The Acting Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr. Chris. J. Maiyaki, has commended the Epidemiological Society of Nigeria (EPISON)  for its steadfast commitment to advancing scientific inquiry, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, and promoting public health awareness.

He gave the commendation, in his goodwill message at the opening ceremony of the  11th Annual Scientific Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the  Society, held last Thursday, at the NUC Idris Abdulkadir Auditorium, Abuja, with the theme: One Health and Rising Prevalence of Zoonotic Diseases in Nigeria”.

He reminded the Epidemiologists that their dedication and expertise were invaluable assets Nigeria needed towards collectively addressing the complex challenges posed by emerging infectious diseases.

While acknowledging the vintage and transformative role of  One Health in tackling the plethora of health challenges in the communities, he urged the health professionals to remain steadfast in their resolve, united in purpose, and unwavering in the commitment to protecting the health and well-being of present and future generations in order to build a safer, healthier, and more resilient Nigeria for all.

He said, Nigeria, like many countries around the globe, faced mounting challenges in mitigating the spread of zoonoses, which, not only endangered human health, but also compromised food security, economic stability, and ecological balance.

He noted that despite this adversity, opportunity existed through  the One Health approach advocated by EPISON which offers a holistic framework for interdisciplinary cooperation, fostering synergies among health professionals, veterinarians, environmental scientists and policy-makers.

He argued that by recognising the interconnected nature of health and embracing collaborative solutions,the nation would effectively prevent, detect, and respond to zoonotic threats, thereby safeguarding public health and promoting sustainable development.

He further stated that, as stakeholders in the pursuit of One Health, everyone has  a pivotal role to play in shaping a healthier, more resilient future for Nigeria.

According to him, through knowledge exchange, innovative research, capacity building, and evidence-based advocacy, the country  could collectively strengthen its preparedness and response mechanisms, enhance surveillance and monitoring systems, and promote sustainable practices that mitigate the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

He used the platform to inform the Society that, as a Commission, the agency had been instrumental in several breakthroughs within the health sector through the instruments of accreditation and regulation of Medical and health-related programmes in Nigerian universities.

The essence, he stressed, was to ensure that these programmes meet minimum academic standards, for the production of high-quality healthcare professionals to effectively address the country’s healthcare needs.

He also said NUC collaborates with universities to develop relevant and up-to-date curricula for health-related courses which ensures that medical graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their respective fields and adapt to evolving healthcare challenges.

While wishing the participants fruitful deliberations and meaningful exchanges during the conference, he urged them to ensure  that  their discussions inspire actionable insights, foster lasting partnerships, and catalyze positive change in the nation’s shared pursuit of a healthier world.

 In his welcome Address, the National President of Epidemiological Society of Nigeria (EPISON), Very Rev. Professor Lawrence Ulu Ogbonnaya said epidemiologists, are always at the forefront of protecting public health in Nigeria.

He described the  professional association as one that had been pivotal in advancing the field of epidemiology, promoting research, and fostering collaborations that were essential for tackling the health challenges facing the nation.

He explained that EPISON remained committed to enhancing the capacity of its members to respond effectively to the ever-evolving landscape of disease patterns and health concerns.

He pointed out that Lassa Fever had become endemic in Nigeria and that since 2005, the incidence had been rising steadily and claiming the lives of health workers and patients.

He raised alarm that, from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) records,  this year alone, the cumulative data showed a suspected case of 2122 of Lassa Fever infections, with 411already confirmed cases, Probable case 3, Death( from confirmed cases) 72, and case fatality rate of 17.5%. He said so far, 21 States of the federation and 78 LGAs have been affected.

Raising concern on the challenge  of Zoonotic Diseases, Professor Ogbonnaya said it represented a significant and growing threat to human health, economic stability, and the well-being of the global communities.

He revealed that in Nigeria, the rising incidence of these diseases such as, Lassa Fever, Rabies, Ebola Virus Disease, and recently, the global pandemic of COVID-19, underscored the urgent need for a coordinated response.

He reminded the epidemiologists that Ebola Virus Disease came like a thunderbolt and caused many West African countries devastation in the years 2013 and 2014  and brought scare to Nigeria as well. 

The EPSION President recalled that with the help of God, the nation mounted effective surveillance and control measure that brought that epidemic to an end, but not without taking the lives of many health workers, especially that of the gallant heroine, Dr. Mrs. Ameyo Adedevo.

He further stated  that the world was still trying to recover from the socio-economic devastation of the COVID-19, but argued that, that notwithstanding, there was certainty that other re-emerging and emerging epidemic diseases of global impact were lurking around.

He, therefore called for robust epidemic preparedness and capacity for rapid response, both nationally and globally.

Harping on the one health approach, Professor Ogbonnaya explained that it was about  a multi-disciplinary method that recognised the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health.

He noted that by adopting the approach, EPISON could create synergies and leverage expertise to achieve better public health outcomes.

He used the forum to appreciate everyone that made the event happen including sponsors like NUC, who gave its hall at no cost to the Society as well as the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the conference led by Dr. Mattew Ashikeni.  

A keynote Address was also delivered by the Regional Coordinator, AFENET, Nigeria, Dr. Patrick M. Nguku.

Other goodwill messages were also delivered by the Special Guest of Honour and Honourable Minister of Health, and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, CON, represented by Dr. Godwin Itadoh; the President, International Epidemiological Association (IEA), Dr. Peju Adebiyi; World Health Organisation(WHO) representative in Nigeria, Dr. Kikiope Oluwarore; Mandate Secretary, FCT Health and Social Services Secretariat, Dr. Adedolapo A. Fasawe;   Director- General NCDC,  Dr. Grace Olajide represented by Director, Special Duties, Dr. John Oladole; among others.

The programme later broke into a technical session featuring two plenary sessions involving two paper presentations with three scientific papers, poster presentations as well as question and answer sessions handled by some resource  persons.

The highlight of the event was an award of excellence given to the Acting Executive Secretary, NUC, Mr. Maiyaki for his  Humanitarian Efforts and Advocacy in Epidemiology.

The award was also in recognition of his exemplary leadership and role in ensuring that EPISON Conference was held without any hitches by offering the NUC Auditorium free of charge to the Society.   

The Acting ES was accompanied to the ceremony by the Acting Director, Public Affairs (DPA), Ms. Offiong U.Edor; the Deputy Director, Public Relations in the Directorate, Mrs. Franca Chukwuonwo; Chief Information Officers (CIO), Mr. Francis Azu and Mr. Okoronkwo Ogbonnaya.