Investors raise the alarm over tariff disparity in oil, gas free zones

Adewale Sanyaolu, Abuja

Investors across the nation’s oil and gas free trade zones have expressed concern over tariff disparity in the economic hubs.

Speaking during a panel session on ‘‘Commercial and Investment Forum on Unlocking Economic Zones, Maritime and Ports as Energy Transition Hubs at the Nigerian International Energy Summit(NIES) in Abuja yesterday, General Manager Business Development/Proposal, Samsung Heavy Industry, Mr. David Inglis, said the tariff disparity in the free trade zone was a major disincentive to business.

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Besides, he said there are too many government agencies and people lurking around the Ports corridors without defined role of their presence, thus creating major security concern for vessel security.

Inglis urged government to ensure that a standard and uniform tariff is created for operators, irrespective of which free trade zones they choose to operate from.

He lamented the poor state of electricity across the different trade zones, as such was adding more to the cost of doing business for comp-anies who rely on diesel powered generators for their operations.

In this regard, he said Samsung was partnering with Siemens to build power barges to help grow activities around free trade zones.

Corroborating the frustrations of Inglis, Managing Directors of Starzs Investments Company Limited, Ms Iroghama Ogbeifun,  and Deep Blue Energy Services Limited, Ms Anita Omoile, said doing business in Nigeria is frustrating adding that the tariff disparity across free trade zones was a case in point.

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Omoile said the presence of multiple agencies was hurting businesses, thus making it look like the agencies are in a competition of who kills the business first.

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For her part, Ogbeifun said at a point in time, she was in a quandary mode as how to pay back the banks that lent money to her company because she doesn’t have contracts to back up her idle vessels.

The Startz boss lamented that she is in stiff competition with foreign ship owners who have access to cheap funds, adding that government should ensure that there is a strong collaboration and direction to be driven by the policy makers.

On energy transition, she said the policy must take a human face, calling on the lawmakers to ensure that laws passed in this regards must take into consideration the impact it will have on labour and its socio-economic impact.

Commenting on the worries of the investors, the Managing Director of Oil Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA), Mr. Umana Okon Umana, acknowledged the electricity challenges confronting operators in the free trade zone, saying a situation where operators in Onne port rely on diesel powered generators was not the way to go. He admitted that the power from the national grid was not sufficient enough to bridge the power gap across the free trade zones.

Going forward and in line with the energy transition initiative, he said the free trade zone will be providing embedded power because the energy should be clean and affordable in a n era where it intends to move away from the national grid to mini grid.

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