By Victor Okoye
Umana Okon Umana, the Minister, Niger Delta Affairs said the Free Trade Zones (FTZ) Scheme in Nigeria has a global reach of both the game of golf and the scheme.
Umana said this on Tuesday in Abuja during a tee-off ceremony to kick off the 30th Anniversary of the FTZ in Nigeria.
The minister who commended the organizers of the golf tournament, said there was a correlation between golf and the FTZ scheme.
“Today, I am here as a golfer to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the FTZ in Nigeria.
“I am happy that the organisers of this tournament were conscious of the fact that golf is a global game and at FTZ, we talk about the global reach of the scheme.
“So, I am happy to be here and I believe that the FTZ scheme in Nigeria has a very bright future.
“This scheme has been a game changer in many other climes and countries
“Nigeria is already doing well and I believe that the FTZ scheme will strengthen and position the Nigerian economy,” he said.
The minister commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his support for the development of FTZ in Nigeria.
He said that the achievements recorded by the scheme over the past 30 years was worth celebrating.
“It is only fitting and proper that this golf tournament is held as part of activities to mark the 30th anniversary celebrations.
“I want to use this occasion to congratulate Mr President who has given us all the support for the development of FTZ in Nigeria,” he said.
Sen. Tijjani Yahaya Kaura, Managing Director/Chief Executive Office (CEO) of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), said golf tournament as part of activities to celebrate the anniversary was also a way of keeping fit.
“Exercise and sports are very critical ingredients for healthy living and in addition can help to relieve a lot of stress from one’s body.
“Golf therefore is one of the sports which serves that purpose and is being played all over the world.
“We are here today to herald the beginning of Africa’s FTZ Annual General Meeting and the celebration of 30 years of the FTZ scheme in Nigeria.
“That is why we have decided to organise this tournament so that people coming from all over Africa can join us in the celebrations and foster camaraderie through the game of golf,” he said.
Adesoji Adesugba, Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), said the golf tournament was also a part of the FTZ’s advocacy drive.
“This is the beginning of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the FTZ scheme in Nigeria.
“We are also hosting about 48 African countries to the 7th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the African Economic Zones Organisation.
“So we are here to kick off the event with the golf tournament which is being sponsored by one of the FTZ investors (Pinnacle Oil and Gas Ltd.).
“The goal is also to bring together all of our friends to enlighten them about what the FTZ scheme is all about and its benefits.
“It is always a very good avenue for advocacy where people discuss business as well,” he said.
Adesugba said that the game of golf was a game of the mind and strategy and would also allow participants to rid their bodies of stress.
“People will always tell you that you need not just sit down and work, work, work. A healthy mind also adds a great deal to productivity.
“So, we believe that if you are not healthy, you can’t think or do anything and all your investments will be in jeopardy.
“We need a healthy workforce before we start talking business.
“So, we are launching the maiden edition of this tournament today and also thinking of having it every year going forward from where the FTZ enterprises can sponsor it,” he said.
He said that over 120 golfers, cutting across members of the IBB International Golf and Country Club and also investors from Lagos and participants from different African countries were taking part in the tournament.
Adesugba said that the tournament was indeed an eye-opener for the organisers as it had shown that it was another very important way of reaching out not just to Nigerians but other African countries as well.
“You know the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is on now so, we need to be exchanging ideas and meeting up with our peers in other climes.
“I was just talking to the Ambassador from Ghana on the need for us to make this golf event a yearly affair where we can interchange.
“Indeed, we are now talking of collaborating efforts in other different areas, exchanging capacity, ideas and also working together on certain fronts like education, and so on,” he said.
Mike Oquaye Jnr., the CEO for the Ghana FTZ Authority said the event was an avenue of reaching out to people of like minds all over the continent for the good of Africa.
“I think this is a fantastic event and a healthy body equals a healthy mind.
“We are always in support of doing everything in an African way now as you can see with trade in Africa.
“Now we are looking at how the free zones in Africa can all meet, share ideas and come together for the common special economic zone policy which will be to the benefit of trade in Africa.
“So, we are using sports, in this case, the game of golf as a medium for connection. We know that the most important yhings for connection are sports on one hand and you have politics on the other hand.
“We are exploring all those means to be able to reach out to all our various brothers all over the continent for the betterment of Africa,” he said.
Ahmed Bennis, Secretary-General of the African Economic Zones Organisation (AEZO) said the organisation of the golf tournament was a good idea and prelude for the success of the event.
“I am pleased to be here today with our Nigerian brothers and sisters to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Special Economic Zones in Nigeria.
“It is also a good momentum for our organisation to celebrate the 7th Annual meeting.
“This event is co-organised with the African Union, bringing together more than 400 delegates to discuss issues related to the development of FTZs across the continent.
“Our organisation today, gathers more than 85 members representing 45 countries.
“I think that to kick up this event with the golf tournament is definitely timely and a good prelude for the success of this event,” he said. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Joseph Edeh