NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, represented by Dr. Suleiman Yusuf, Deputy Executive Secretary, Academics, stated this in Abuja, at a news conference.
He was speaking on the contributions of the Nigerian university system to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said as, at June 22, not less than 32 universities were at various stages of research, adding that the momentum is expected to build up over the coming months so that by the time COVID-19 ends, documented lessons would have been learnt to tackle future national and global pandemics.
Prof. Rasheed noted that the African Centres of Excellence at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Universities of Lagos, Benin, Port Harcourt and Jos, which serves as national testing and screening centres, had proved that world-class research and development was possible in Nigeria.
“As of 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 a few institutions have been able to utilise an open and distance learning system to keep students engaged while the pandemic lasted, and only a 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.
Prof. Rasheed said in the area of Genomic research, the Centre for the Genomics of Infectious Diseases at the Redeemer’s University, Ede, which is an ACE, was collaborating with the University of Cambridge for the development of vaccines.
It could be recalled that in February, as a way to encourage indigenous research into COVID-19 vaccine, the Federal Government pledged to reward any Nigerian scientist that discovers a cure for the virus, with N36m.
He also reassured them of the Federal Government’s resolve to support research and development in any area.
“I am challenging our scientists. On behalf of the Ministry, I am pledging the sum of N36m for any Nigerian scientist that finds a solution to COVID-19.
“We will not go to bed or rest until a solution is found to this disease.
“I am confident that our scientists have what it takes to find a solution to our problems and make Nigeria self-reliant.
“I have no doubt in my mind that they can do it. This is the only way we can re-position our nation to be self-reliant by creating jobs, fighting poverty and creating wealth for our people.
“We are doing our best to encourage them in this regard. I challenge them to go into research and find a solution to COVID-19 so that the world will know that we have the best minds we can be proud of,” the minister had said.