By Jonathan Nda-Isaiah, Abuja
The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and its foreign collaborator, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in its efforts to establish Medical Special Economic Zones across the six geo-political zones of the country, have urged the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to adopt the concept as a national project.
According to a statement signed by Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Martins Odeh, he said the Managing Director of NEPZA, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, made the disclosure while formally presenting the concept to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo on Thursday in Abuja.
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 country’s healthcare system.
The NEPZA chief executive officer explained that it was vitally important for the concept to be adopted by the Federal Executive Council 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.
The NEPZA boss also provide 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 stated that the over 2 billion US Dollar 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 CEO also 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, the steps taken to date which included stakeholder engagement, gazetting of MSEZ in 3rd schedule of activities, state engagement and budget allocation as well as the proposed implementation strategy.
“The statistics of this morning indicate that we have lost 2,057 people to covid 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 FEC for consideration.
The event was attended by Hajia Mariam Katagum, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, and other senior officials of the ministry and NEPZA.
In another development, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) had honoured the minister of trade, industry and investment with “ACCI Gold Award in recognition of his impressive contributions to the growth of trade and commerce in the country through active support for the private sector.
The NEPZA boss, who is also the second deputy president of the association handed the award to the minister on behalf of the association’s president, Dr Al-Mustapha Abubakar.
“This award is, therefore, a recognition of excellent track records of Otumba Adeniyi Adebayo and our smart way of saying: thanks for the past support as we look forward to more robust partnership to take business prosperity to the next level,’’ Abubakar said.
The award ceremony was held Thursday at the Abuja Convention and Trade Centre during the inauguration of the 11th President of the chamber.