The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has put on hold further issuance of new licences to intending operators of free trade zones at areas around its airports in the country.
The managing director of the agency, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, stated this yesterday at the maiden edition of FAAN National Aviation Conferences (FNAC) held in Abuja under the theme ‘Advancing the frontiers of possibilities for safe, secure and profitable air transport.’
Yadudu disclosed that Lagos Airport alone has two FTZ operators already, while additional two companies had applied for licence.
He said issuance of new licences to applicants was suspended with immediate until the conflicts in the regulatory framework between FAAN and the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) are resolved.
Already, Yadudu said all the five international airports in the country had been designated as FTZs and warned that if not well-regulated, it may be a big challenge for the country in the future.
Besides, Yadudu contended that FAAN and the other relevant authorities like the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should be represented on the board of NEPZA to be able to address the challenges in the system.
Also at the event, stakeholders in the FTZs in Nigeria blamed the death of Tinapa Resort in Cross River State to lack of infrastructure and inconsistent government policies.
The participants decried the sorry state of Tinapa, which they said would have attracted foreign direct investments (FDIs) into the country if the government had been consistent with its policies on the resort.
Speaking on the topic: ‘Special economic zones at the airports and trade facilitation: Growing revenue and the national GDP,’ the speakers said there was the need for policy harmonisation by government’s agencies in order to ensure smooth growth.
The general manager, Vicven Integrated Services, Mr. Obinna Emeazo, who was a panel discussant expressed worry about the rot at Tinapa, which he blamed on government’s policy summersault and lack of infrastructure at the resort.
He said Tinapa was designed to flourish with the approval of $5,000 worth of goods for local consumers, but was later brought down to $330, thereby discouraging investors.
Emeazo said the change in policy negatively impacts on the country’s GDP, especially in the area of exports.
“Tinapa Resort started well and so many investors were attracted by the benefits, but along the line, it was brought down to $330, which led to the dwindling of the growth of the resort.
“Everyone, especially tourists go to Tinapa for shopping and to enjoy their holidays. So, it is inconsistency on the part of the government. You brought out policies that attracted investors and in mid-way, you changed such policies.
“If they have to focus on the special economic zones, we have to make it right. NEPZA must stand on its feet. The regulations must be strong.
“If you cannot manufacture, you cannot export. How much are you able to attract? When last did you hear about Tinapa? It is still at the elementary stage and one had expected that it would have gone beyond that,” he said.
Emeazo further decried multiple regulations between FAAN and NEPZA as one of the major factors slowing down the growth of FTZs in the country, stressing that both agencies needed to harmonise their policies for the progress of the country.
“NEPZA has to show strong leadership and must be able to show strong collaboration with other agencies.
“You have the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which is tax; there is still an argument on the tax investors enjoy. Some states still come to tell the investors to pay tax. They should be able to bring all the states together.
“In their board of directors, you see all the government agencies like customs, finance ministry, FIRS and others, yet you do not see a strong stakeholder like FAAN. At the level of implementation, FAAN will tell you it is against its own approval,” he added.