The Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) has described its flagship Free Zone in Onne, Rivers State, as the toast of the global investing community and first port of call for those seeking opportunities for good return on investment in oil and gas related businesses.

The Acting Managing Director of OGFZA, Mr Adekunle Ajayi, made the remark during the weekend in a response to a newspaper publication that tended to suggest that the Onne Free Zone was in decline. Ajayi said his representative, who spoke during a courtesy call on the Authority in Onne by a committee of the Rivers State House of Assembly, was quoted out of context when he was reported to have said that businesses were leaving the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone.

On the contrary, the Acting Managing Director said, there has been a surge in business activities in the zone since the end of the recession. Ajayi reported that in the first six months of the year, many new companies were licensed to operate in the free zone, reflecting the nature of a market economy of open access and free exit.

He noted that Notore Chemical Industries PLC which was licensed in December 2017 as the developer of the Notore Industrial City (NIC) in the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, has already secured commitments of a number of International Petrochemical Oil and Gas Logistics Support Companies for $5 billion worth of investments into the NIC, with the potential for creating 25,000 jobs in the next four years.

He reported that OGFZA has brokered discussions between Funde Energy Company Limited and Notore Industrial City, leading to agreements on investments worth $2.5 billion between Notore, China Railway and Funde Energy Limited.

Ajayi added that OGFZA, working with Price Waterhouse Coopers as its investment consultants, is in discussion with 37 local and international investors in the Oil and Gas Sector to promote investments in the free zones in a range of areas, including industrial park development, tank farm, and crude oil marketing.

He explained that business activities picked up in the free zone in response to reforms initiated by OGFZA, as the free zone regulator, and a strong government commitment to repositioning the free zone to compete globally through investment in infrastructure. He said government is investing in roads, a bridge, and power to link Ikpokiri Island with the rest of Onne Free Zone, noting that the Buhari administration has completed a 2-km road linking IITA section of the Free Zone to the rest of Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone.

On the issue of taxation as it affects Free Zone Enterprises (FZEs), the Acting Managing Director said all FZEs are legally exempted from all forms of local, state and federal taxes, but are obligated to remit the PAYE tax deductions from employee salaries to government.

He said OGFZA and FZEs have been alive to their obligations to government with regard to PAYE deductions.

Ajayi explained that OGFZA as the regulator of the Onne Free Zone and companies operating in the zone have good outreach programmes for their host community through employment opportunities, skill acquisition projects and other forms of community support, adding that the Free Zone has a good relationship with its host community.

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Author: Destiny Young
Senior IT Engr (Cloud/Cybersecurity)

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