Obasanjo in his characteristic comic style, systematically coaxed guests to donate graciously to the pet project of the first lady. The flood gates of donations were opened by Alhaji Aminu Dantata who on behalf of his friends and associates donated a mouth watering sum of N1.2 billion to the project. Other donors include eminent business man and entrepreneur, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who also donated the sum of N1 billion on behalf of the Dangote Foundation.
He, however, pledged that the series of donation to the pet project would be a continuous one especially as the foundation has entered an agreement with the federal ministry of health to collaborate with the ministry on the provision of vital health services. In his welcome address the Minister of Federal Capital Territory who is as well the chairman International Cancer Centre, Senator Muhammad Adamu Aliero said, the proposed ICCA is vital to tackle cancer which is a threat to Nigeria. He said the epidemic which is on daily increase has to be faced squarely and boldly.
The Niger state governor, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu while representing the Governors’ Forum made a donation of N720 million. Members of the National Assembly were not left out as fifteen members donated a total sum of N7.5 million while thirty four members of the Katsina State House of Assembly also donated N5.1 million. Major stakeholders in the private sector also jostled to outwit themselves in the donation ceremony.
For instance, a group known as the Canaan Land Group donated the sum of N15 million, while Fidelity Bank parted with the sum of N3 million. Former president Obasanjo said it was imperative for people to donate to this cause that had ravaged many lives in the society. He described the initiative as a national and international project that would turn round the lives of many people.
Other Prominent Nigerians who also donated to the project include Daniel Kanu, business committee of the Katsina state House of Assembly, Chief Rochas Okorocha, wife of the Nasarawa state governor, Raliya Aliyo Akwe Doma, Bamanga Tukur and a host of others.
In his speech, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan hailed the initiative of the first lady, describing it as a step in the right direction. According to him, the International Cancer Centre, when completed, would be a source of pride to the country as Nigerians would no longer need to jostle abroad for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. Jonathan also said the initiative to stand up to the menace of cancer was occasioned by the devastating effects of the disease on the population.
While expressing her appreciation to the donors, the wife of the president Hajiya Turai Yar’adua explained that there are so many Nigerians out there who are suffering from the dreaded disease and have no hope for survival. In her words, “while many enlightened and privileged Nigerians have travelled abroad for diagnosis and treatment of cancer, many Nigerians still lose their lives to the scourge of cancer, countless Nigerians especially the less privileged have passed away as a result of inadequate access to treatment facility.
She also noted that “if cancer can take away the young the old, the rich, the not so rich and the poor, who then can be spared from the dreaded disease? Cancer has maimed kills and has affected the quality of lives hence the need to take affirmative action.”
Mrs Yar’adua said “recently I and other African First Ladies attended a health summit in far away America. We were brought face to face with the realities of the terrible toll, terminal diseases, such as cancer and HIV, have taken on human race. The statistics were intimidating and fearful with Africa featuring prominently as a continent of suffering.
“The initiative has been on my mind for a long time. However, the reality of the day has made it imperative for me to take the big step. The centre will stand up as a flag ship in offering medical services. It will render services in diagnosis, treatment and research of cancer. It will prevent our collective pride and responsibility to one and other as Africa’s largest community. The disease doesn’t discriminate against the rich and the poor.” She said.
In her goodwill message, the representative of M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre, Dr Eukeria Nwanyawu said building ICCA was a huge task that will live legacy in the lives of many.
At the site of the ICCA, the President, Umaru Musa Yar’adua performed the ground breaking ceremony.
Experts believed that new cases of cancer would rise to about 500,000 per year by 2015, if the trend is not reversed through appropriate remedial actions – including prevention, increased public education and enlightment, early diagnosis with prompt curative treatment and palliative care for advanced incurable causes. The proposed centre would have an initial capacity for 128 in-patient beds made up of male, female and paediatric wards, the palliative care building which would have capacity to cater for 20 terminally ill patients. Palliative care facilities would also be available to out-patients in the day rooms.
In all, over N10 billion donation was raised at the fundraising.
See list on page 3