Posted by Simon Imobo-Tswam | 14 August 2017 | 3,950 times
The day was Friday, August 11, 2017, and the venue was Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos. It was the day the Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas, Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho, pulled the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington; the US Consul-General to Nigeria, Mr. John Bray; the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachichwu; and the Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Hon. Emmanuel Jime, to Lagos.
Other top-of-the-scale dignitaries drawn to Lagos despite their very busy schedules were: the Project Director of Eko Petrochem and Refining Co. Ltd., Mr. Gordon Paton; the Acting Director of United States’ Trade Development Agency (USTDA), Mr. Thomas Hardy; the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Integrated Oil & Gas Ltd, Engr. Tony Iheanacho; and NEPZA’s General Managers, Messrs. Oyesola Oyekunle and Muazu Ruma.
And the occasion was, indeed, a historic and double-barrelled one. The first component was the signing of the grant-award agreement between USTDA and Eko Petroleum & Refining Company Ltd. (EPRC). The second part was the formal inauguration of Tomaro Island Industrial Development Scheme, better known as Tomaro Industrial Park (TIP) as a Free Trade Zone (FTZ). The kernel of this double-barrelled function is to add value to the economy via the construction of a 20,000bpd refinery at Amuwo-Odofin.
And so, on the D-Day, all roads led to Amuwo-Odofin. In his welcome address, Capt. Iheanacho said the refinery aims to steer Nigeria away “from the wasteful historical practice whereby the country exclusively sells its crude oil exports on a Free on Board (FOB) basis but procures its refined products for domestic consumption on a Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) basis.”
According to him, when fully operational, the refinery would lead to the conservation of scarce foreign exchange, generation of export earnings, enhanced economic values, direct and indirect job-creation as well as technology transfers.
The captain of the merchant-navy, who has now transformed himself into a captain of industry, was appreciative of the US Government’s efforts, pointing out that in giving Eko Petrochem the grant of $797,343, via United States’ Trade Development Agency, will accelerate the process of the planned economic investments.
Although the former minister of Interior thanked US Government, noting that it is a demonstration of its commitment to Nigeria’s infrastructural-cum-industrial development as well as export technologies, Eko Petrochem would have to source further investment funds as the cash requirements for the project are in the region of $250 million!
On the Free Zone status for the Tomaro Industrial Park, Ihenacho thanked the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, particularly, its licensing Authority, NEPZA, as well as the Federal Ministry for Petroleum Resources for both the privileged status and the enabling environment. He also expressed his appreciation to both the Lagos State Government and the host-community for a harmonious relationship.
In his goodwill message, the Project Director of Eko Petrochem and Refining Co. Ltd., Mr. Gordon Paton, said the company was committed to Nigeria’s industrial transformation, assuring that the complex was envisioned on enhancing local manufacturing, promoting export substitution, creating job opportunities Nigeria, particularly those on the Island, and prioritising corporate social responsibility (CSR).
In his comments, Amb. Symington, said Capt. Ihenacho, has elected to walk the high-road of not complaining or criticising until he has exhausted all problem-solving efforts, and should, thus, serve as a model to other Nigerians.
He enjoined wealthy Nigerians to believe in the Nigerian Project, just like Ihenacho, and also key into the industrialisation agenda of the present Federal Government, charging them to have the patriotic, Can-Do-Mindset: “All that I am, all that I have, all that I hope to be, I am going to invest in Nigeria. And this is because Nigeria can do anything that can be done anywhere in the world.”
The Minister for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who was represented by a Director in the ministry, Engr. Rabiu Suleiman, saluted the vision of the promoters of the Tomaro FTZ, and pledged to give it every support needed,
including granting the Free Zone a pioneer status so it could conveniently secure duty waivers and engineering reviews.
He charged the newest Free Zone in the country to carry the host-community along as only a community-buy-in can serve as an effective check against insecurity, vandalism and asset theft.
Also speaking, USTDA Acting Director, Thomas Hardy, said the agency already has an investment presence in eight African countries, spanning energy and medicare; with Nigeria being the ninth African country. He reiterated USTDA’s resolve to ensure that Eko Petrochem and Refinery becomes an economic super-story.
And then, it was the turn of NEPZA’s Chief Executive Officer, Hon. Jime. Like the Petroleum Minister, an elated Jime lauded the vision and wisdom of Capt. Ihenacho in exerting himself to invest in the Free Zone scheme. He restated the determination of NEPZA under his watch to give Nigeria the competitive economic edge by rebranding, repositioning and refocusing the FTZs so they can serve as catalysts or drivers of the new development model.
He said the signing of the grant-award ceremony was ample proof that Nigeria’s economic environment has continued to significantly improve, but added that the challenge was to put everything in place so that the country becomes the preferred destination for international capital.
Thereafter, the grand was signed, sealed and delivered, and Jime, on behalf of NEPZA, presented the certificate to Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd, making it a Free Trade Zone!
Ihenacho, who has carved a niche for himself in the maritime industry, has now bought into the Free Zone Scheme. It is the hope of all that the merchant-navy captain who has become a successful captain of industry, will go on to also become a successful Free Zone captain – adding value to his company, the community, the economy, the nation and even Africa!
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