Buhari okays funding of COVID-19 research, as cases reach 7839 with 226 deaths


President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the funding of six medical simulation, research and training facilities in six colleges of medicine through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). The facilities will see to the setting up of molecular science laboratories with capacity for testing and diagnostics of COVID-19, Lassa fever and related viral diseases. Already, Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu has directed the Executive-Secretary (ES) of TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Bagoro, to select a university in each of the six geo-political zones where the projects would be executed.


The action came as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Sunday confirmed 313 new cases of coronavirus across the country. The Sunday night update brings the total number confirmed coronavirus infections in the country to be 7839 cases, while 226 persons have died due to the virus complications. Lagos, the epicenter of the virus in Nigeria, has 148 new cases were added while Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, had 36 new cases.


NCDC announced 27 cases of the virus for Rivers; Edo had 19 cases, while Kano had 13 new cases. In Ogun NCDC announced 12 new coronavirus, while Ebonyi had eleven new cases. Nasarawa and Delta got eight new cases each, while Oyo battles with new seven patents. Plateau had six new cases while Kaduna State got five new cases. NCDC announced four new cases in Kwara State, while Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa had three new cases each. Niger State had two more infection and Anambra is one case.


There has been an increase in the number of cases reported across the states despite Nigeria’s low figure of people tested for the virus. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, during the presidential task force briefing, cautioned Nigerians about their movements for Eid celebrations. Mustapha while wishing Muslims a happy and safe Eid celebrations cautioned on the need to wear a mask, keep physical distance, avoid large congregations, avoid unnecessary inter-state travels and observe personal hygiene.


On the funding of COVID-18 research, TETFund has also been mandated to establish 12 medical centres of excellence to be hosted by first, second and third generation universities. Two of the centres of excellence, according to the directive, will be sited in each of the six geo-political zones for spread and accessibility. Two separate statements, one by Director, Public Affairs, Mrs. Ngoba Priye Briggs, and the other by Director, Physical Infrastructure Development, TETFund, Buhari Mikailu, in Abuja said additional centres of excellence would be sited in state universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education in “subsequent years.”


“The focus areas of the centres of excellence, in line with contemporary practice and technologies, are mainly in science-based disciplines,” the minister said. The minister stressed that “ongoing research work in response to COVID-19, and similar diseases through the TETFund National Research Fund (NRF), the research community of the Federal Ministry of Education should undertake any other sundry contributions in support of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) in responding to the threat of COVID-19” in the country.


According to the statements, the presidential approval was initiated through the recommendation of TETFund Board of Trustees (BOT) which was endorsed by the minister.The approval was given as the Guild of Medical Directors (GMD) tackled the Federal Government over failure to fund research to aid the discovery of treatment or vaccines for the dreaded coronavirus disease.


In a statement after its virtual meeting, the First Vice President and Publicity Secretary of the Guild, Dr. Festus Oshoba, observed that Nigerian researchers were ignored when they requested funding. The group said its members were not aware of any research funded by the PTF or the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to aid the discovery of new treatment or vaccines for the dreaded disease.


The publicity secretary who decried the poor attitude of the Federal Government towards research funding in the country, lamented that “while other countries are pouring money into research, the PTF on COVID-19 is busy grandstanding in front of microphones holding sterile press conferences.”


“If there is any research that is being supported by the so-called PTF, let them tell the world. The so-called Madagascar cure, which has not been subjected to any standard trial, is being imported by the PTF, while Nigerian researchers are ignored when they make requests for funding. Meanwhile people are dying all over Nigeria. There is no sense of urgency,” the experts lamented.


According to Oshoba, “the guild is also aware that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo approved of a piece of research and had instructed the CBN governor to fund the research, but he bluntly refused to do so. This situation is lamentable because indeed, it is research that should guide policy, and not the groping in the dark that we are now doing in the country.”


Meanwhile, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria has urged the Federal Government to look inward for local herbal solutions that could be used to minimize the impact of COVID-19 so that businesses could reopen. The Secretary General of the secretariat, Rev Fr. Zacharia Samjumi appealed to the media to tell the story of COVID-19 in such a way that people would understand the reality and the enormity of the presence of the virus, not in a manner that would instill fear in them.