By Gladys Nweke
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.
Acting Managing Director of OGFZA, Mr. Adekunle Ajayi, disclosed this in reaction to a media report that tended to suggest that the Onne Free Zone was rather in decline.
Ajayi said through 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.
The Acting OGFZA boss said on the contrary, there has been a surge in business activities in the zone since the end of recession in the country.
He announced that in the first six months of the year 2019, many new companies were licensed to operate in the free zone, reflecting the nature of a market economy of open access and free exit.
Notore Chemical Industries Plc which was licensed in December 2017 as the developer of the Notore Industrial City in Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, has already secured commitments of a number of international petrochemical, oil and gas logistics support companies for $5billion worth of investments, with the potential for creating 25,000 jobs in the next four years.
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.
Currently, OGFZA working with PriceWaterhouseCoopers as our 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.
Ajayi 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.
Government is investing in roads, a bridge, and power to link Ikpokiri Island with the rest of Onne Free Zone. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has completed a 2-km road linking IITA section of the Free Zone to the rest of Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone.
In that of taxation as it affects Free Zone Enterprises, 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 affirmed that OGFZA and FZEs have been alive to their obligations to government with regard to PAYE deductions.
Ajayi noted that OGFZA as the regulator of the Onne Free Zone and companies operating in the zone have good relationship with its host community through employment opportunities, skill acquisition projects and other forms of community support.