Abuja — The Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA), Hon. Emmanuel Lyambee Jime, has said lack of infrastructure is a huge obstacle against foreign investment in Nigeria.
He stated this while speaking with journalists in Abuja at the weekend.
Lyambee said there has to be power 24/7 in a free trade zone, otherwise it is not a free trade zone.
"There has to be water running in a free trade zone, you've got to have road network, you've got to have everything that a company needs in order for it to be running at a less cost." "You've got to put those incentives in place in a way that a businessman making those decisions to establish on your shores may decide that Nigeria is a preferred destination for my investments.
"Don't forget that capital like all of us know is a coward, it doesn't go where it is not needed, and so we are competing, we are in a competitive environment, and NEPZA recognises that," he said.
NEPZA boss added that today, most investors who want to come to Africa, consider Ghana as the first thing they thinking about.
He added: "That really must be some cause for great concerns to us. I hear a lot of people say Nigeria has a big market - oh yes! I'm told we are getting very close to about 200 million, and we keep talking about how big the Nigerian market is.
"But we have to recognise there are certain partnerships and certain platforms that have been put in place that will enable a businessman to put up his factory in Accra and still access the Nigerian market.
"You can use the ECOWAS platform and so that argument quite frankly is defective and I think quite honestly even dishonest. If people can understand that you can go and establish a factory in Accra, Ghana, where you don't have interruption in power supply, where you don't have infrastructural deficits and you still be able to access the Nigerian market, then what is the point in insisting that you must come into the Nigerian environment with all the challenges that are there in the Nigerian environment?"
Talking about deficit of infrastructure in the country, Jime said these are the policies that the federal government needs to critically begin to look at and to understand that without putting its house in order, the likelihood of attracting these investments that appear to be a swansong, will continue to be so for a long time.
He further added: "Let me now report what I believe has happened since I resumed office with regards to infrastructure. The president travelled to China in 2016, and was exposed to a free trade zone in Shengchen which is example that I alluded to earlier and when he saw the massive development taking place there especially in the area of infrastructure, he now came back to Nigeria and decided to engage policy making.
"And because of that visit, I am happy to report that for the first time in the history of NEPZA, the president directed in 2017 massive injection of capital into the 2017 budget for development of infrastructure in our free trade zones and also for the creation of six new industrial parks.
"Now, we've just started as about N50 billion was placed in NEPZA vote and like I said before then the highest amount of money to NEPZA was less than N2 billion in all of the history of NEPZA, but for the first time in 2017 because of that exposure, we were given about N50 billion to start the process."
He revealed that the process had started, and now that Calabar and Kano which are the two free trade zones that are directly under the management of the federal government are already seeing the injection of capital into the development of infrastructure.
Hopefully, he said with 2018 budget estimate that has been given, it means that there is the will to ensure that development of the infrastructure in the free trade zones goes on uninterrupted believing that it is the right way to go.
Jime argued that if the country keeps doing what it had to do, then hopefully in the next four years or so, there will be evidence on ground that infrastructure really has come to the level that the federal government is able to call a world class.
He added the president had demonstrated a lot of willingness to support the process so the country is able to deliver on a proper free trade zone concept.
He said the agency had so far been able to license three new industrial parks, including Nasco Crown free zone which is valued at N2.1 billion and is estimated at completion to be able to provide 15,000 direct jobs and Quits Free Zone.