Fighting Cancer: Lagos Assembly’s Bold, Unique Initiative By Musbau Razak


The Lateef Jakande Auditorium of the Lagos State House of Assembly was packed full on Wednesday, September 28, 2016. The faces in the hall were friendly, they were smiling faces but you can deduce the seriousness in their looks.
It was the one day public hearing programme organised by the House Committee on Health where members of the public particularly stakeholders in the health sector were invited to discuss and make suggestions on a Bill for the establishment of a cancer institute in the state.
The attendance, the passionate discussion and the commitment of the participants to contributing their quota to the eradication of the cancer disease in the state were confirmation that the Bill when pased into law will be one of the most people oriented laws to be enacted by the House.
Not a few who participated at the one day event heaped praises on the state Assembly particularly the Speaker, Rt Hon Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa for their determination and commitment to the eradication of cancer of all sorts from the Nigerian society with special emphasis on Lagos State.
Participants were particularly pleased that the House sought contributions and suggestions from members of the public especially stakeholders from the health sector.
“The House deserves praises particularly the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa who we learnt was the initiator of the Bill. This is an initiative that will go a long way in reducing the menace of the disease to the barest minimum,” one of the participants said.
Indeed, Rt. Hon. Obasa has been leading by example. Since the commencement of the 8th Assembly, the Speaker has led his colleagues in introducing private member bills. It is also a fact that most of the.bills initiated by the Speaker are people oriented which have direct impact on the welfare and standard of living of the people.
The recent Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill he initiated which had been passed by the House and ascented into law by the state Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode is a typical example of such bill.
The Neighbourhood Safety Corps law apart from improving security at the grasroots level is set to provide 5000 jobs with the recent decision of the state government to employ 5000 neighbourhood watch personnel.
In initiating the establishment of the cancer institute bill, Speaker Obasa was guided by the alarming statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on increase cases of cancer globally particularly the third world countries among which is Nigeria.
Before discussing the aims, objectives and.operation of the bill, there is the need to explain in brief what Cancer means.
According to medical experts, Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body hence it has the potentials to kill if not detected and treated early. It should be noted however that not all tumors are cancerous; thus,  benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer does not occur without symptoms hence if you are having an unusual lump in any part of your body, you are bleeding abnormally, you are losing weight without cause, you have a prolonged cough or you have a sudden change in your bowel movement, then danger may be lurking and you have to see your doctor fast.
The popular cliche, ‘smokers are liable to die young’ is indeed true if it is related to cancer. This is because it has been discovered that smoking Tobaccoe is a major cause of cancer with statistiics showing that tobaccoe smoking causes about 22 percent. Thus what we eat is a.major cause.
The way we live is also a major cause. Thus, obesity, poor diet, lack of physical activity and excesive alcohol intake are major causes of various forms of cancer and in fact are responsible for 10 percent of cancer death.
It is not limited to this: infections, exposure to ionizing radiation and environmental pollution are all causes of cancer. It has been reported that nearly 20 percent of cancers are due to infections of various forms. Thus, the way we live is a major cause of cancer and the major reason it is prevalent in developing countries such as Nigeria. Let us also add that in some cases, some.cancers are generic and.can be.inherited. What this means is that we all have one cancer trait or the other but it is our lifestyle that is key to its development or not. And that is why the way we live and what we put in our mouths and stomachs should be on positive level.
Many cancers can be prevented by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, not drinking too much alcohol, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, vaccination against certain infectious diseases, not eating too much processed and red meat, and avoiding too much sunlight exposure.
To the layman, cancer is notorius because it is a terminal disease which eventually terminates the live of anyone afflicted with it. To make matter worse, it is of different kind: skin,  lungs, throat, postate, cervical, breast, blood, bone and mouth cancer among others.
Some are common to females like breast and cervical cancers while postate is only associated with men. But they all have one grim consequence if not detected and treated on time: death.
According to the International Agency for Reseach on Cancer (IAPC), as at 2008, 7.6 million people have died globally from cancer while it was predicted that the figure will reach 21 million in 2030.
In 2012, about 14.1 million new cases of cancer occurred globally  and this does not include skin cancer other than melanoma. It caused about 8.2 million deaths or 14.6 percent of human deaths.
Apart from this, cancer has been responsible for 13 percent of all deaths in the world while 70 percent of these deaths occur in middle and low income countries like Nigeria.
It was also reported that only 17 percent of African countries have fund for cancer control programmes while less than 50 percent of the countries of the world can boast of such fund for cancer control programmes.
Coming home to Nigeria, 10,000 people die annually from cancer while 250,000 new cases are reported annually.
Prominent Nigerians have died of one.cancer ailment or the other. Perhaps one of the most celebrated Nigerians lost to.cancer was celebrated human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi who died of lung cancer in 2009. Another lprominent Nigerian lost to cancer was celebrated musician, Sunny Okosun who lost his life battle to colon cancer.
The biggest loss to cancer in Nigeria was former President Umar Musa Yar Adua who died of lung cancer while in office in 2010.
Former Nigerian First Lady, Mrs Maryam Babangida who died of ovarian cancer in 2009. There are more but space won’t allow us to mention but we won’t fail to mention Atinuke Ilkpeba, wife of former African Footballer of the Year, Victor Ikpeba who died of breast cancer.
Therefore, to say that the decison of the Lagos State House of Assembly to initiate the Bill that will pave way for the establishment of the cancer institute was well applauded round the state will be an understatement.
“There is need for us to take the bull by the horn and tackle this menace because we.can’t continue to lose precious lives to this deadly disease every year,” Speaker Obasa said during the one day public hearing.
Giving a break down of the bill, the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade the cancer institute expected to be established by the bill seek to provide among other things: provide affordable and subsidized medical care for cancer patients; carry out research in other terminal diseases but with special emphasis on Cancer related ones; carry out extensive diagnosis; provide current, advanced and latest technological diagnostic instruments; gather and provide accurate data of terminally ill patients in Lagos; provide guidelines for all pallliative care providers; and ensure that curative and palliative medical care are vigorously provided in hospitals in the state.
Agunbiade explained further that the Institute will be managed by a board which will consist of: three medical profesionals who shall be professors of medicine or consultant; a member of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA); and three members of the public of proven integrity. The board shall have a chief executive officer named the general manager. Board members are to serve for a minimum of five years.
The bill also seek for the establishment a terminal illness centre in all the 57 councils of the state while there will be a.cancer advisory council to be chaired by the Governor.
“Our intention is to ensure that the gains of this initiative is taken to the grassroots and we want to ensure that all are involved to boost its success,” the Lagos Speaker said.
Ovedall, the praises being rained on this iniative is an indication that the Lagos State House of Assembly is.not only the leading state Assembly in the country but also the most proactive.
Indeed it is a confirmation that the Assembly particularly under the leadership of Obasa is above common standard of excellence
Musbau Razak, Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, writes in from Lagos and can be reached via [email protected] and [email protected] 
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