The Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) is pursuing Federal Government’s Ease of Doing Business policy with a vigour to achieve productivity.
Managing Director of OGFZA, Umana Okon Umana, has listed various areas of impacts achieved under his watch in a recent media interview published in The Punch Newspaper.
He said the authority provides financial incentives like zero import duty and zero export duty. Companies operating in the zone are also being exempted from all federal, state and local government taxes and having their immigration processes accelerated for expeditious approvals for visas for expatriates in the case of foreign companies .
OGFZA according to Umana also engages in efficient processing of cargoes ports are sited , like the case of the Onne port within the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone.
Umana added that since assumption of office , he has reduced the number of days for receiving licenses from 21 to seven.
”Since I took over as managing director, we have taken steps to improve on our capacity and to deliver improved services to our clients, our licensees in the free zones. For example, in the past, it took 21 days to license a company but we have reduced the timeline to seven days.
”Now it will take only three days to renew a licence and it will take only 48 hours to process operational requests within the free zones. This is an outcome of the collaboration between the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority and Customs.
”This fits very well into the agenda of the Federal Government to make life easy for investors who are looking at Nigeria to do business under the framework of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, which is charged with the responsibility to ensure that our ranking in terms of the ease of doing business improves.
”The whole idea of the free zone is to make life easy for investors because it is a geographical area segmented by law where rules and laws that apply in the Customs territory do not apply, especially if those laws will inhibit the drive for investment. So, that is why the law that relates to company’s income tax is suspended, and the companies don’t pay any tax.
”So with the drive by the Federal Government to improve the condition for doing business in the entire country, it was important that as managers of the free zones, we had to take it a step further to also ensure that we change the narratives about doing business within the free zones by reviewing our timelines. When we came up with our new service charter, we changed the timelines just to make sure that our licensees could look forward to improved service delivery” he said.
He also said ”There are other specialised zones that are focusing on other areas. And I believe, for a country like Nigeria, it was a good move to have zones that focus primarily on oil and gas operations because bringing all of the players together clearly has led to economy of scale because when you have a cluster of companies providing the same service and depending on one another, certainly facilities will be shared.
”Going by the concept of the free zone, there are fiscal incentives and soft incentives in terms of efficient service delivery. So, the companies, by coming together and sharing costs, facilities and supporting one another, are able to save costs and they benefit from economy of scale.”
Nigeria is believed to have the best oil and gas free zones on the continent of Africa with a wider prospects of attracting more investors and creating industrial hubs for firms and individuals in the same line of endeavours.