By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
A business group in Kano called Arewa Business Forum has raised alarm over alleged plots to destroy Kano Free Trade Zones and other upcoming zones in northern part of the country by some forces within the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment.
In a statement issued in Kano and signed by its Secretary, Babayako Abdulahi, the forum alleged that there is a plot to stop the ongoing upgrade of the Kano Free Trade zone while a directive has reportedly been issued to stop issuance of licences for the proposed new free zones in Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara and Taraba states.
The forum alleged that a cabal within the Federal Ministry of Trade has engineered plots to weaken efforts of the North to industrialise in her areas of strengths by transferring the free zone agency from Abuja to the South South in addition to reviewing all ongoing activities in northern free zones.
The statement titled “A Plot Against the North’” reads as follows: ‘’ We have discovered a ground plot to hide under current national crisis to deprive the north of her rights especially in the area of domestic industrialisation within the agricultural value chains. From late last year to date, the Arewa region has embraced the concept of free zones to address issues of job creation within the North. Many states governments and private sector people applied for free zones licences. The moribund Kano Free Zone was put on a path of revival. In fact, the infrastructure deficit of Kano and Calabar zones was addressed by the Federal Executive Council. Katsina was to get licence for textiles free zone among others.
‘” Suddenly from nowhere, we heard story that a south south group is plotting to stop this advances by the North. We first did not take it serious until it was revealed that the Federal Ministry of Trade is putting together a report to hand over control of free zone to a south South body based in Cross River state. The national body based in Abuja which has supported the north in its drive for domestic industrialisation is proposed for scrapping while the South South body is to take over the national assignment.
“In pursuance of that agenda, the Ministry stopped issuance of free zone licences especially the more than five that northern state governments and private sector people have applied for. Till now, the ministry has not allowed the issuance of the said licences. This is a serious plot to decapitate the north at a time her leaders are struggling to attend to issue of job creation to tame insecurity.
“We are angry because the South has more than enough free zones. In fact, the bulk of functioning free zones in Nigeria are based in the South. Why the Minister and his directors are pushing to stop the North is hard to understand. Why the Ministry will think of handing over a national body based in Abuja, serving the entire nation to a local body based in Onne is still not clear. Why so much hatred for us northerners? Why this direct attack?
“We are by this statement calling on the Federal Minister of Trade to stop all efforts to stop the North from creating jobs through free zones. We call on the minister to be aware that we are in the picture of the entire plot and we will not fold our arms and allow this planned injustice to occur.
“We therefore demand the following:
*That the Minister of Trade be called to order before further damages are done to northern interest;
*That we call on President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Oshinbajo to stop this plot against northern industrial development interest;
*That the ban of issuance of new free zone licences be lifted forthwith; and
*That the plot to dissolve the national free zone body in service of a Niger Delta interest be shelved immediately.