By Ossom Raphael
Abuja – Stakeholders in free zones in the country have asked the Federal Government to urgently investigate what it called the ‘fraudulent misrepresentation’ of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGEFZA), saying some of the agency’s activities portend danger to investments.
The stakeholders, made up of investors in free zones of the country, said the compulsory take-over of the regulatory affairs of Free Zones licensed by NEPZA without appropriate legislative amendments and due process will unsettle investors and lead to attendant financial losses for stakeholders and the country.
The stakeholders in a document made available to BEN Television Correspondent with the title, “Economic sabotage by the Umana Okon Umana led Management of Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGEFZA) Against Select Free Zones licensed by Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA)”.
While saying that the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2010 (Act) unambiguously established Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGEFZA) to manage and operate a designated Oil and Gas Export Free Zone at Onne/Ikpokiri area of Rivers State, they stressed that since the enactment of the Act, there has been no amendment to the Act by the National Assembly either by changing Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority to Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, which is the current name being used by the Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA or extending the regulatory jurisdiction of OGEFZA beyond the designated Oil and Gas Export Free Zone at Onne/Ikpokiri area of Rivers State of Nigeria.
According to the document, despite the fact that the provisions of the Act have not been amended and the law still restricts the regulatory functions of OGEFZA to Onne/Ikpokiri area of Rivers State, the Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA has continued to violate the express provisions of the Act by licensing other Free Zones like Brass Oil and Gas City, Warri Oil and Gas Free Zone, Eko Support Services etc, which are located outside the designated Oil and Gas Export Free Zone at Onne/Ikpokiri area of Rivers State.
“The latest attempt by the Umana Okon Umana-led Management of OGEFZA is to surreptitiously take over the operations of some Free Zones already within the regulatory control of NEPZA without recourse to due process or any legislative amendment to that effect.
“The Federal Government has done a lot of work in the area of “Ease of Doing Business” with the sole aim of making the business environment attractive to both local and foreign investors but with the continued mischievous activities of the Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA, a lot of investors in the country and other prospective investors would begin to doubt the sincerity of the Federal Government in its drive towards “Ease of Doing Business”.” They said.
They further explained that, “In an attempt to perfect its plans, the Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA has consistently misrepresented OGEFZA to the general public and in several public fora with government officials in attendance as “Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA)”. The Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA has unilaterally, illegally and deliberately expunged from the name of OGEFZA the word “Export” and replaced the word “Zone” with “Zones” contrary to the extant legislation of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a move that appears to be borne out of executive recklessness and lawlessness.
“The Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA in doing this, is trying to perpetrate its selfish agenda and deceive the unsuspecting public that OGEFZA has more powers than that arrogated to it by the Act. OGEZFA wants the public to believe that it has the power and authority over other “Zones” apart from the only statutorily designated Export Free Zone area located in Onne/Ikpokiri area of Rivers State.
“This reckless and unlawful act is even evident from OGEFZA’s website: www.ogfza.gov.ng and its official correspondence. If this reckless and unlawful act being perpetrated by the Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA is not checked timeously by the Federal Government, it will have the tendency to mislead and deceive the unsuspecting general public and investors at large who do not have the historical background of OGEFZA”, the stakeholders reiterated.
They emphasized that the only constitutionally recognized authority saddled with the responsibility
of interpretation of laws in Nigeria remains the Judiciary, adding that any attempt by any person or authority to usurp the constitutional role of the court, as is being attempted by the Umana Okon Umana led Management of OGEFZA should be outrightly rebuked and investigated in the interest of Nigeria’s democracy, good governance and more importantly the rule of law
While reiterating the call on the federal government to investigate the Umana Okon Umana Management of OGEFZA, the stakeholders declared that Federal Government’s inaction on the matter is capable of bringing its name and integrity into utter disrepute as it will appear that OGEFZA has the backing and endorsement of the Federal Government in its fraudulent activities.
They noted also that if the need for any regulatory review arises, the operators within the Free Zones licensed by NEPZA would make adequate representation to the appropriate authorities, adding that stakeholders within the industry have not complained about the existing legislative framework pursuant to which billions of dollars in investments have been committed by financial institutions (both local and foreign) and other trade partners.
By Ossom Raphael
Abuja – Firms operating in the oil and gas sector are seeking Court intervention over alledge attempt by Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) to regulates oil and gas operations in Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ).
The firms, Nigerdock Nigeria Plc, Simco Freezone Company and Nigerdock Nigeria Plc-FZE, described the plans by OGFZA to assume total control of the space as contemptuous
The affected companies had in 2016 dragged OGFZA before a Federal High Court in Lagos to seek judicial intervention that would prevent the Authority from regulating operations within SIIFZ.
Other defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Speaking on the case, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Qudos Mumumey, who said the last time the suit came up in the court, presided by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, was February 26, disclosed that 1st June has been fixed for definite hearing.
The plentiff’s counsel, worried that while the case is still be the court, the OGFZA went ahead to issue letters on implementing ministerial directives that empowered the Authority to assume full regulatory powers over the zones.
Mumumey, said OGFZA by issuing such letters acted upon an uninformed directive of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that the move was a clear attempt to undermine the powers of the court.
“In the light of the foregoing, the current letter from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is contemptuous, abusive, oppressive and a clear attempt to undermine the authority of the Honorable Court”, Mumumey said.
Recall that Nigerdock and others had by an Originating Summons filed at the Federal High Court in 2016 seek to know whether by the clear provisions of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act, Cap No. 107, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ) should be regulated by the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) being the Authority vested with the power to regulate all Export Processing Zones.
They further seek court determination on whether or not the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, by the Provision of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act Cap 05, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, is empowered to regulate the Onne/Ikpokiri Export Free Zone and by extension regulate other Oil and Gas Export Free Zones in Nigeria, among others.
The plaintiff averred that if the answers to the above questions were in the affirmative, the court should not hesitate in granting a declaration that the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) is responsible for the administration and regulation of the Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ).
They also are seeking the declaration that the first defendant is responsible for the administration and regulation of the Onne/Ikpokiri Export Free Zone and Oil and Gas Export Free Zones in Nigeria.
The suit further seeks a declaration that the letter from the Attorney General of the Federation dated March 25, 2008, merely reinstated the provisions of the NEPZA and OGFZA Acts.
The plaintiff, therefore, went ahead seeking an order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants their privies, agents, and servants from projecting itself as the Authority with the statutory powers and authority to license and regulate the operations and activities in Snake Island Integrated Free Zone.
They also asked fora Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants their privies, agents, and servants from interfering with, obstructing and/or disturbing the activities of SIMCO Free Zone Company from the Management of the Snake Island Free Zone pending the determination of the case.
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