The Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative has written a petition to the National Assembly, urging it to repeal the 1996 Act establishing the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA).
The group is also asking the lawmakers to make an amendment to the existing Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) Act 1992 to absorb the agency as a specialised department of NEPZA in oil and gas.
Chief Dennis Aghanya, Executive Secretary of ARDI, in the petition stated that the 1992 NEPZA Act empowered the agency to administer and manage all the Export Processing Zones in the country but surprisingly, the 1996 OGFZA Act was enacted for the oil zone at Onne/Okpokiri, probably in consideration of the importance of the sector in the nation’s economy.
He also noted that the recent directive by President Muhammadu Buhari for the implementation of the recommendations of the Steve Oronsaye-led Presidential Committee on the need to downsize the number of government agencies in the country to reduce the cost of governance is a deserving policy, hence, its petition on this subject is very timely.
The petition reads, “The NEPZA Act of 1992 empowered the agency to administer and manage all the Export Processing Zones in the country. But surprisingly, the 1996 OGFZA Act was enacted for the oil zone at Onne/Okpokiri, probably in consideration of the importance of the sector in the nation’s economy.
"But rather than adding any economic value, the action, Years down the line, ended up duplicating the functions of NEPZA and bloated personnel cost as a result of the management of the same agency which now operates as two different agencies.
“Part of our objectives as a non-governmental organization is to provide necessary data through our research efforts to guide government in its policy formulations and implementations, and that was why we took time to study the objectiveness of allowing these two agencies (NEPZA and OGFZA), which have same functions, and we realised that it was an unnecessary duplication of agencies, probably designed to satisfy the interest of an individual then.
“That the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief U. J. Ekaette, communicated the recommendation of the Presidential Committee on Free Trade Zone to the then Minister of Commerce, Dr Aliyu Modibo Umar, on the 17th October, 2006 that there should be only one Free Zone Authority to be known as Nigeria Free Zones Authority which will be responsible for policy formulation for and general supervision of free zones.
“The Report of the Presidential Committee on the Restructuring and Rationalization of the Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies of April 2012 also recommended that the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) be reverted to the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) by simply amending the Act establishing NEPZA."
The group noted that the ravaging effect of the global pandemic on the nation’s economy has prompted the need for the petition as it must be addressed with urgency adding that what the country needs now is more industries and not duplication of agencies.
“We are also calling on the Nigeria media to lend their voices to this clarion as it is our collective duty to act in the interest of the nation and to do so promptly," the group added.