States scramble for Medical Free Zone

By Moses Uwagbale

The Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Process (NEPZA), Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, has said the torrential approaches from state governments to skew the location of the country’s novel Medical Free Zone to their states had been overwhelming.

Mr Martins Odeh, Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, reported Adesugba made the revelation when he received visiting new President of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), Dr Pamela Ajayi, in Abuja.

Adesugba explained that the medical free zone was a project to revolutionaries the healthcare sector in the country.

He added that a number of state governors that had already assessed the gains accruable from the proposed project were jostling for it to be located in their state.

“The push by these state governments shows acceptability of the project premised upon its viability. NEPZA is, therefore, considering if the project can be located in more than one state’’, the NEPZA boss said.

He said the Federal Government through NEPZA was prepared to establish the project in a state that met all the requirements, adding that the Authority would be strict not to relax in any of its guidelines in the process due to the sensitive nature of sector.

The NEPZA boss reinstated that the agency was, however, amenable in partnering with relevant stakeholders to deliver the proposed world class medical enclave to Nigerians, all peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

“Deliberations on modalities for the creation of the zone have reached an advance stage because we indeed drew members of the committee from the right places. Medical Experts, Zone Experts, Industrialists, Medical Equipment Manufacturers, are among those on the committee and this explains the speed of our progress. 

“This project is so dear to our hearts as it is aimed at ending the about USD 1 billion dollar expended on medical tourism annually by Nigerians. Our aim is to bring to Nigeria, some of the best hospitals in abroad that our people spend this huge amount of money to the zone.

“We are expecting a total of 15 world class foreign hospitals and a handful from within the country that could deliver impeccable services at take-off by 2021. Already we have captured the project in our 2021 budget.

“The Healthcare Federation of Nigeria has some of its affiliates that are already buying into this great opportunity to invest in. Aside from the fact that zone operators have 100 per cent return on investments, no investment made in the medical zone in Nigeria will evaporate’’, Adesugba said.

Ajayi, however, said that the proposed medical free zone when developed would repositioned the health sector, adding that such a destination would ignite healthy competition between local and foreign healthcare providers.

The new president of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, also said she had visited the Authority to explore areas of partnership, adding, however, that the proposed medical zone held a lot of promises.

She further said members of the association were prepared to key into the project, adding, that the Authority should think about reducing fees charged local medical companies to operate in the proposed zone.

 Ajayi explained that her aforementioned request hinged on facts that local investors had longer term sustainability plans than their foreign counterparts.

“We must begin to encourage Local Direct Investment (LDI) and reduce the hype on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as far as this project is concern.

“ Doing so would reduce the country’s human capital flight in the medical sector and also encourage those that had left to return home. Indian did it and Indians are reaping bountifully from such political decision’’, Ajayi said.