FirstBank promotes cultural heritage at Calabar Carnival


First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, Nigeria's leading customer centric bank, has restated its unwavering commitment to continually work with Cross River State and other relevant government agencies, in the execution of the annual Calabar Carnival in line with its resolve to promote culture and heritage. Having come through a rich heritage of almost 120 years, the bank, since 2004, has continued to play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the festival. Speaking at the Governor's Masked Fete, held at Emporium B, Tinapa Business Resort in Calabar, Saturday, Etu Effiwatt, Business Development Manager at FirstBank, said the banks' rich heritage supports the promotion of festivals as it strives to uphold the exquisite legacies of the nation's diverse cultures. 

He pointed out that the carnival has transformed the state into a haven of peace and multi-faceted development. "Cross River State is, creditably, a desirable destination for tourists, businessmen and investors". According to him, the commitment of  Liyel Imoke, governor of the state, towards sustaining the carnival initiative has yielded huge returns in the area of tourism, foreign investment inflows, and economic development. "At FirstBank, we pride ourselves in our corporate social responsibility and sponsorship initiatives which encompass the banks commitment to being a major contributor to the social, economic and cultural development of our dear country, Nigeria beyond the provision of financial services to our teeming customers", Effiwatt said. 

The Governor Mask Fete is a charity event designed specifically to create the much needed awareness on pneumonia. Statistics have shown that pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children especially in developing nations, killing an estimated 1.1 million children under the age of five annually  - more than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. The disease is said to be more prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with about 156 million new pneumonia cases reported each year in the developing countries. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is one of the most affected countries in the world as 560, 000 children suffer from pneumonia annually. The struggle to rid the state of the scourge gave rise to the Breath of Life (BOL) initiative. 

An initiative of Partnership Opportunities for Women Empowerment Realisation (POWER), a non-governmental organisation founded by the wife of the Cross River State Governor, BOL is looking to sensitise the public on simple but effective ways of protecting and preventing pneumonia particularly in children. As part of its achievement, the BOL initiative, in May 2010, facilitated the treatment of 12 under-five children diagnosed with pneumococcal infections out of the 45 children screened within 3 hours at the "Kick-out Pneumonia" campaign in Biase LGA. The  state government has also continued to mobilise funds to carry out planned BOL activities through grant applications, receipt and through organisation of charity events. 

One of such high-powered events is the Governor's Masked Fete, for which proceeds got to BOL. According to Imoke, the most significant drawback hindering the eradication of the pneumonia scourge in the state is the high cost of vaccinations and treatment. This prevailing situation, the governor added, has led to high mortality rates in the country. "For instance, a vaccine cost N8, 000. So, if you wanted to vaccinate 1 million children, that would amount to N800 million", he stated. As a country, Imoke pointed out that Nigeria has been unable to attract the right donor nations to provide requisite support funding to fight the disease. "The reasons are beyond the control of Cross River State. As a state, we are in pole position to attract the right funding. 

"But when donor nation evaluate our overall performance as a nation, then we do not meet the cut", he added. He decried Nigeria's inability to meet minimum targets that would ensure that donor countries contribute financially to the  eradication of pneumonia. In view of this, the Cross River State governor called for heightened awareness on protective and preventive strategies against pneumonia particularly amongst the primary caregivers. FirstBank, noted for several high-level interventions in the area of improving healthcare delivery, pledged its support towards eradicating pneumonia in the state. FirstBank Ltd,  has solidified itself as a brand of fortitude, strength and innovation in the Nigerian financial sector since its inception in 1894.