10,000 INTELS workers petition presidency over OGFZA saga
NO fewer that 10,000 workers in the Onne Free Trade Zone have registered their displeasure to the presidency over the lingering crisis between INTELS Nigeria Limited and Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority (OGFZA).
The workers, who are apparently worried about their fate in the whole saga said it is capable of bringing the zone to its knees, wipe out the jobs of over 10,000 Nigerians who earn their legitimate living from the zone and negatively affect the economy of Nigeria.
“The Onne Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone was founded over 20 years ago and has since grown in leaps and bounds. At its peak, the zone was home to about 200 companies, providing jobs to over 24,000 Nigerians. These numbers have however reduced to less than half due to economic recession in the country and also mostly due to the unguarded utterances and ill-advised activities of a politician turned OGFZA Managing Director, Umana Okon Umana. “OGFZA was established by Section 2 of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act No. 8 of 1996 to regulate Nigeria’s Oil and Gas free trade zones. The Authority began opera- tion in Onne, Rivers State in 2001. The first oil and gas export free zone to be established was the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone in Rivers State. Subsequently other oil and gas free zone were established by the Federal Government in partnership with private sector operators. “Successive managements of OGFZA worked very hard to position the agency as the premier agency of government responsible for promoting, securing and sustaining investments in the nation’s oil and gas free zones. Little wonder the operations of the Onne Free Zone grew in leaps and bounds attracting much needed foreign direct investment, aiding technology transfer and providing thousands of jobs for otherwise unemployed Nigerians, especially youth and women,” it stated.
The workers alleged that the story was different under the present OGFZA management because the disposition of Umana since his appointment in September 2016 after losing the Akwa Ibom State Governorship election in 2015, runs contrary to the roles, functions and visions of the founding fathers of the zone.
“Turning OGFZA and the Onne free zone into a politi- cal battlefield against a perceived political foe is not only unfortunate but is alien in the history of the zone,” it stated.
The letter reads further: “To be precise, the unguarded utterances of Umana and the imposition of frivolous charges by Mr. Umana’s OGFZA is already taking its toll as some operators have dumped their free zone licenses with several others, who are our employers, getting set to exit the zone. To make matters worse, his imposition of charges has been selective. For instance, the land charges he imposed on operators at the Onne and Warri Free Zones were not imposed on other free zones, thereby creating an uneven playing turf for investors.
“Umana is acting like an Emperor at the Onne Free Zone, riding roughshod over his perceived subjects and making nonsense of much-taunted incentives instituted to attract investors to the zone. These incentives include unlimited time limit on cargo storage, zero customs duty, unlimited expatriate quota, indefinite storage and sales period of goods, zero import and export licenses, reduction in overall project costs and investor-oriented policies,” the workers alleged.