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COVID-19: CBN to fund researchers for local vaccine

By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it was developing a framework under which grants and other long term facilities would be made available for researchers to come up with a Nigerian local solution to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.

Also, the federal government has charged the private sector and other public spirited individuals to direct their support towards developing the healthcare infrastructure in the rural areas of the country to break the chain of community transmission of COVID-19.

Speaking on Tuesday at the commissioning of the Thisday Dome COVID-19 Testing, Tracing and Treatment Center, in Abuja, the Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms would benefit from the framework, to develop a Nigerian vaccine for the disease.

The event was for the commissioning of a 300-bed facility with a 54-gene laboratory, is a private sector driven initiative donated by a consortium of like-minded partners powered by the Sahara Energy Group and the ThisDay Media and Technology Group. Other key players include the CA-COVID, the AFC, CCECC, NNPC and the CBN.

Emefiele challenged Nigerian scientists at home and in the diaspora to go back to their laboratories and develop a Nigerian vaccine, saying “the CBN is developing a framework under which grants and long term facilities will be provided to researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms to develop the Nigerian Vaccine.

“Once validated by the Health Authorities, the CBN will step in and do the needful for the sake of over 200 million Nigerians now confronted by COVID-19. 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.

“This requires that we all come together to support the ‘work of the Presidential Task Force in it’s determination to save lives and stem the pandemic.

“Our objective is to improve the capacity of our health system to address emerging public health challenges.”

He  commended the Nigerian private sector, who have come together under the Coalition against COVID-19 (CA -COVID) to support the government, by raising funds to procure needed Isolation Centres, medical equipment, etc.

“So far, the CA-COVlD-19 has raised up to N27 Billion to fund these initiatives. These donations are being used to build well equipped isolation centres across the 36 states of the federation”, he said.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, charged the private sector to now direct their support for the fight against COVID-19 to developing healthcare capacity at the rural level, noting that the fight is now at the community level.

He also said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a reawakening to both government and the private sector to collaborate in the injection of a much-needed investment into the health care system.

“The PTF continues to assess and review all relevant policies and protocols so that our actions and decisions are implemented in the most effective ways and the nation can properly wage the war against the COVID-19.

“In order to take the development of infrastructure to the grassroots, emphasis is now being placed on community ownership, guidance, acceptance and implementation.

“The PTF therefore calls on other corporate bodies and public-spirited individuals to take up the challenge of providing critical support infrastructure in the rural communities as Nigeria has entered community transmission phase of the pandemic.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we continue to develop health infrastructure, the PTF also wishes to underscore its total commitment to research into a cure for the COVID-19 disease.

“We are actively encouraging all our institutes and researchers to step forward for a validation of their inventions, discoveries, etc that can help humanity bring this pandemic to a quick end. Again, we urge our corporate bodies to show sufficient interest in the areas of research and medicine”, he said.

Managing Director, Sahara Group, Temitope Shonubi, said post COVID-19, the equipment donated for the Centres will be moved to public hospitals to equip them.

He said: “All of the equipment Sahara Group has provided to the isoalation centre through the Sahara Foundation will be donated to the federal ministry of health when the pandemic is over. We believe this will shore up availability of these equipment in some of our tertiary medical institutions.

“This for us is in line with the sustainability principle that guides all our interventions in our locations across the globe. Even beyond here we have some extra equipment which will be sent to other centers that are being developed to ensure the virus is effevi contained in Nigeria.

“It is great to see how collaboration between the private and public sector is advancing our response to the pandemic robustly.  All the stakeholders have worked collectively to make the process of bringing in medical equipment and establishing more venrres seamless. Sahara Group is delighted and honoured to be part of such positive partnerships that can only enhance the well being of all Nigerians.”

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