The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in efforts to establish Medical Special Economic Zones in Nigeria, have urged the Federal Executive Council to adopt the concept as a national project.
Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, the Managing Director of NEPZA made the remark while formally presenting the concept to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, in Abuja.
In a statement on Friday, by Mr Martins Odeh, Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Adesugba said the medical zones are to be established across the six geo-political zones in conjunction with the IFC, its foreign collaborator.
According to him, in the authority’s attempt to use the zone scheme, to fast track the country’s industrialisation process found it expedient to extend such a mandate to scale-up the country’s healthcare system.
The NEPZA chief executive explained that it was vital for the concept to be adopted, adding that such show of political-will was needed to mitigate the fears and reservations of prospective investors.
The presentation provided a basis and justification for a notation to be made by the minister to Federal Executive Council for its buy-in and support to commence the project.
Adesugba, who also provided introduction and rationale for the project based on the COVID-19 effect.
He added that the prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases in a more threatening manner unequivocally necessitated the urgent need to improve and invest in the country’s healthcare.
He stated that the over two billion dollars capital flight on medical tourism annually was a needless astronomical cost of medical services abroad which had a serious negative effect on the economy.
Adesugba, therefore, explained that the project when brought to limelight would invariably showcase Nigeria’s potential as a medical tourism destination.
“The medical special economic zone remains a tool to reduce medical tourism and to reinstate buoyancy in our economy’’, he said.
The NEPZA boss also outlined the Authority’s vision for the project with details on the pilot project, benefits to Nigeria, components of the medical zones, criteria for site selection and success.
He also highlighted the steps taken to date which included stakeholder engagement, gazetting of medical special economic zones in third schedule of activities, state engagement and budget allocation and the proposed implementation strategy.
“The statistics of this morning indicate that we have lost 2,057 people to COVID-19 but we have lost more to malaria this year as we speak.
“We have lost more to TB, HIV so our intention is to put together the kind of scheme that would wholistically address the country’s healthcare challenges.
“We have been able to pick some locations and we discovered that it’s even easier for us because there are some states that have already indicated interest to host the project.
“Lagos, Kwara and Katsina States are waiting for the commencement of this great initiative.
“While Katsina is on the verge of allotting us 400 hectares of land near the Airport for this scheme, we have taken delivery of large sites in Lekki, Lagos and Kwara respectively’’, Adesugba said.
Meanwhile, Dr Olumide Okunola, Senior Health Specialist, IFC, said the country should speedily leverage on this project to speed up its structural transformation.
On his part, Adebayo expressed delight on this initiative and promised to take it to federal executive council for consideration.
The event was also attended by Amb. Mariam Katagum, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment and other senior officials of the ministry and NEPZA.