By MUHAMMAD GARBA
I was privileged to be part of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s entourage during his official jaunt to Australia to attend the 4th Meeting of the Strong Cities Global Network International Steering Committee, Melbourne, whose membership consists of 25 mayors and governors from across the globe. It was co-chaired by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue and hosted by the Victorian Government from July 10-12, 2018.
At the end of the meeting held as part of a global effort to counter violent extremism, the governor set out for a pioneering mission aimed at tackling state healthcare services deficiencies. Ganduje paid a working visit to Peter McCullum Cancer Centre, also known as the Peter McCullum Cancer Institute and commonly abbreviated as Peter Mac, a world class oncology research institute, cancer treatment and professional oncologist training centre located in Melbourne, Victoria.
The visit afforded him the opportunity to appreciate the world-class cancer centre in that country and started discussions in earnest on how to have its replica in Kano that will join the league of the Peter Mac as one of the few cancer treatment facilities in the world, with fully integrated clinical and laboratory programme flanking a hospital.
This is in consideration of the fact that cancer is reputed to be one of the world’s deadliest diseases afflicting humanity. Only a very few survive to tell the full story of their anguishes and pains in the hand of the tormenting disease. Nigeria has the highest prevalence rate of cancer cases in West Africa. Kano being the most populous state in the federation is also having its share, particularly prostate and breast cancers. And based on the recent statistics released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer annually and sadly, 80,000 of these eventually die due to several factors including non-availability of a treatment and management centre.
In the face of this exigency, the government of Kano State began moves to provide a solution for the people of Kano having cancer ailments and also to cater for the entire populace nationwide by embarking on the establishment of the Kano Cancer Treatment Centre (KCTC). The Public-Private Partnership arrangement for the project will take care of its sustainability meant to bridge the infrastructural gaps in the public institutions. More so, Nigeria currently has only nine cancer centres, six of which are said not to be functioning.
The multi-billion naira first state-owned cancer treatment centre will be the best in Africa in terms of size and expertise, and it is even bigger than the Peter Mac we visited in Melbourne. The centre will cater for the large number of cancer patients in the country who cannot access quality medical care. It is also aimed to increase health coverage, synchronise the needs of the rich and the poor by having a basket fund to take care of the less-privileged.
It also tallies with the decision of the federal government to introduce the National Cancer Control Plan 2018-2022 where states are expected to follow suit in order to address the indices.
The construction project is still ongoing and with the foundation plinths, using unique reinforced technology almost completed, the facility, when accomplished, will marginally reduce death from cancer disease.
The decision by the government of Kano State to place focus on greater investment in the sector to help reduce medical tourism is also worthwhile. Up to 40 per cent of funds spent by Nigerians on medical tourism is attributable to patients seeking treatment for cancer abroad. With this world-class facility, no Nigerian cancer patient needs to travel abroad to receive treatment easily obtainable at home.
The project was awarded to BICO Nigeria Ltd which partnered with TEAM Nigeria Ltd to provide all the designs of the centre, that is, architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical and execute all construction activities to completion. Technimed Technologies Limited, a healthcare facilities development consultant, is the lead project manager responsible for ensuring that the design, construction and equipping of the facility meets international standards for the services it would provide.
The building of the centre is designed to house various departments dedicated to the treatment of cancer. The ground floor consists of the reception area, radiotherapy department, treatment planning area, consultation services, laboratory/diagnostics services and main laboratory; the first floor is housing the chemotherapy department, while the second floor is for administrative offices.
Upon completion, KCTC will provide world-class radiotherapy and chemotherapy services to hundreds of thousands of Nigerian cancer patients. And when clinical services and operations commence, oncologists are of the opinion that the Kano cancer centre will be truly the best in sub-Sahara Africa.
