Okey Sampson, Umuahia

Like the Biblical Deborah who saved the people of Israel froa 20 years of oppression unleashed on them by the vicious King Jabin of Canaan, a woman recently came to the rescue in Abia State to save the people from the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the peak of the pandemic, Mrs. Ngozi E. Ekeoma, a United States-based visionary woman and philanthropist from Igbere, Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, thought of establishing a centre for those down with the dreaded coronavirus. Troubled then by the speed at which the virus was spreading round the globe, Mrs. Ekeoma had no other choice than to equally move at the same speed to save the lives of her fellow Abians.

Said she: “As the chaos ensued, it dawned on me that if COVID-19 could get to Lagos from China in so short a time, Abia was within its immediate reach. Charity, they say, begins at home. So, I was convinced that something must be done proactively in response to the pandemic back home in Abia State.”

it was a project that Mrs. Ekeoma could have single-handedly executed without any outside financial help. But as a team player who believes in unity of purpose, she decided it would be

better for little drops of water to form a mighty ocean, so that the project could be collectively owned.

She then reached out to Abians of like minds. And within a short while, a solid body known as Concerned Abia Professionals (CAP) was born. The body got creative, and within a short period, CAP had raised over N96 million. With the money, the body swung into action and constructed the Abia Care Centre – a 50-bed modern medical centre with NCDC approved molecular

laboratory at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Umuahia.

The state of the art COVID-19 care centre, which can also handle DNA tests, was commissioned on October 11 by the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora. Welcoming guests to the commissioning, Mrs. Ekeoma narrated how at the zenith of the COVID-19 pandemic, she reached out to some Abians who not only bought the idea,

but decided to own the project and gave their very best to see that it was delivered. She opined that the project was not only a clear demonstration of the deep love Abians have for their state, but has also exposed the reality that great things would always happen where and when there was unity of purpose.

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While praying for this not to be a one-off project, the initiator thanked all those who made it possible for the edifice to be completed in a record time of 47 days.

Speaker after speaker eulogized CAP for coming up with the project. Dr. Mamora, while commending the initiators of the project. which he informed was the first of its kind in the country, said he was not surprised that Abians of like minds, irrespective of political leaning,

came together to put up such state of the art medical edifice since Abia is touted to be the first in the order of states in the country.

He noted, however, that despite the fact Nigeria has made appreciable impact in the fight against COVID-19, it was not yet Uhuru, as the pandemic has not been completely eradicated. Mamora explained that the country had been doing the right thing in the fight against the coronavirus and assured that the nation would continue to do the right thing at the right time.

Gov Okezie Ikpeazu was represented at the event by his deputy, Ude Oko Chukwu. He expressed joy at concern showed by the Concerned Abia Professionals in the fight against the coronavirus through the establishment of the state of the art COVID-19 care centre.

Ikpeazu, who said it was the first time people of the state would come together irrespective of political parties to pursue a common cause, gave an update of the pandemic in the state. He said Abia has had 909 confirmed cases of coronavirus, making it the third on the list of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the South East. He informed that 891 of the number had been discharged.

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), while presenting an overview of how the centre was established, said during the peak of the pandemic, a group of Abians approached his office to seek how they would help in the fight against the coronavirus. He poured encomiums on Mrs. Ekeoma for initiating the project and thanked all those who made it a success.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and Dr. Alex Otti commended Mrs. Ekeoma for initiating the project and completing it in a record time. They expressed hope that CAP had come to stay for the overall development of the state.

Prominent among those who contributed to the project are Mrs Ekeoma, Senator Abaribe, Uzo Kalu, Dr. Alex Otti, Mary Ikoku, Mascot Uzor Kalu, Etigwe Uwa, SAN, and Friday Nwosu, among others.