Operators in Nigeria’s export free zones have charged the newly appointed Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Prof Adesoji Adesugba to clean the rot at the agency.
In separate interviews with journalists, the operators hailed Adesugba’s appointment, saying as an accomplished specialist in investment promotion and economic development, he will boost ongoing efforts of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, to reform NEPZA and incentivise investments at the export free zone.
The operators charged Adesugba to use his proficiency in organisational development and institutional reforms to clean up NEPZA of acts that have eroded investors’ confidence in the agency and denied the country massive investments at the export free zone.
One of the stakeholders, a maritime investment advisor, Mr. Akpan K. Akpan, told journalists that NEPZA appeared to have defied President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war.
“It is all over the news that since 2015, NEPZA’s name has become synonymous with corruption with those managing its affairs alleged to be conniving with few monopolists in the zones to cut corners in fraudulent deals that defeat the Federal Government’s ambition of attracting investments. Efforts to clean up NEPZA also seem to have achieved no results due to alleged institutional incompetence of top managers of the agency and their penchant for questionable deals, which most investors, especially foreign ones, abhor,” Akpan alleged. Lagos-based maritime analyst, Mr. Bolaji Akindele, also charged Adesugba to investigate all alleged cases of graft in NEPZA and bring the culprits to book.
“The task ahead of Adesugba is huge. Only on December 23, 2019, the Federal Government set up a committee to look into the transfer of N14.37billion from the capital account of the agency to a private company, Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company. Acting Managing-Director of NEPZA, Mr. Bitrus Daniel Dawuk, confirmed that the committee would look at some of the issues surrounding the controversial N14.37billion NEPZA fund currently domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). “Unfortunately, many of the committee members are staff of NEPZA. Even Dawuk himself was the head of accounts of the agency when the fraudulent deal was made. Nobody knows if he was involved or not, but the impression among maritime operators is that they have killed the case. Prof. Adesugba has to reopen the case and bring in independent investigators to restore confidence of investors,” Akindele said.