Situated in the premises of Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital, Giginyu in Nassarawa local government area, the state government has advertised for expression of interest for the procurement of high-tech oncology, imaging, emergency and laboratory equipment that consist of two Linear Accelerators LINAC (Halcyon & TrueBeam) and one Brachytherapy machine (Bravos HDR After loader) which are to be housed in a specialised bunker designed to shield from radiation emitted by the devices. All these equipment are amongst the most advanced in the world used in the treatment of cancer as well as power facilities, hospital and office furniture.
The plan put in place for the operation of the centre will make it the most comprehensive and most affordable cancer treatment centre in the country. With its location within the vicinity of Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital, it will be able to also cater for much more patients than the only other two operational centres for such services in the country – the National Hospital, Abuja and the NLCC Oncology and Radiotherapy in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Lagos.
In addition to the main services, the centre will house a full research facility to help train new generation doctors in both cancer treatment and in the practical use of the equipment in the centre. It will also have a fully integrated clinical and lab programme flanking a hospital where high-intensity radiation treatment is involved among other specialised infrastructure.
The centre will also allow patients get specialised and cheap cancer diagnosis and treatment in line with WHO recommendations and is expected to raise the bar in the quality and standard of cancer treatment in Nigeria with outcomes that would be consistent with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development as well as demonstrate the economic potential of healthcare investments in Nigeria and catalyse increased private sector participation.
While the value of the multi-billion naira project can be valued in currency, one prefer to measure the value in terms of its social impact, the number of Nigerians that will be saved and positively affected as well as the impact of capacity building for our people.
The Ganduje administration promised to effect policies that would remove debilitating constraints on the health sector and create sustainable structures to strengthen healthcare institutions for the benefit of the people. The ongoing KCTC project is part of the modest but laudable strides it has made in fulfilling that promise, which is also expected to reduce the burden of cancer treatment and create at least 150 jobs for medical and allied professionals.
The passion the governor has for the cancer treatment project informed his frequent visits to remain abreast on the level of progress in its execution. And barring all unforeseen circumstances, the project will be completed in the second quarter of next year.
Garba is the commissioner for Information, Kano State.
Curbing Violent Conflicts Through Government-Civil Society Synergy
By Mark Longyen
Observers are of the view that a genuine synergy among government, security agencies and civil society organisations (CSOs) is key to curbing violent conflicts in Nigeria.
Violent conflicts, they say, constitute the core threat to peace, security and ultimately, the overall development of any country, hence the need for synergy among these critical actors to curb the conflicts.
They note that there was the need to redefine the engagement of CSOs in conflict resolution and peace-building in Nigeria, as well as enhance the relationship between the CSOs and the state actors.
According to them, given the nation’s prevailing violent conflicts, it was high time government and security agencies partnered with the civil society with a view to holistically tackling Nigeria’s insecurity challenges.
In his view, Dr Bakut Bakut, the director-general, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja, there was an urgent need to build sustainable synergy between government and civil society groups in Nigeria.
Bakut observed that the best way, going forward, was for the government, security agencies and the CSOs to synergise and apply themselves to the art and practice of participatory governance in order to curb conflicts.
“There is need for a well-structured institutional arrangement for the partnership between civil society groups, government agencies and departments at all levels,” he said.
The director-general noted that the relationship between the civil society and government had been characterised by the challenge of distrust for one another, hence the need for collaboration.
“CSOs have often accused security forces of harassment, human rights abuses, unlawful detention and denial of assembly in line of duty, affecting their roles in peace-building.
“The media, which is an integral part of the civil society, operates in fear in Nigeria, so much so that they self-censor programmes and opinions to air to avoid being shut down,” he said.
Bakut gave his views on October 23, 2020, while speaking at a two-day symposium entitled, “The Role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria’s core conflicts,” organised by the institute, in collaboration with a German foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Sharing similar sentiments, Dr Chris Kwaja, an expert in peace and conflict resolution, who spoke at the same event, noted that a successful approach towards ending rural banditry would require deep synergy among all stakeholders.
He added that such approach, driven by CSOs, by putting in place structures and mechanisms for responses that are comprehensive and sustainable, would help in tackling rural banditry.
