he Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week indicated that it might grant some long term facilities to researchers, research institutes and bio-technology firms as a way of tackling diseases like COVID-19. The beneficiaries to receive such grants would be expected to work on developing vaccines for infectious diseases such as the Coronavirus that is currently ravaging the world.
According to the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Nigeria could not afford to wait for other countries to develop vaccines before taking action. He was of the view that finding a local solution to the pandemic was the way to go both now and in the future.
He went further to challenge Nigerian scientists both at home and outside to go to their laboratories and develop a Nigerian vaccine.
He said: “Our inability to accurately predict the extent to which the Coronavirus could spread, and how long it would last, requires that we build sufficient capacity within our health system in order to contain the spread of the virus, state by state, city by city and preserve the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.”
We are happy that the CBN, by extension the government, is looking towards finding a local solution to the pandemic. For one, if nothing else, the Coronavirus pandemic has exposed that no nation on earth is adequately prepared health wise for the kind of shock, calamity and devastation such a pandemic has brought since December 2019, when it started in Wuhan, China.
It has also exposed that countries such as Nigeria that are import dependent and are reliant on other countries for medicines, medicals and good health run the risk of collapse since each country is now focused on saving itself first before others.
The United States of America, United Kingdom, France and even Russia, were before now, seen as infallibles in terms of having infrastructure, facilities and strength in Science and Technology. But in the past five months, the world has watched with horror as such countries lay prostrate, with high numbers of deaths from the Coronavirus pandemic. In terms of testing, hospital capacity, fatalities and even curatively, they are all reeling under the yoke of the pandemic. None has been able to come up with a definite solution to the problem. What that means is that none of such countries can help any other.
We are not unaware that there is a battle at the international level to find a solution to the pandemic by way of developing vaccines that could cure, prevent or even stop it. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) clinical trials of various drugs are on in different countries, including Nigeria, towards finding a remedy to the virus.
We are also aware that the Federal Government has recently brought in the Madagascar solution, which has proved effective in that country to Nigeria. All those are measures that leave Nigeria without any local solution to the problem.
But we know that we can find the solution in our country. So far, there have been local remedies used by some persons, who have had the virus that proved effective, aside the regular drugs administered by medics that attended to them. Unless we want to deceive ourselves, we would not believe that there are surely some other Nigerians that have had the virus and treated themselves without going to the designated isolation centres and hospitals.
Nigeria is not short of research institutions, universities, and biotech firms capable of developing a local cure for the pandemic. What we lack is the will to trust our own in times like this.
That lack of will can be seen in our attempt to import even face masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from China and other countries, while such can be sown in Aba, Onitsha, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ekiti and other parts of the country where there are clusters of tailors and fashion designers. All the government needed was to place an order and empower such individuals to mass produce such equipment as needed.
We are also not unaware that certain individuals and institutions have declared that they have solutions to the pandemic. While we do not believe that this era affords an opportunity for Nigerians to be used as Guinea Pigs for testing, we think that a proper evaluation of some of the remedies could save the country some already scarce foreign exchange.
Already, there has been the usual foot-dragging and politics of who is the approving authority between the Health Ministry and the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). NAFDAC is also insisting on the institutions and individuals that claim to have remedies passing through certain criteria. It is their calling. We do not begrudge NAFDAC. But we believe that the sooner Nigeria realizes that this is not a period of politics, racketeering and bogus claims, the better for the country. All countries all over the world are using this period for internal assessments on the health, research and medical innovation sectors. Nigeria cannot be left out in seeking its own solutions to the pandemic.
We therefore call on all relevant authorities to make haste, while the sun shines to seek a local solution within the country.