Senate yesterday passed for second reading, a bill on the oil and gas export free zone and 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 seeks to amend the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority Act to make consequential provisions to the act for greater effectiveness and efficiency.
The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Odion Ugbesia, also seeks the introduction of the right of workers in the zone to join trade unions and bargain collectively, a provision the principal act abridged since inception of the free zones.
He stated in the lead debate that free zones all over the world were 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, provide 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 doubts 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 told the senators.
Senator Ugbesia explained 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 committees on Trade and Establishment and Public Services for further legislative work.
Meanwhile, the Bio-safety Agency 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.
Leading the debate, its sponsor, Senator Domingo Obende, said the bill would apply to safety administration of any activity of importing, exporting GMOs and the products brought 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.