Mrs Turai Yar’Adua, wife of Nigeria’s former president, Umaru Yar’Adua once had a grand dream to build a cancer centre in the Nigerian capital that will cater especially for the poor.
On July 18, 2009, she assembled the Nigerian rich and government contractors to a fundraising in Abuja, which was also attended by his usually taciturn husband, battling some complicated diseases at the time.
“My resolve to stand up to the menace of cancer is occasioned by the devastating effects of the disease on our population. The more enlightened and financially capable among Nigerians suffering from cancer have been able to travel out to seek professional and medical attention in the form of diagnosis and treatments,” Turai said.
Financial pledges made by the galaxy of guests to actualise her dream amounted to N6.8 billion. The International Cancer Centre, (ICC) Abuja was born.
But since then, apart from the imposing structure on the Umaru Yar’Adua Express Road, the project is now virtually abandoned.
One of the security guards at the ICC who simply identified himself as Garba confirmed the abandonment. He said there had been no activities to actualise the centre, as envisioned by Turai Yar’Adua.
According to him, Turai came two times in 2016 to the site. She had not been seen around the area since then. “We have not seen her this year, but some people often come around to see the progress of the place,” he said.
Garba said some bandits invaded the ICC last year to dispossess them of their valuables, adding that few items belonging to the centre were also stolen.
He added that some policemen from the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) had since been deployed to secure the ICC against further attacks. “Six of us were employed to secure this place and we do alternate, but because the bandits were fully armed, they overpowered us and beat the security guards.
The desolate centre was more palpable at a park for scores of tricycles meant to be conveying patients. Weeds have swamped the tricycles.
Worried by the delay in completing the ICC, residents of Abuja have called for a revamp of the project that was championed by the wife of former President UmaruYar’Adua, for health delivery to the vulnerable in the country.
An Abuja resident, Mr Gabriel Oluwabunmi, berated those responsible for the abandoned project, adding that such noble idea that could bring relief to the masses should have been completed without the usual hiccup.
He called on the authorities to ensure that the project was resuscitated, adding that such cancer centre would help bring succour to those ravaged by the disease and especially those who could not afford to be flown abroad.
Miss NgoziChukwuma whose relative is suffering from cancer called on the Federal Government to ensure the completion of the centre to enable Nigerians who could not afford overseas treatment patronise it.
She said such project would go a long way in assuaging the feeling of Nigerians who could not afford the treatment as a result of heavy monetary demand.
Mrs Yar’adua had in her speech during the launch of the centre said the whole idea of establishing the cancer centre was conceived out of her desire to contribute her quota to achieving standard healthcare delivery for the vulnerable.
According to her, the centre would specifically render services to women and children, especially the rural and urban poor.
When our TBI Africa visited the National Hospital Abuja which is offering an alternative treatment to cancer patients, the staff appeared so overwhelmed with the huge number of cancer patients.
Some of the banners pasted on the wall of the national hospital, cancer patient ward offers a ray of hope to some who might have lost hope of recovering from the disease.
The banners read: “Cancer is a word not a sentence, “At any given moment you have the power to say this is not how the story is going to end,” “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey,” among others.
A cancer patient who craved anonymity called on the Federal Government to assist in revamping the centre, adding that this would go a long way in decongesting the national hospital from cancer patients with special attention.
According to the patient, the number of people patronising the National Hospital will ease of because the country now has a special centre dedicated to the treatment of cancer.
An Abuja based businessman, Mr Mohammed Lawal, called on the government not to abandon the centre, adding that though it was a private initiative; the government could also intervene to revamp it.
He decried a situation where a noble and laudable idea that could help the country get out of its health challenges is being allowed to die because the promoter is no longer in position to execute the project.
The ICC according to its promoter, was meant to focus on four types of cancer that account for most deaths in Nigeria: cervical cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and throat cancer