Dr. Sabo Tanimu is Founder and President, Tanimu Foundation. He has a strong passion for philanthropy having grown in an environment where he saw people in dire need. A 1995 graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, he moved to the United States in 1998 for more academic pursuits. He is a Gastroenterologist with a subspecialty in Endoscopic Oncology at Marshfield Clinic in Weston, Wisconsin, USA, a Fellow of the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and an Adjunct Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisco cnsin, Madison. He speaks to Daily Trust Saturday on what moved him into providing for the society, among others.
What actually prompted the establishment of Tanimu Foundation?
I grew up a natural giver, especially to the less fortunate. One of the primary reasons that sparked my desire to give was the hardship of the people in the community I grew up. I nursed the ambition to be positively impactful via education. I carefully nurtured it through my formative years in Tilley Gyado College, Makurdi, Yerwa Government Secondary School, Maiduguri and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. After completing my advanced studies from the United States, executing my lifetime ambition became my top priority. I dedicated a little more than a decade of my life, post-graduation to implementing the programs of Tanimu Foundation. Our primary goal is community development via education and Healthcare.
Why are you doing all these activities in Makurdi?
The choice of Makurdi was primarily driven by my lifetime experience. I was born in North Bank, Makurdi, Benue State. I had my primary and early secondary education in Makurdi. I saw, first hand, the difficulties people were experiencing stemming from poverty, lack of education, unwanted pregnancy, drugs and more recently unwanted killings and kidnapping.
Over the last 12 years or so, we began with the creation of Tanimu Foundation. The first step was creating scholarship awards for students at SS3 level and 100 level at the university. Some SS3 students are overburden by the cost of registration for WAEC, NECO, JAMB or post JAMB examinations. This is a deal breaker, which has hindered many students from progressing to the university. For those students who have made it to 100 level, the cost of registration and housing may be enough financial constraint to trigger a dropout from the institution of higher learning. We began by giving N50, 000 per student for many years but we changed it to N15, 000 per student to have a wider reach and serve more as a catalyst to promote academic progress.
The next component of Tanimu Foundation was the building of a multi-million Naira ‘Tanimu Foundation Vocational Centre’, which has three arms. The first component is the fashion and design unit. We train mostly girls, who are disadvantaged in the community, for a period of one year and at the end of the training , we give them a brand-new sewing machine to help kick start their carreer. This has been ongoing for about five years. The second component is the computer-training unit. The section targets students who have graduated from the university or those who are in secondary school, all aimed at improving computer literacy. We give them basic computer training for a period of six months. They take an examination at the end of the training and are certified in basic computer skills including use of Excel, Power Point, Word application, etc. The third component is the Science training unit. We observed over the years, that final year students from secondary schools go to ‘Miracle Centers’ for their final examination, an orchestrated ‘cheating examination centers’, where they are given the answers to NECO or WAEC examination. To circumvent this mischievous attitude, we provide a one-year extra mural computer-based training in science, subjects namely Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The level of preparedness in science subjects has positively influenced the enrolled students.
The next component of Tanimu Foundation is the Tanimu Foundation Ultra-modern Public Library. Our primary goal is to bring about change via education. The relative lack of enthusiasm in promoting Western education in the northern part of the country is partly to blame for some of the negative undertones in the country, namely Boko Haram, AlmaJiri system, kidnapping, etc. We are contributing our quota in creating an enabling environment to promote education. A special section dedicated to medical specialty contains books of various sub specialties in Medicine including books for the United State License Medical examination.
Over the last decade, the foundation has also provided additional services, including lectures on advances in Gastroenterology, free endoscopic services, donation of endoscopic and surgical accessories to the following facilities: National Hospital Abuja, Benue State University Teaching Hospital Makurdi, Federal Medical Center, Makurdi and Jos University Teaching Hospital, Plateau State.
Finally, the culture in the foundation promotes absolute tolerance regardless of religion or ethnicity. Although, we are proudly more dedicated to promoting female education.
What informed the setting up of the diagnostic centre?
When we commissioned the Tanimu Foundation Ultra-Modern Public library in August 2018, the community leaders met me and asked if I could help build a hospital for the community. I pondered over it prior to my return to the United States. As you are aware, health-related matters are difficult and sensitive. Knowing I will not be present to provide the desired services and with my deep commitment to quality in healthcare, the least I could do was to improve the awareness of getting diagnostic evaluation prior to treatment in the community. That was what gave rise to the concept of Tanimu Foundation Diagnostic center.
The diagnostic center has two components. The laboratory unit and the Ultra-sound unit. The laboratory unit performs basic laboratory tests for malaria, typhoid, and screening for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, etc. Urine and stool studies, blood cultures, genotyping, etc. Ultra-sound imaging is performed for abdominal, pelvic and pregnancy related conditions.
The central component of diagnostic center is that, the cost of services provided is fifty per cent of the cost of similar services provided in 50 parts of the community. We are delighted that a seasoned consultant radiologist Dr. Mohammed Hameed, a Staff of Benue State University Teaching Hospital, supervises our diagnostic Center.
All these cost a lot of money. How do you manage with getting the resources?
I bought two houses in Abuja. The annual revenue from the two houses is N1.5million. I donated the houses to the foundation, documented and informed everyone in my family that in the event of my demise, the houses are primarily for the foundation and the community. The revenue from the houses helps in funding our activities including staff salary, purchase of sewing machines for graduates, payment of utilities and other incidentals.
The most recent addition to our foundation, the diagnostic centre is a revenue-generating venture, whose services are offered at the most minimum cost. The revenue generated is used for paying salaries, buying reagents and payment of utilities.
The last component of our potential source of revenue is a booklet of our activities, I produced for distribution to governmental and non-governmental organizations in the United States. The pamphlet depicts 12 years of our selfless commitment to improving humanity via self-sponsored and financially consuming ventures of Tanimu Foundation. Our goal is to present a platform of trust, honesty and transparency that will serve as a vehicle for channeling assistance from the United States to Nigeria and other African countries. I am delighted that a Colleague of mine Dr. Jibril Odogba, a Biomedical Engineer based in the United States became our first donor. He donated N500,000 to four students, each receiving N25, 000 for a total of five years of academic scholarship. I will start distributing the pamphlet this year and remain very optimistic of a fruitful yield.
Going forward, what are you thinking of soonest?
My thought is to get governmental and non-governmental organizations from the United States to help with additional funds beyond what we have done, so that we can reach more people in need. We centered all the activities in Makurdi, Benue State as a pilot study but it is about time to expand our activities to other parts of the country.