Frank Umeh a lawyer and Managing Director, Tradewinds Duty Free Market, Tinapa Free Trade zone, Calabar, in this interview offers insights into how the Tinapa free trade will be successful. He said he believes that Tinapa is a viable project and everyone should be thinking of how to make it do better than it is doing presently. Here is an excerpt.
How would you describe doing business in Tinapa?
Tinapa is a relatively new chapter in business in this clime. It is like a breath of fresh air. Tinapa is the only free trade zone in Nigeria today that is engaged in trade in finished goods. The trade in Tinapa involved importing goods from outside the country for onward distribution to either the local market or outside Nigeria.
If you have customers from other countries outside Nigeria coming into Tinapa to buy, it becomes a form that Dubai takes. You have Nigerians going to Dubai to import goods into Nigeria.
In Tinapa, we have customers from different countries like Cameroun and even from the Equatorial Guinea coming in to do shopping. Then for the local economy, Nigerians come to Tinapa to make their purchases. Anytime you visit Tinapa, it is assumed that you have left the country. Trade in Tinapa has been good; it has been wonderful but it could be better.
What is your take on the operation of free trade zones in this country?
I have been a keen observer of the development in Tinapa free trade zone since it was commissioned. And my training as a lawyer is a leverage in the essence that one understands the legal framework involved.
I have read several gazettes of other free trade zones within and outside this clime. I have travelled to Dubai and I have also heard much about the operations of the Dubai free trade zone.
When the Tinapa law was signed by the late President Umar Yar’Adua in 2009, I took time to read through the law and I saw the enormous potential and opportunity that Tinapa has for any serious trader that really wants to excel beyond the identified hiccups and difficulties in logistics in the importation of goods into the zone then.
I have read the law of Tinapa back to back and, therefore, conversant with the procedure. So, it’s been more of learning and practice. I believe that one needs to constantly update his knowledge in any field of endeavour he is into because when you stop reading, you start dying.