OPERATORS of the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone (OGFZ) in Onne, Rivers State, have been directed by the Federal Government to industrialise the zone within the next four years.
Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, gave the directive during a visit to the OGFZ Onne, where he observed the zone has all the ingredients to be one of the most successful in the country.
Aganga explained that though about $5.4 billion had been generated for the Federal Government, about $4.8 billion investments had been made in the OGFZ and about 30, 000 jobs created directly and indirectly, the government still expected the operators to do more.
“I will market the free trade zone on their behalf with my team, but again, I want to see a clear industrialisation plan. When you talk about local content, to me it is about backward integration, it is about using the materials we have locally. That way you create jobs, that way you industrialise a country. Our strategy is about building our industries based on areas where we have competitive and comparative advantage,” he said.
The minister said the aspiration of government in the next four years was the industrialisation of the country. According to him, the zone is to be used not only for attracting investment into the country, but for achieving industrialisation plan in the area of petro-chemical and also servicing industry that are related to the oil and gas sector.
He revealed that government was working on a bill to make Nigerians patronise locally produced goods because there is no point producing goods locally and people are not patronising them.
“ I was delighted to see that we have a shipyard in this country, the boats which you see around, the water taxi, vessels can actually be built here. Today, we have a company here that has capacity for building ships, that has capacity for maintenance, servicing ships also built here in this country, yet we are buying patrol boats, vessels and all that from abroad. We should not allow that to happen,” he said.
He said government would ensure that goods produced locally are made to meet international standards, noting however that Nigeria needs technology, manpower training and people to realise her industrialisation dream.
Aganga who described the OGFZ as the most successful of all approved by government, hinged his assessment on the level of investment and ability to attract investment into the country, level of job created, export earnings and backward integration (local content).
The minister, who visited various companies in the zone, explained that in the course of his interaction with their managements, each of them expressed desire to achieve backward integration. He expressed delight that OGFZ has become a one stop shop for companies like Chevron, Total, Exxon Mobil and others that hitherto imported their materials from abroad.
He observed that based on the high level of development of necessary infrastructure taking place at the zone and its deep sea ports, which are one of the deepest in the country, it is going to be a lot easier to transport goods from any part of the world and Nigeria to the zone.
The Director-General of DMS Nigeria, Mr. Sunday Wama, told the minister that about 150 investors were doing business in the OGFZ. And as part of the port concession agreements, Intels has committed substantial payments to the authorities, including the Nigerian Ports Authority, irrespective of vessels or cargo throughput.