The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, hinted, yesterday, that he would engage Lagos and Federal governments on the possibility of allowing Infrastructural Corporation of Nigeria Plc (INFRACO) to take over Lagos Free Zone (LFZ) access roads.
Emefiele said this during a tour of the zone, being promoted by Tolaram Group, stressing that the existing road infrastructure would be overwhelmed when the economic activities of the zone begin to take off.
This comes as a seaport, a key infrastructure in the area, is scheduled to take off by September, according to the company.
The Chief Executive Officer for Africa, Tolaram Group, Haresh Aswani, disclosed that $2.1b has been committed into the project covering 850 hectares. He added that 300 hectares (or 35 per cent) would be developed before the end of 2024.
About 70 per cent of the project is earmarked for industries while 20 per cent and 10 per cent are devoted to logistics and real estate respectively. The company said an estimated $6b is to be spent in the project development in the next 10 years, during which many companies are expected to take off.
The CBN boss, who promised the bank would give every support required to make the project a success, said he would engage the government through the Ministry of Works and Housing on the possibility of ceding roads connecting the zone to $15 billion INFRACO, which was inaugurated last year by President Muhammadu Buhari and chaired by the apex bank, for construction under agreed terms.
Emefiele stressed that he is not an advocate of the road tax credit as it denies the government of future revenue. He was, however, certain that the road developed under other commercial-viable terms to ease access to and from the axis, which houses LFZ and Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ).
He said using barges to evacuate the cargoes from the port would only serve as an immediate solution while massive road infrastructure would open the place to other parts of the country.
Emefiele also said the seaport would be considered a major export hub. In CBN’s newly unveiled RT200, the bank is looking at developing a seaport that would be dedicated to promoting exports as it aspires to generate $200 billion in foreign exchange from non-oil export in the next three to five years.
According to the governor, Tolaram, which he said has done “very well in growing the country’s economy in the past 45 years”, has benefited N100 billion from CBN’s real sector support facility and disbursed the differentiated cash reserve ratio (DCRR). He said the amount was small compared with the company’s commitment to the country’s economy.
The regulator said the CBN would continue to support activities that would create jobs, deepen local capacity and boost foreign exchange earnings, adding that he was impressed Toralam built its business model around the objectives.
“You make money and reinvest in the economy, unlike other foreign companies. You have created jobs. So, we will continue to provide you with the support you need to succeed,” he said.
Emefiele went on a memory lane, noting that he knew about the LFZ concept about 15 years ago during his days at Zenith Bank Plc as a deputy managing director.
“But I thought it was a joke. My colleagues visited and confirmed that nothing was happening there. But today, the idea has become a major catalyst,” he said.