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Eminent Nigerians rally behind ‘Big War Against Cancer’ initiative

cancerTHE nation-wide campaign for early detection and treatment of cancer yesterday received a boost as eminent Nigerians rallied behind the ‘Big War Against Cancer’ initiative.

The initiative, led by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) Nigeria, is raising funds for 37 Mobile Cancer Centres (MCCs), at N120 million each, to go round the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. A total of about N4.44 billion would be required.

The eminent Nigerians, who gathered at Banquet of Stars Against Cancer (BOSAC) and celebration of Lagos State governor’s birthday in Lagos, agreed that early detection and treatment services were critical to defeating the common enemy and to prevent over 240 cancer-related deaths daily in the country.

Among those who pledged their support were Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode; his Deputy, Dr. Idiat Adebule; Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III; Cardinal John Onaiyekan; Prof. Pat Utomi and Fola Adeola.

Others are Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; Amb. Christopher Kolade; Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Oscar Onyema; Publisher of The Guardian Newspapers, Maiden Ibru and Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu among others.

The Vice-President, represented by the former Attorney General in Lagos State, Ade Ipaye, appreciated the efforts of the CECP in the great war against cancer in Nigeria.

Osinbajo, who said cancer was a deadly affliction that could affect anyone, however, noted that the silver lining was that most cancers could be detected early and treated promptly.

Though cancer killed no fewer than 8.4 million people around the world in 2014 alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that one-third of cancer cases are preventable, one-third treatable and one-third of patients can have good quality of life if given adequate and timely treatment.

The Vice President said Nigerians could therefore rally support behind the effort on early detection and treatment to ensure that more Nigerians do not suffer the scourge.

He promised to get in touch with the committee on what he could do both as an individual and in his official capacity to support the worthy initiative.

Ambode, who was represented by his deputy, said the cancer fight – through contribution to treatment facilities — was for everyone to contribute to because cancer now affects all.

He said in recognition of the enormous public health challenge, his administration would continue the screening and treatment programmes of his predecessor, adding that he would also give financial support to CECP.

Beyond gathering support and giving money to the initiative, it was obvious at the gathering that much more was expected from Lagos government, at least to buy one mobile cancer centre for the state.

Publisher of The Guardian, Maiden Ibru, who shared her late husband’s experience with cancer, said early detection was the option against the nightmare of a disease, “which is why we have to support programmes that will provide us detection and treatment facilities.”

Citing that the MCCs agenda of the CECP will achieve this, Ibru said the onus was on the Lagos State government to take the lead, “buy your own MCC, for other states to follow.”

On his part, Prof. Utomi, said it was indeed shameful that something that could kill all was still being given the least attention.

According to him, “it is something of enlightened self-interest, but a shame that the government cannot provide at least an MCC that will go round the states. Yet it is a tiny fraction of the fund used in election campaign. Just one day, three leading people in the corporate world were buried due to cancer sickness. We have still not challenged this one thing that keeps us down,” he said adding that without any doubt, an MCC is not beyond the Lagos State government.

“Lagos is a centre of excellence, and we are expecting that it will be so in this case. It is expected that the way the state had shown example to other states, it will also show example by working with the committee; availing the mobiles centres to go around and treat us,” Utomi said.

Member of the CECP, Ambassador Christopher Kolade said the MCC was on one of the programmes before the committee in its war against cancer, adding that it was a very serious war that had to be won.

Kolade said it was important for all to remember that a life without a challenge, like what cancer now poses to humanity, is a life that is under-engaged and boring. “Cancer is just a challenge that all Nigerians must brace up to defeat,” he said.

According to him, “if we do not engage in the war to defeat cancer, then cancer will overcome us. But with people that are here, we are assured that cancer will not defeat us.

“Whatever else people will say about us as a country, we know that we are better people with quality in us. It is that quality that we want to tap into today. We have no doubt as a committee that we can mobilise ourselves to fight the war such that cancer will be retreating before us,” Kolade said.

Executive Secretary, CECP, Dr. Abia Nzelu said no fewer than 100,000 new cases of cancer are recorded in Nigeria yearly while 80,000 die as four out of every five cancer patients die in the country.

The MCCS are customised clinics-on-wheels to detect cancer and have patients treated even in hard-to-reach rural communities.

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