An Abuja multi-billion-naira International Cancer Centre (ICC) is yet to take off 12 years after the project was established.
Mrs Turai Yar’Adua, the wife of the late former president, Umaru Yar’Adua, was the brains behind the establishment of the centre that is located on Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Road in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
It was said that her aim was to build a cancer centre in the nation’s capital that would cater for people, especially the poor.
The project was designed to be fully private driven and meant to provide comprehensive cancer diagnosis, management, treatment and care, as well as promote excellence in cancer education, training and research.
However, funds were raised for the project on July 18, 2009, in Abuja, where financial pledges were made by the rich and powerful to actualise her dream amounting to N6.8 billion, hence the ICC was born.
Twelve years after, the centre has been abandoned, with the multi-billion-naira equipment and mini-buses already procured for the project rusting away, The Guardian reports.
It was learnt that no fewer than 200 mini-buses parked at the open space in the middle of the compound were moved to a hidden side of the premises.
The Guardian reports that there was no sign of activity there except one white utility vehicle, Hilux, seen driving into the facility when the location was visited.
The entrance gate was said to be locked, noting that it took several knocks before a policeman guarding the place opened to find out who the visitor was and what their mission was.
After exchanging greetings, the correspondent told the officer that she was there to find out whether the centre was already accepting patients and would like to see any of the staff who could provide information on procedures for booking an appointment, to which the policeman replied: “Oh, they have not started, but I believe they will start soon.”
The Guardian gathered that the centre’s inability to take off is a concern, not only to Nigerians but also to the government.
The report also revealed that the Federal Ministry of Health had reached out to the former First Lady through the Director-General that would be in charge of the facility to have a meeting with her but the plan never worked out.
A reliable source close to the health ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We were made to understand that the centre belongs to her NGO. At a point, the government tried to get across to her but it didn’t work out. Even now, the legal department has been directed to find out how she acquired the land and whom the land was allocated to, let’s start from the basis.”
“We raised a memo, we want to know about the land allocation but it seems they are having problems sorting it out. Even the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) couldn’t verify the land too. The concern has been coming from the public on why the centre has not become fully functional. Most Nigerians think it belongs to the Federal Government.”
In September 2017, the former First Lady had told Nigerian students in Uganda, led by their president, Mubarak Yahaya Adamu, who presented her with a merit award, that the cancer centre had not commenced operations because those who made big financial pledges during its fundraising absconded after the death of her husband.
She said: “Before my husband died, I intended to have a hospital. We had a launching, some people made pledges but after my husband died, they just vanished. But we have finished the first phase of the hospital, it’s a very big project.”
According to Turai Yar’Adua, the first phase consists of about 200 rooms, four theatres and other administration offices.
One of the security guards at the ICC said there has been no activity to actualise the centre, as envisioned by Turai, adding that Turai came twice in 2016 to the site and had not been seen around the area since then.
The guard said some bandits invaded the ICC last year to dispossess them of their valuables, adding that a few items belonging to the centre were also stolen.
He said that after the incident, some policemen from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have since been deployed to secure the ICC against further attacks.
“Six of us were employed to secure this place and we do alternate shift, but because the bandits were fully armed, they overpowered us and beat the security guards,” the guard said.