According to reports, 30 Nigerian women die every day of breast cancer while one Nigerian woman dies every hour of cervical cancer. Fourteen Nigerian men die daily of prostrates cancer, while one Nigerian dies every hour of liver cancer and one Nigerian dies every two hours of colon cancer.
It has also been established that only one out of every five Nigerians with cancer survives, while in the case of blood cancer, only one out of 30 blood cancer patients survive.
As threatening and humongous the statistics on cancer in Nigeria is, early detection and treatment can drastically reduce the number of deaths, provided there are adequate treatment centres in the country.
For instance, in 2014, available records showed that Nigerians spent about $200 million to treat cancer abroad and this was as a result of non-availability of a comprehensive cancer treatment centre in the country, and the amount spent on medical tourism with respect to treatment of cancer yearly can conveniently be deplored to provide three comprehensive centres at the cost of $63 million each.
There are also no Mobile Cancer Centres in the country, which experts say can be provided at the cost of $600,000 each.
It was against this backdrop that the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode again teamed up with the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) to dedicate his 53rd birthday, not only to raise awareness about the scourge, but also to raise funds for the provision of Mobile Cancer Centres to be deployed to States in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The gesture by the governor, which was described as exemplary by dignitaries from all walks of life who thronged the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja, venue of the luncheon, also witnessed the instant commitment of eminent personalities to the big war against cancer.
More interesting and symbolic was the fact that the birthday of the governor fell on a Tuesday and it was rightly tagged #GivingTuesdayLagos, a day introduced by the United Nations in 2012 to engender and celebrate philanthropy worldwide.
Speaking at the event, Governor Ambode said he was a fulfilled man, using his birthday to raise funds for humanity, and called on Nigerians to join hands to wage war against the scourge.
The governor said though the target of CECP was to raise funds for provision of one Mobile Cancer Centre in each state of the federation, but that he would raise it to three for Lagos, which would be distributed to each of the three senatorial districts in the State, adding that the Centres would go a long way to save millions of Nigerians from preventable suffering and death.
Lamenting the rate at which the terminal disease has claimed thousands of lives in recent times, the governor said it was unacceptable and therefore called for concerted efforts from all and sundry. He said the war against cancer was one that the government cannot tackle alone, hence the need for Nigerians to extend their philanthropy towards the scourge.
“Lives are lost every day to cancer and this is unacceptable. This is why the Lagos State Government carried out public health programmes focused on cancer.
“I believe that the government alone cannot solve every problem; everyone has a role to play. In my one year in office, I have come to realise that even with the best will in the world, Government cannot do everything. The real challenge before me as Governor of Lagos is how I unite public, private and philanthropic sectors in building our state.
“I am, therefore, glad that through this private sector led initiative I can play a role in helping to advance the BIG WAR Against Cancer for the well-being of not just the good people of Lagos State but Nigerians in general.
“We can only achieve this goal with the generous support of all people of goodwill. Without these donations, the goal would not be reached and the opportunity to save lives would be lost,” he said.
Governor Ambode, who commended the CECP and philanthropists who donated towards the purchase of the first set of Mobile Cancer Centres, said that though the initial target was for one Centre in Lagos, but that having three centres in each of the senatorial districts in the State was a priority for him.
“The purpose of this Luncheon is to raise funds for One Mobile Cancer Centre for Lagos but I would like to challenge us all to not only give towards the provision of one Mobile Cancer Center but towards the provision of three Mobile Cancer Centers, servicing each of the senatorial districts of Lagos; as the Centre of Excellence and Africa’s model City-State.
“This would help to save millions of Nigerians from preventable suffering and death. We can only achieve this goal with the generous support of all people of goodwill. Without these donations, the goal would not be reached and the opportunity to save lives would be lost,” he said.
He also expressed the readiness of his administration to mobilise philanthropists and corporate organisations towards establishing a comprehensive Cancer Centre in Lagos within the next three years, starting with making available a piece of land in any part of the State, as well as facilitating speedy paper work.
“This is not really a celebration but a call to service. Against all odds; against all the things happening to the economy in the country; against the numbers; against the anxieties and the panic, we are still able to stand up and gather ourselves together and say we want to give back to humanity, that is symbolic and key for me and I think we must commend ourselves that all hope is not lost. There is more value to us and humanity in championing this course,” he said.
The governor jokingly told the guests that that was the first time he would be celebrating his birthday and that he was ambushed by members of the CECP.
On his part, Dr. Christopher Kolade, anchor of CECP-Nigeria, commended the Governor for accepting the request that his birthday be dedicated towards raising funds to fight cancer as well as accepting to be the first Governor to be inducted as the State Patron of CECP.
Earlier, in her opening remarks, a member of CECP and Publisher of Guardian Newspaper, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru commended Governor Ambode for dedicating his first two birthdays in office as Governor of the most economically viable State in Nigeria to the fight against cancer. Lady Maiden, who lost her husband to cancer few years back, said the gesture by the Governor was indeed commendable and urged all Nigerians to key into the quest to tackle the scourge headlong.
Also, Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia said he was happy to partner with Governor Ambode to fight the scourge, adding that it was time for all to unite and address the issue once and for all. Ovia, who was at the forefront of the donation for the first ten units of Mobile Cancer Centres already ordered at the cost of N1 billion, said the development was a good day not just for Lagos, but for Nigeria.
After the speeches, Governor Ambode personally moved round the hall shaking all those in attendance and collecting their donations. At the end, undisclosed amount was realized towards the purchase of Mobile Cancer Centres, which sources said may not be less than four.–
Governor Ambode was later decorated as the State Patron of CECP by the organisation’s Convener, Mrs. Adetutu Adeleke, making him the first State Governor to be so inducted in Nigeria after President Mohammadu Buhari, who was inducted as Grand Patron, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was inducted as the National Patron.
Among those who participated in the fund raising luncheon include Chairman, Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia; Group Managing Director, Zenith Bank Plc., Mr. Peter Amangbo; Chairman of the Chagoury Group, the firm undertaking the Eko Atlantic Project, Mr. Gilbert Chagoury; Publisher, Guardian Newspapers, Maiden Alex Ibru;
Others are, Former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, Dr. Christopher Kolade, President, Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; Dr. Michael Omolayole, Chief Adebutu Kessington, Chairman of Eleganza Group, Chief Rasaq Okoya; Rtd Justice George Oguntade, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, captains of industries, members of Diplomatic Corps, among others.