James Emejo and Folalumi Alaran in Abuja
The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), has sought the buy-in of Federal Executive Council (FEC) in its current efforts to establish Medical Special Economic Zones across the six geo-political zones of the country.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive, NEPZA, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, said FEC should adopt the concept as a national project, adding that it would curb medical tourism and boost economic development.
Speaking while formally presenting the concept to the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, Adesugba, said the authority in its 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 healthcare system.
He explained that it was of critical importance for the concept to be adopted by the FEC as a national project, adding that such show of political-will was needed to ward-off the would-be investors’ fears and reservations.
The presentation provided a basis and justification for a notation to be made by the minister to FEC for buy-in and support to commence the project, pointing out that the over $2 billion capital flight on medical tourism annually was a needless astronomical cost of medical services abroad which had a serious negative effect on the economy.
The NEPZA boss also provided introduction and rationale for the project based on the COVID-19 effect, adding 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 added that the project when brought to limelight would invariably showcase Nigeria’s potential as a medical tourism destination.
The NEPZA boss, further outlined the authority’s vision for the project with details on the pilot project, benefits to Nigeria, components of the MSEZ, criteria for site selection, criteria for success as well as the steps taken to date which included stakeholder engagement, gazetting of MSEZ in third schedule of activities, state engagement and budget allocation and the proposed implementation strategy.
In a statement issued by Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Martins Odeh, Adesugba said: “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 holistically 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.”
However, Adebayo, alongside the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs, Mariam Katagum, expressed delight on this initiative and promised to take it to FEC for consideration.