By Dipo Olowookere
The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) has granted a licence to Nigeria’s largest Free Trade Zone and Mega Port project – the Maritime Africa Economic City otherwise known as the Badagry Free Zone.
NEPZA is responsible for the facilitation of investment into Free Zones in the country.The Maritime Africa Economic City, which is being developed by a consortium of top local and international companies, is part of the moves Nigeria hopes to use to retain its regional hub status for maritime and other business investment activities.
Managing Director of NEPZA, Mr Gbenga Kuye, officially handed over the licence to the Project Director of the Zone, Patrick Bird, in Abuja.
Speaking on the development, Bird said: “Today marks a tremendous milestone in the development of the Badagry project. With NEPZA, we intend to develop Maritime Africa Economic City into one of the most successful special economic zones in all of Africa.
“The benefits of having this approval are enormous for our clients and despite the current downturn in the economy; we are still fielding a lot of interests from domestic and foreign companies wanting to set up in Badagry.
“We thank NEPZA for their continued support. This is going to be a great partnership to the benefit of Nigeria,” he said.
Bird highlighted some of the benefits of the new Free Trade Zone to include various tax advantages, 100 per cent repatriation of profits and dividends, immigration incentives, round the clock operations, and fast-track cargo clearance procedures.
The $2.5 billion Maritime Africa Economic City will be developed on a 1,100 hectare of land with over six kilometres of quay wall, including a container terminal, roll-on-roll-off (RORO) terminal, general cargo terminals, oil service centre and refined products import terminals.
It will also include a power plant, oil refinery, industrial park, warehousing and inland container depot functions as well.
The Zone is connected to Lagos by the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, which is currently being upgraded and expanded by the Lagos State Government as well as the Porto Novo Creek, allowing for the barging of cargo between the existing port system of Lagos and the new facility.
A rail line will also be developed in the future to connect the new Free Trade Zone for even more seamless transit of goods.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, had recently described the Badagry Free Zone and Mega Port project as a major turning point that would go a long way to bring about global growth to Nigerian waters and by extension the nation’s economy.
Mr Ambode said the project would also complement the emergence of Lagos as the fifth largest economy in Africa.The Federal Government approved the construction of the proposed Mega Port and Free Zone at the Federal Executive Council meeting of August 3, 2016.
Also, speaking in support of the project, Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said the project will boost Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.
The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, said the approval showed that Nigeria is still a preferred investment destination in Africa despite the challenges it currently faced.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, while thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for granting the approval, said: “There are bigger vessels now being built across the world that require larger depths and drafts to berth.
“Now some of our competitors on the continent like Djibouti are building bigger ports, so if we don’t build this port, we risk becoming uncompetitive and we risk a threat to our maritime hub status in the sense that we may become a transhipment port instead of a port of original destination.”
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