the country.
Earlier, the visibly elated Head of CFTZ, Godwin Ekpe, said it was heart-warming that the NEPZA boss was commissioning a 500-KVA transformer for the zone, and declaring open the first quarterly investment forum.
“Today, we shall have the privilege of the acting Managing Director conferring on all esteemed investors and stakeholders certificates of participation on the recent Eco-Industrial Park by UNIDO. This is in line with management resolve to upgrade the present status of the zones to world class,” he said.
Host Cross River State government, through the commissioner for commerce and industry, Rosemary Archibong, said the state seeks collaboration to make the industrial estate a good investment destination.
“You can never give enough to your host,” the commissioner said on the transformer, just as she called for more collaboration between NEPZA and the Cross River government.
Also speaking at the event, representative of the host community, Effanga Bassey, commended NEPZA for the transformer, saying that one of the basic needs of Esuk Utan has been power supply.
Bassey appealed to the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company to put the transformer into effective use so that the community and the investors in the zone will fully benefit.