The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission ( NUC) Professor Abubakar   Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, charged Nigerian universities to provide the required Leadership towards Containment of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

In a Press Conference last week, the   Commission revealed that no fewer than 32 universities became involved in different stages of research endeavors aimed at galvanizing Nigeria research and innovation resources towards development of possible vaccines and non-vaccine related solutions to Covid-19.

Addressing the Press, the Executive Secretary represented by the Deputy Executive Secretary (Academics) Dr. S.B. Ramon-Yusuf presented a compendium which he said contained some selected responses from the Nigerian University system to mitigate and contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

He noted that the conference was called to share with the public the ongoing research activities in the NUS inspite of the Covid-19, noting that a lot of researches are being carried out and many progress are being recorded particularly in health related issues.

As a regulatory agency, the commission considers it expedient to update the public on research going on and contributions so far made by system.

He explained that universities were basically put in place to perform tripartite functions of teaching, research and community service. The fact that universities were closed and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked on industrial action only reduced the quantity of research and community service taking place in the system. It must be noted that private universities staff have not join the industrial action embarked by ASUU.

Prof. Rasheed said that the compendium was prepared by the NUC Strategy Advisory committee (STRADVCOM),  a committee comprising of distinguished and erudite professors, chaired by the former executive secretary, Prof. Peter Okebukola, OFR. He stated that the contributions were documented as at June 22, 2020.

The document showed that “Nigeria recorded its first index case in late February 2020, after which over 19,000 confirmed cases have been recorded with 487 deaths as at June 20, 2020”. It further stated the extreme fragility of the Nigerian weak health, pharmaceutical and industrial production system as well as exposed the emergency response Capabilities of the nation’s system by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He noted that Nigeria has many universities but “only few institutions have been able to utilize open and distance learning system to keep students engaged while the pandemic lasted and only few laboratories continued with research and development achievements”.

The document also pointed out that few institutions engaged in meaningful research and innovation work which underscored the need for a well funded and robustly organized national research and innovation system to catalyze the response.

Some incidences and efforts made included that of Redeemers University, Ede under its Center of excellence, particularly the Center for the Genomics of Infectious Diseases, on sequencing SARS-COV-2 Virus, the collaborative development of vaccines with University of Cambridge and serving as a pioneer national testing and screening center. The university has been very productive and key to Africa’s response to Covid-19 and before it, Ebola, Lassa fever and other infections diseases seasons.

The African Centres of Excellences (ACEs) that own testing and screening centers include those in ABU, BUK, UNILAG, UNIBEN, UNIPORT and UNIJOS. The centres made several contribution which included production of sanitizers and dispensers. The compendium stated that “Almost all the universities enumerated produced hand sanitizers fluids, while a few have developed simple mechanica  pedal-operated contactless dispensers and hand washing facilities.”

Other products included; facemask visors and medical shields were produced customized and branded general-purpose by almost all universities listed. However, few institutions designed and developed medical (N95 and CARE3D types). Also, mechanical ventilators and prototypes, currently undergoing chemical tests and standardization have been developed by several institutions.

The NUC scribe further stated that Air-force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Kaduna has also made some concerted effort by developing a certified proto-types of clinical thermometer for screening COVID-19. In the area of herbal products, and immune boosting foods and drug research ABU, UNIJOS and UNILAG made an in-road while OAU, OOU and Igbinedion university were tasked to provide leadership to develop natural/herbal remedies.

The executive secretary proposed that “all educational institutions and public places be required to provide facilities for washing and sanitizing hands and persons as well as their grounds and buildings.”

He further stated that those with capacities should fabricate requisite gadgets to facilitate automated-type dispensers with optical sensors and mass produce standardized, neat and functional products.

NUC, he said, would continue to monitor further development with the commercialization of chemical thermometers by AFIT and other worthwhile researches. The nation would do better only when universities are being utilized and supported to take up challenges of providing the required leadership in research based development.