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32 varsities jostle for COVID-19 vaccines, others

The National Universities Commission (NUC) has revealed that a total of 32 universities in Nigeria were currently engaged in various researches to combat the direct and collateral impact of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19). The institutions, drawn from across federal, state and private universities in the six geopolitical zones, are exploring science, technology and innovation to develop possible vaccines for the virus. They are also working on non-vaccine related solutions such as the production of thermometers, face masks and mechanical ventilators.

Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, who made this known while briefing newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, also disclosed that there were ongoing moves to assess the risks arising from the pandemic and determine how soon the universities could be reopened. Rasheed, who spoke through the Deputy Executive Secretary (Academics), Dr. Suleiman Ramon Yusuf, showcased a compendium put together to show the contributions of the 32 Nigerian universities in finding a solution to the virus.

According to him, the creative works of the universities have received impressive endorsement and support from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19. His words: “The compendium contains authentic ongoing efforts broadly in the areas of engineering such as development of mechanical and automatic ventilators at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria; Air Force Institute of Technology, Kaduna; Bayero University, Kano; among others. “In areas of genomic research, researchers at the African Centre of Excellence, Redeemers’ University, Ede, Osun State, are actively collaborating with University of Cambridge, England, in terms of development of vaccines. “Also, University of Jos (UNIJOS), ABU, Igbinedion University, Edo State, and several other universities are also involved in herbal research and remedies, while the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and other universities are involved in other drug researches. “One proven measures against COVID-19 is the boosting of human immunity through food and nutrition.

In this regard, Federal University of Technology, Akure; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and Onabisi Onabanjo University have reported impressive contributions along this line and efforts are being made to sustain the effort. “We are proud of modest and ongoing contributions of Nigerian universities to the nation’s battle against COVID-19. There’s also research consortium being funded by the Federal Government to capacitate researchers and provide resources that would enable more innovative intervention to emerge from our university system.

“The performance of the African Centres of Excellence, particularly the Centre for the Genomics of Infectious Diseases at the Redeemer’s University, Ede in Sequencing SARS-CoV-2 virus, the collaborative development of vaccines with the University of Cambridge and as a pioneer national testing and screening centre and the other ACES in ABU, BUK, UNILAG, UNIBEN, UNIPORT and UNIJOS that also served as national testing and screening centres have proved that world-class Research and Development work is possible in Nigeria.” These efforts, NUC said, were clear demonstrations of how the Nigerian university system can be readily effective and relevant to national development if research is valued and adequately funded and the institutions provided with resources to motivate students, researchers and innovators.

Rasheed said that the commission was already working with the Vice Chancellors of universities to assess the level of preparedness by the various institutions to resume both academic and nonacademic activities under a safe environment.

“We have issued a template to vice chancellors of all universities requesting them to suggest to us what kind of protocols and strategies they are putting in place in the various institutions. “We are collating some of the responses which have already started coming in and, at the end of the day, the picture should emerge about the extent to which our universities are prepared to reopen for academic activities,” he said.

Rasheed noted that a reasonable number of vice chancellors have submitted their reports on their state of readiness, but regretted that the expected resumption may be marred by strike in public universities even though efforts were ongoing to find an end to the incessant industrial actions in these institutions.




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