By Anthony Otaru
Professor Adesoji Adesugba is a prominent figure with a diverse and accomplished career.. He currently holds the position of Deputy President at the Abuja chamber of Commerce and industry even as he serves as a National Vice president at the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, industry, Mines and Agriculture [NACCIMA] . He also contributes as a visiting professor at the university of Abuja..
Adesugba notable career transcends various professional domains marking him as a true socio-economic engineer. With a background in law, education and media, his journey commenced as a commissioned officer of the Nigerian Customs Service [NCS] in 1982. Following his National Youths Service and the completion of his degree programme at the University of Lagos, he embarked on this career part in 1999, he took a voluntary step by resigning from the customs service to contribute his expertise to the Nigerian Investment promotion Commission [NIPC] and later, the Bureau of Public Enterprises [BPE] at different junctures.
Between 2009 and 2013, Prof Adesugba assumed the role of Chairman of the Industrial Arbitration Panel [AP] , a federal government agency responsible for resolving industrial disputes. following a substantial part of his career dedicated to the public sector,making a transition to academia. He is notably an aluminus of the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he delved into the implementation of the public policies.
Prof Adesoji Adesugba’s academic contributions also extended to teaching investment promotion at the institutions like the Baden international Business School in Switzerland and serving as a visiting professor at the American University of West Africain Banjul,Gambia as well as Roegate College in Dublin.
Later in his career, Prof. Adesugba made a shift to the organized private sector [OPS]. He ascended to the position of national legal Adviser of the National Association of Chambers of commerce, industry, Mines and Agriculture [NACCIMA] , a role he retained until his appointment at NEPZA. Currently, he holds the distinguished position of the 2nd Deputy President at the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry [ACCI].
In 2018, he established the Gemological institute of Nigeria [GIN] after completing his studies in gemology at the UK-based Gem-A institute..
HIS TALLACADEMIC RECORD//ACHIEVEMENTS.
Prof. Adesugba boasts an impressive academic portfolio including, a Doctorate in Business Administration with the highest distinction from the Califonia Southern University in the USA, a Doctorate in Education Management from the University of Zambia, an M.Sc Degree in Investment Promotion and Economic Development from Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, UK, an MBA from Ogun State University, Nigeria, a B,Sc Degree in Business Administration from the university of Lagos  with his call to the Nigerian bar in 1989.
His international qualifications encompasses a certificate in Chinese Economic Development from the Normal university, Beijing, China, certificates in leadership economic growth negotiations and implementation of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in Boston, USA, a diploma in international Commercial Law School Arbitration from the Chartered institute of Arbitrators UK, and a certificate in International Commercial Arbitration from Columbia Law School in New York. Prof. Adesugba is a distinguished fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators [UK], the Institute of Chartered mediators and conciliators, the National institute of Marketing of Nigeria. Additionally, he is a Member of the Advertisement Practitioner’s council of Nigeria [APCON].
Notably, in May, 2023,
CONTRIBUTIONS TO NEPZA.
Apart from supervising the Export Promotion Zones, Prof. Adesugba ensured that the EPZs served as dedicated industrial hubs designed to attract foreign and local investments, with a focus on export-oriented industries. By providing a conducive business environment, state-of-art infrastructure and a range of incentives, NEPZA has successfully attracted a multitude of industries, including manufacturing, agro-processing, textiles, and information technology to the nation’s economic space.
The establishment of the agency has created a favorable investment climate offering tax incentives, duty-free imports, and simplified customs procedure even as the incentives, coupled with NEPA’s streamlined approve process and investor-friendly policies, have encouraged both multinational corporations and local investors to set up operations in EPZs with current cumulative investment value put at 30 million US Dollars. This influx of FDI has not only increased capital investment but also brought in advanced technologies, managerial expertise and access to global marks.
The Authority’s contribution to employment generation under his watch cannot be overemphasized .The establishment of EPZs has facilitated the creation of numerous direct and indirect job opportunities for Nigerians estimated at 170,000 in the last 30 years. As can be seen, these industries within these zones have employed significant number of skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers, reducing unemployment rates and poverty levels.
As catalysts for regional development, NEPZA’s EPZs have become known for regional development. Having established the EPZs in strategic locations across Nigeria, the Authority has promoted massive infrastructure development, improved connectivity, and attracted ancillary industries in nearby areas. The growth of these industrial clusters has created ripple effects, positively impacting the local economic through the generation of business opportunities, increased demand for goods and services, and improved living standards for communities surrounding the EPZs.
At the last count, there are a total of 52 free trade zones operating within the six- geopolitical regions of Nigeria with the South-West accounting for 27; South-South 11; South-East 4; North-East 2; and North Central 3 respectively. Out of the 52 zones, 50 of them are privately owned while the remaining two are public zones located in Calabar and Kano.
It is in this light that the Authority has continued to encourage government at the sub-nationals’ level to key into the scheme in order to fast track development in their various state.. little wonder that the Lagos State Government has continued to make the best gain of the scheme as it has long keyed into the concept and presently warehousing 19 out of the 27 zones sited in South-West region.
The government while trying to improve on the global competitiveness of the scheme, felt the need to bridge the infrastructure gaps in the two public zones and surroundings of privately-owned zones with the execution of 112 projects listed on the NEPZA Tender Board, Direct Federal Executive Council Approval and the Ministerial Tender Board of Capital Project between 2017 and 2021 respectively. The developments have indeed repositioned the scheme to leverage on the Africa Continental Free Trade Zone Agreement (AFCFTA) in order to boost international trade.
As a result of his unbending leadership style, the federal government recently earmarked the country’s four most viable international Airports which includes the Nmamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Aminu Kanu International Airport, Kano; Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos as well as Port Harcourt International Airport as free Trade Zones.
The conversion of these four aviation corridors into active business ecosystems is no doubt, a well-thought out policy to expand the country’s revenue base, generate employment and to improve the general business environment which can accelerate Foreign Direct Investment inflows. It is safer to say that the impact of the free trade zone in powering the country’s economy has been modest and there is room for improvement. For instance, a total of N34 billion was generated from the scheme as custom duty in 2022, just as N702 million accrued to the Federation Account as payments generated from the immigration activities same year.
Furthermore, a total of N240 million was paid as PAYE in 2022 to the various state governments where free trade zones are located just as domestic import from the zones to the local markets stood at N190 billion in the period under review.
It is also vital to state that international export from the free zones stood at N36 million US Dollars as the scheme also engage 3,500 Nigerians while 500 skills were transferred in 2022. This made NEPZA stand out as one of the few agencies of government that midwife a system that attracts FDI/LDI, generates revenues, generate employment, promotes infrastructure development, promotes skills transfer as well as meet a chunk of the country’s 200 million market population demands for goods and services.
CHALLENGES AT NEPZA.
The operation of the scheme is not without challenges and some of these drawbacks include interference; the current susceptibility of the NEPZA Act; poor external infrastructure, lack of interest of most state governments in adopting the concept, multiple taxation and absence of offshore Banking System.
Despite aforementioned, proper management of the scheme by Prof Adesugba remains a daunting task. However, the strides made in the last three years in spite of these drawbacks are testaments to the management strategic approach in carrying out the assigned mandate of using the scheme to stimulate economic growth and fast track the country’s industrialization.
RECEPIENT OF BUHARI”S LETTER OF COMMENDATION.
Prof. Adesugba received commendation from the then president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari [GCFR, for his exceptional leadership as the managing director/CEO of NEPZA. His enduring commitment to driving positive change continues to shape Nigeria’s business landscape.