President Goodluck Jonathan says the Federal Staff Hospital, built by the Chinese government, and upgrade of tertiary hospitals would "reduce number [of people] that need to be referred abroad for medical treatment."
Nigeria loses an estimated N80 billion in treatments outside the country every year.
Commissioning the FSH, a 150-bed hospital at Jabi, Abuja, evaluated at $12.5 million, the president, represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, said it was a "deliberate policy to make not only to make federal government hospitals world class, as exemplified by the ongoing upgrade of our teaching hospitals, but also to encourage the private sector and private sector to invest in world-class treatment and diagnostic centres."
FSH, which occupies some 4.85 hectares, where the hospital relocated in July 2012 from Garki where it operated as a 28-bed facility, is the only health project, in addition to four school projects, that arose from the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in Beijing in 2008 which planned to build 30 hospitals across Africa.
Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu who had opened the hospital last July said FSH patient load has grown to 8,000 patients a month, up from 235, prompting recommendation to re-classify the hospital as a federal medical centre, run by a medical director.
He noted the health ministry has initiated projects to complement China's efforts, including a doctors' quarters, a centre for in-vitro fertilisation, a physiotherapy unit and equipment for echocardiograph and endoscopy.
Its official opening is the result of 42 years of diplomatic ties and "growing relations" between Nigeria and China, said Sambo, explaining that China had become a "significant destination for Nigerian trade, especially crude oil" while China remained a major source of import.
Nigeria is China's third largest trader partner and the second largest export market for Nigeria, said China's ambassador to Nigeria, Deng Boqing, adding his country sought to further expand "exchange and cooperation in trade, investment, education, health, agriculture."
Last year, China announced a $20 billion credit line to Africa to assist specific countries develop infrastructure in hopes of promoting relations with the continent in the next three years.