The Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) has said that in spite of calls on the Federal Government to sponsor research on COVID-19 vaccines, not much has been done in the area of locally-produced vaccine.
ASURI’s Secretary-General, Dr Theophilus Ndubuaku, expressed concerns during a courtesy visit to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, on Wednesday.
Ndubuaku said: “We are saying this is the era of vaccines; the problem is that there are variants.
“Assuming a variant of COVID-19 comes to Nigeria that is not responding to these foreign vaccines and we are not prepared and we do not have the capacity to produce vaccines, what are we going to do? So, why can we not build capacity, especially when we have found we have the capacity.
“That is why we at NIMR have to look at the facilities they have and confirm they have the capacity to produce locally-made vaccines.
“We will also visit other research institutions that are building capacity and then we write to the government.”
He said that the NIMR had become a model research institution for other institutions to emulate and urged the government to focus on funding the institute.
“NIMR has gone ahead without funding, budgetary allocation, getting grants from outside the country to becoming a model research institution; we have the infrastructure,” Ndubuaku said.
The secretary-general also appealed to the National Assembly to pass the National Research Innovation Bill (NRIC) for the president to assent to it.
Ndubuaku said that it had become more imperative for the bill to be passed in order to tackle the challenges of unemployment, inflation and insecurity facing the country.
“During the 8th national assembly, when the effort was made to pass the bill the first and second time, things had not deteriorated to the level of unemployment, inflation and insecurity in the country.
“So, it is even more imperative that the National Assembly revisit the bill, pass it again and ensure that the presidency assents to it,” he said.
The secretary-general said that the NRIC bill was instrumental, not just to funding, but coordinating research as well.
He said that once there is funding for research, Nigeria will be able to convert its natural resources into wealth.
According to him, there will also be improved technology for industrial production and employment all over the country.
“We are pressing for a funding mechanism that does not depend on budgetary allocation.
“The way NRIC is packaged is to draw funds from some research institutions that pull their money from taxes, so you can be sure taxes are paid and accrued to those institutions.
“The institutions will then give some percentage to NRIC so it will not depend on government; if there are no budgetary implications to create an organisation, why not create the council,” Ndubuaku said.
Also speaking, the Branch Chairman, ASURI, NIMR, Mr Samuel Amoo, lauded the NIMR’s Director-General, Prof. Babatunde Salako, for his leadership in moving research forward in the country.
Amoo said: “We have leadership that goes around ensuring researchers get funds; we are also open to international collaboration, ideas and technology transfer.
“Salako is so passionate in selling the nation and has gone overboard to actually support any idea that will promote the country, especially when it comes to health research in the institute. (NAN)