By Tordue Salem, Abuja
The Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Process (NEPZA), Prof. Adesoji Adesugba disclosed on Tuesday, that his agency was planning to establish 15 Medical Free zones in at least 15 states of the federation.
The MD according the Head, Corporate Affairs of NEPZA, Martins Odeh, made the pledge, while the President of the Health Care Federation of Nigeria (HFN), Dr Pamela Ajayi, paid him a courtesy call in Abuja.
The NEPZA helmsman revealed that “the torrential approaches from state governments to skew the location of the country’s novel Medical Free Zone to their states, had been overwhelming”, adding that “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.
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“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”.
He added that “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.
“The proposed medical free zone when developed, would reposition the health sector. A destination would ignite healthy competition between local and foreign healthcare providers”.
The new president of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, in her remarks , said she had visited the Authority to explore areas of partnership, adding, however, that the proposed medical zone held a lot of promises.
She 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 request was drive. by the fact 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.