The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, says 32 federal, state and private universities across all geopolitical zones are involved in different stages of research toward tackling direct and collateral impacts of COVID-19.

Rasheed, who was represented by Dr Suleiman Yusuf, Deputy Executive Secretary, Academics, made this known in Abuja on Tuesday at a news briefing on the contribution of the Nigerian University System toward mitigating the impact of COVID-19.

He noted that the research would be building up over the coming months.

According to him, the universities will not relent on their efforts until COVID-19 was consigned to history and lessons learned for tackling future national epidemics and global pandemics.

” As at June 22, not less than 32 universities are involved in different stages of research aimed at galvanising research toward the development of vaccines and non-vaccines.

“As in many other parts of the world, the pandemic has challenged our knowledge system, which has proved inadequate and insufficiently robust enough to respond to the challenges.

“Only few institutions have been able to utilise open and distance learning system to keep students engaged while the pandemic lasted and only few laboratories continued with research and development activities.

” Nonetheless, the few who engaged in research and innovation work have demonstrated the need for a well-funded and robustly organised national research and innovation system to catalyse the national response,” he said.

Rasheed added that in the area of Genomic research, the African Centres of Excellence (ACE), particularly the Centre for the Genomics of Infectious Diseases at the Redeemer’s University, Ede was collaborating with the University of Cambridge for the development of vaccines.

He said that other ACEs in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Universities of Lagos, Benin, Port Harcourt and Jos, which served as national
testing and screening centres had proved that world-class research and development was possible in Nigeria.

He, therefore, added that the country’s university system could be readily effective and relevant to national development if research was valued and adequately funded and the institutions provided with resources to motivate researchers and innovators including students.

On the current efforts of herbal remedies, Rasheed said the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on herbal and natural products development was acknowledged, following the great demonstration of enviable political leadership by the President of Madagascar.

“Such will go a long way to motivate homegrown developments and innovation in science and technology by the NUC, including anti COVID-19 human immunity boosting foods.

“Furthermore, Nigeria needs to develop homegrown capabilities in the production and manufacture of the most basic medical and pharmaceutical products such as PPEs, WASH accessories, and ventilators.

” Limited developments are reported from the few ongoing research, but these give some hope that the NUC can provide the R&D base for responding to these needs and much needed structural reconfiguration of the economy. (NAN)

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