The Governor-General of Canada, Hon. Julie Payette and Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday, jointly unveiled a Biobank Laboratory in Lagos designed to ensure effective management of outbreak of infectious diseases with special focus on containment and strengthening of capacity to prevent, detect and respond to all manner of threats.
The Biobank, which is located within the premises of Mainland Hospital, Yaba, was delivered through a partnership between Lagos State Government and the Canadian government which contributed a total of $4.5 million to the project.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Payette said the partnership was underscored by the West Africa Ebola outbreak which brought the need for countries to intensify cooperation and coordination to prevent the spread of diseases and to effectively counter epidemics to the fore.
She specifically commended the State Government and those who worked hard to contain the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Lagos, saying the facility would better equip the State to mitigate post-Ebola threats, among other threats of diseases.
According to Payette: “I must say I had a thought knowing that we were coming here to open such an important facility; a facility to prevent, detect and respond to about the worst calamities possible outcomes that could happen.
“The incidence of infectious disease if not contained could do so much damage and could ravage so many lives. It is not important, it is absolutely essential to have a facility like this to make sure that it never happens.
“As serious as the outbreak was here in Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa, it could have been much more or worse and so, Canada is very glad to have filled that gap with you with this laboratory and Bio-bank,” she said.
Speaking further, Payette assured that her country would continue to partner with the Nigerian government to contain infectious diseases and other treatments, noting that Ebola was still a deadly disease worldwide.
“We will continue to collaborate with you in this important effort; we also work in Canada in our microbiology laboratories to contain other infectious disease and still working on Ebola and other treatments. The disease is very deadly still, we have experimental treatments that are now coming up so that the possibility that we can cure or treat diseases better is in front of us and we have to continue toward that goal so that diseases like Ebola does not anymore mean a death sentence,” the Governor General said.
On his part, Governor Ambode said delivery of the project was a perfect example of a forward-looking and community-development collaboration undertaken by Lagos State Government and the Canadian government, adding that with the facility, the public healthcare delivery in the State had moved to higher level.
“With this Biolab, I want to publicly admit that public healthcare in our State has been raised to another level and it is to the benefit of our people.
“This project was initiated in 2016 because of a joint focus and commitment in improving the management of infectious diseases not only in Lagos but in Nigeria as a whole and we are very clear in our mind that this facility will help our public health practitioners to promptly diagnose diseases of public health importance and boost the clinical management of such outbreaks,” Governor Ambode said.
Giving details of funding of the project, the Governor said the Canadian government, through its Global Partnership Program (GPP), funded the design and the construction of the laboratory, while the Lagos State Government covered the cost of training of personnel, maintenance of the laboratory as well as the community engagement and the environmental impact assessment, among other ancillary activities.
“This is a partnership that works and we are very excited that this is the first of its kind in Nigeria and we are very proud that the Canadian government has actually deemed it fit to lead in this particular course.
“This Biolab will boost effective clinical management of public health outbreaks and launch the State into a new frontier in research and development in various areas of need especially diagnostic kits and production of vaccines for effective prevention and containment strategy against highly infectious diseases.
“Biological and environmental samples for life science and medical research will be stored in this Biobank. The facility will also create an enabling framework for local and international collaboration to fast-track research and discovery that will accelerate solutions to global public health concerns,” Governor Ambode said, just as he revealed that the State Government had approved the engagement of a consultant and technical personnel to facilitate the smooth implementation of the project.
While urging other institutions and multi-lateral agencies to emulate the Canadian government by adopting a socially-motivated and community-beneficial partnership, the Governor also said Lagos was open for further collaborations and investments.
“We want to call on other responsible and committed multi-lateral agencies to help and also contribute immensely to the growth and development of Lagos State and the welfare of its people.
“We are willing to partner with Canadian government and Canadian businessmen. What we have tried as much as possible to do as a government is to lay more emphasis on judicial and security sector reforms ensuring that all foreign citizens and corporate interests that come into this country actually have comfortable security and have enabling environment to be able to do all that they consent to do in terms of investment.
“Beyond what it is that you have done for us today, I just want to extend that hand of fellowship that we can partner to extend investment opportunities to Canadian companies to Lagos, and by so doing, we grow the GDP of Lagos and Nigeria,” the Governor said.
The Lagos State Biobank has two Biosafety Level Laboratories known as BSL 2 and 3 with capacity to process and rapidly identify samples suspected for Ebola, Lassa fever and other infectious diseases with epidemic potential.