“Collaboration between rural communities, security agencies and CSOs, is necessary because, for security agencies to launch successful country-banditry operations, it will require the strong support of the communities as key providers of intelligence.
“The ability of CSOs to develop a robust framework for community-level early warning and response, as well as conflict management, remains an important pathway for community cohesion in Northern Nigeria,” he added.
In his contribution, Mr Daniel Mann, the resident representative, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, said the symposium, which aimed at scrutinising the various roles that government, security agencies and CSOs play in curbing violent conflicts, was timely.
According to him, “militancy, insurgency, armed banditry, and criminality have exposed the entire country to underdevelopment, insecurity and extreme poverty, amidst wealth and plenty.”
Mann also observes that “peace-building is a product of a multiplicity of efforts and interventions, by both traditional and non-traditional security sectors, so government, security agencies and CSOs all have key roles to play.”
Similarly, Associate Prof. Joseph Ochogwu, director, Research and Policy Analysis, IPCR, noted in his paper that in curbing insurgency, government authorities, security forces and CSOs are critical in partnering towards peace-building and reconciliations in the North East zone.
Ochogwu noted: “CSOs have the responsibility to initiate and partner with state and security actors to create innovative peace-building and conflict management approaches that will bring different parties together for reconciliation and healing.
“CSOs and security forces should leverage on the prominent roles of leaders of traditional and religious institutions in the efforts to rebuild and reconcile within the territories recovered from Boko Haram insurgents.”
He further observes that it was dangerous to militarise local CSOs and non-state actors like the Civilian JTF which are working alongside security forces in the war against Boko Haram insurgents.
“Boko Haram started as a religious civil society organisation but later transmuted into an armed violent non-state actor,” he added.
Babagana Zulum, Borno State governor, views the main reason the Nigerian Army has yet to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency as owing to the military’s inability to build confidence in the local communities.
Speaking recently at the 2020 joint Chief of Army Staff Conference in Maiduguri, Zulum said the Nigerian Army must first review its fighting strategy against the insurgents by partnering with the communities.
He stressed that a strong collaboration and engagement of the civil populace by the military towards getting their buy-in as partners in the counterinsurgency war was very germane to ending the conflict.
“The Nigerian Army must also embark on confidence-building and confidence-sharing mechanisms with the communities and civil authorities they found themselves, so as to expose the terrorists, their collaborators and sponsors,” Zulum said.
Corroborating the governor’s viewpoint, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, admits that defeating insurgency was a function of the military’s collaboration with the civil society.
Buratai, while speaking with State House correspondents on July 20 this year, after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Buratai stressed that ending insurgency was a collective responsibility of the military and citizens.
“As to whether banditry, terrorism and so on will end, I think it all depends on us. If Nigerians want it to end today, I can assure you, it will end, if everybody joins hands.
“It is not just a military, security agencies’ task to end the insecurity in this country. Everybody has a responsibility to discharge.
“It is also important for the press not to escalate the situation through reportage, giving prominence to the bandits and terrorist activities. This will go a long way in weakening them,” Buratai warned.
Reinforcing all the aforementioned viewpoints, Prof. Dakas CJ Dakas (SAN), a professor of Law and ex-dean, Faculty of Law, University of Jos, agrees that synergy among the actors was critical and germane to curbing insurgency.
Dakas noted that synergy of the actors comes with the advantage of pooling together their respective competencies and resources for fighting insurgency.
Dakas said: “Synergy among civil society organisations, governments at various levels and security agencies is critical to curbing insurgency.
“This is because they bring to bear their respective competencies and resources, as the case may be, in pursuit of the overarching and mutually reinforcing imperative of ending insurgency in Nigeria.”
Observers and stakeholders are therefore generally of the belief that the antidote to ending Nigeria’s protracted violent conflicts is working out a genuine synergy among the civil society, security agencies and government.
Longyen, a journalist and specialist in International Relations and Strategic Studies, wrote from Abuja.