10 July 2014, Abuja – The Senate has passed for second reading a bill on the oil and gas export free zone just as it moved to regulate the application of biotechnology as the bill seeking to establish the National Bio-Safety Management Agency (NBMA) passed second reading.
The oil and gas export free zone bill, if passed, seeks to amend the oil and gas export free zone authority Act 2011, to make consequential provisions to the act for greater effectiveness and efficiency
The bill, sponsored by Senator Odion Ugbesia (PDP Edo Central), also seeks the introduction of the right of workers in the zone to join trade union and bargain collectively which the principal Act abridged since inception of the free zones.
He stated that free zones all over the world are instrumental in boosting industrial and economic growth.
As a result of which the Federal Government established the Onne Oil and Gas free zones to among other things provides greater level of foreign direct investment, technology transfer, manpower development, provision of employment opportunities and greater economic self-reliance.
“Our free trade zones are far from achieving the purpose for which they were established and there are serious doubt as to whether Nigeria has indeed benefitted from the Onne Oil and Gas free zone beyond the benefit accruable to an industrial area which is the result of weak regulatory framework guiding the operations of free zones in Nigeria,” he said.
He added that the most attractive feature of a free zone anywhere in the world, is the tax holiday which investors enjoy as incentive and encouragement for investment and this amendment provides just that.
The bill was subsequently referred to the committee on Trade and Establishment for further legislative work
Meanwhile, the bio-safety agencies bill seeks to address the National Bio-safety requirements and regulate the practice of modern biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) to ensure safety to the environment and human health.
In a lead debate, the sponsor of the bill, Domingo Obende (APC-Edo North), said the bill would apply to safety administration of any activity of importing, exporting GMOs and the products derived into and out of the country.
He noted that the absence of bio-safety law had hampered research and development in modern biotechnology in Nigeria.
According to him, “A bio-safety law will enable our research institutes to carry out their statutory functions, address issues concerning food security, health issues, diagnostic and environmental problems like desertification and soil erosion.”
– Daily Newswatch