By NBF News
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President Goodluck Jonathan, last Saturday, on Banana Island, Lagos, commissioned the N523 million ($3.5 million) building of Ford Foundation, marking its 50 years of work in Nigeria. President Jonathan commended the foundation's capital and operational support to the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan, to remain a leading global agriculture research institute till date.

He also praised Ford which came into existence 75 years ago, for supporting the work of Institute of Child Health and the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, in 1970 as well as being one of the early supporters of the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission, the Oputa Panel, as well as funded programmes on constitutional review and civic education in Nigeria.

The president also commended the foundation for the grant it gave to the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) to establish HIV-AIDS reference laboratory and clinical research centre in 2002. The president assured the internationally recognised support organisation that the government of Nigeria would continue to partner with it in its efforts at institutionalising democracy and best practices in Africa.

According to Ford Foundation President, Luis A. Ubinas, it opened its door in Nigeria in 1960 but did not have a permanent address until now. He said since making its first grant in the region in 1958, it has invested nearly $285 million (N40.70 billion) to support visionary people across West Africa who are focussed on strengthening democracy, promoting human rights, expanding higher education, building economic opportunity, and cultivating arts and culture.

Ubinas, who also announced $1 million (N150 million) for a series of special awards to recognise outstanding initiatives that promote transparency, good governance and inegrity in Nigeria, added that the foundation envisioned 'a future – a near future, not a distant future – in which West Africans and their governments will use the region's extraordinary human resources for common good, a future in which all people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. We hope that this new home will be a place where our partners come together to create that bright future for all of West Africa's people.'

Ubinas added further that the $1 million grant known as the Jubilee Transparency Awards would be given throughout the year and selected by a panel of respected civil leaders based on an open competition. 'Up to 10 awardees will win at least $100,000 each. 'These awards reflect our commitment to ensuring a healthy and vibrant future of this region. Now is the moment to define West Africa for the 21st Century by leveraging its extraordinary human and natural resources for the common good.'