By ANDREW OJIEZEL
The Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Emmanuel Jime has said that free zones in Nigeria have strong roles to play in the diversification of the nation’s economy.
Jime who stated this during an assessment tour of free zones in Lagos, also said that the authority intends to work with stakeholders to leverage on NEPZA to diversify the economy.
He noted that government is set to establish Satellite Industrial Centres across the six geo-political zones of the country.
This, he said, is expected to commence immediately after the passage of the 2017 budget.
According to him, the centres will serve as a catalyst for the revival of the economy.
“The present administration desire is for the economy to fully diversify and this is the reason why the president has ordered the creation of the Satellite Industrial Centre in the six geo political zone across the country.
“For this to happen, NEPZA has been given the directive to anchor this and it will take effect as soon as the budget is passed,”Jime stated.
He said already NEPZA has started working on the concept of Industrial zones and efforts are on-going to identify 32 industrial cities across the country for the establishment of Industrial zones, adding that every zone will focus on products they have comparative advantage.
His words: “Our country is blessed with abundant human and natural resources; the only way we can effectively diversify our economy is to develop our manufacturing sector by providing the requisite infrastructure and right incentives. “This will encourage investment and processing of raw materials into finished goods both for local consumption and for export.
This will also help to create jobs for our teeming unemployed youths, conserve scarce foreign exchange, among other benefits.
“The recent plummeting of oil prices in the international market has dawned on us that there is no postponing the evil day. We have no choice but to diversify our economy by focusing on the non-oil products as a panacea for sustainable socio-economic development. It is in realisation of the need to diversify our economy that the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan was launched in February 2014 to stimulate the manufacturing sector and encourage value addition”.
Jime said the primary engine for growth and development of any economy is the organised private sector, while government is required to provide the enabling environment. This, according to him, could be in the form of appropriate intervention viz, legal framework, policies and programmes that will support investment, provision of physical infrastructure like power and road network, security and a stable polity, among others.
“Moreover, since we operate a mixed economy, the government is required to intervene in the provision of social amenities or services, where it is proven that if left entirely for the organised private sector, the cost will be too heavy for the average consumer to bear,” he said.