The authorities agreed on measures to restore the status of the zone when Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, NEPZA Managing Director visited Cross River Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, in Calabar.
The managing director said there was urgent need to restore the status of the zone.
This, he said, would be in line with the initial thoughts of the Federal Government for it to be a special business enclave to spark up economic growth and industrialisation of both the southern region and the country.
Adesugba said that the zone was now a shadow of its former state, as a total of 33 enterprises out of about 65 in the zone had left.
“What we have seen is a sad commentary and measures must be taken very urgently by both the state and the authority to revamp the zone.
“ The status of Calabar as the first capital of the Nigeria and its location as a coastal city had encouraged the Federal Government to site the zone here in the first place.
“But the worst has happened here. It is about time we came together to change the narrative, as the zone still holds a lot of promises’’, he said.
Adesugba said the authority was prepared to partner with the state to develop a workable strategy to reposition the zone, and a joint committee would be constituted to midwife the process.
“We have done similar thing with the Lagos State Government and that has deepened the trust level between us and the state significantly. We will, through this synergy, begin to appreciate the FTZ concept better.
“I will like to reiterate that the scheme is a global economic concept and not a Nigerian creation. If we can tame the zone very well, both the state and the country will experience unimaginable economic growth.
“The Cross River government must seek to leverage on the gains inherent in the scheme’’, he said.
He said that the state could also intervene to reduce the infrastructure deficit outside the zone.
He said that the development had re-awakened the interest of investors in the scheme.
Ayade said the Calabar free trade zone was meant to be the flagship of the country’s zones scheme, and the state was prepared to partner with NEPZA to tackle some of the challenges facing the zone.
He said that the zone was a huge investment of the Federal Government that the state had helped to protect over the years, adding that urgent measures were truly required to salvage the zone.
“ We are committed to joining forces with NEPZA and other relevant stakeholders to remodel the zone’s operations with a view to eliminating the encumbrances that continue to force investors out of the place,’’ Ayade said.
Meanwhile, the authority has also agreed to partner with the Cross River Chamber of Commerce and the state branch of National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) to boost investmemt.
The partnership would leverage on the platform provided by the Gulf of Guinea Commission to attract investment into the Calabar zone.
Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Oluwole Sogunle