Nigerian Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga disclosed yesterday, at the Oil & Gas Trade and Investment Forum 2012 in Onne, Rivers State that the Onne Oil & Gas Free Trade Zone (FTZ) has attracted 930 billion naira ($6 billion) into the country since its establishment in March 1997.
Aganga said: “The zone has attracted all the major oil companies who use Onne as a hub of their activities covering the whole of the Gulf of Guinea up to Angola in Southern Africa, positioning Nigeria as a major player in the oil and gas industry in Africa.”
The minister said the Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone, which is the single largest and fastest growing Free Zone in the world dedicated to the oil and gas industry, has witnessed the “registration of about 150 investors… with a cumulative investment to date of $6 billion and creation of well over 30,000 direct and indirect jobs” for both skilled and semi-skilled Nigerians.
“The Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone is adjudged as the largest and fastest growing free zone in the world dedicated to the oil and gas industry,” he stated.
Nigeria, which is battling high-rate unemployment as inflation rises to 11.7 percent in August, has adopted the creation of FTZs that have high potential for massive job creation, to attract FDI and catalyze its economic growth.
According to Aganga, the total investment pooled into the free zones account for about 60 percent of investment into oil-rich Nigeria within the last 10 years. Also, each job created by the FTZ supports two other service jobs with a domino effect on economic activities.
“The existence of the Onne Oil & Gas Free Zone has contributed to the increase of economic activities at the Onne Port and the resultant increase in government revenue earnings, particularly, through the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Ports Authority,” he said.
The Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone has been a crucial development in Nigeria, Africa’s second-biggest economy and a major crude exporter, as it bids to draw in foreign investment and promote local and regional economic growth. It is the only Free Zone in the world to focus exclusively on the oil and gas industry. Supported by an Oil Service Centre and other facilities to cater for oil companies and service companies, the Free Zone offers a highly competitive range of tax concessions plus other investment incentives including minimal bureaucracy, to ease the flow of business. It also includes a Free Port, a Free Trade Zone and a Specialized Export Processing Zone.
The initiative has proved popular so far and is expected to play an important future role in meeting the needs of domestic and foreign firms within the oil and gas sector.