House Orders Probe of Status of Medical Research in Fight against Coronavirus

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By Adedayo Akinwale

The House of Representatives has directed its Committee on Healthcare to investigate the extent of government’s coordination, supervision, mandate and funding for medical research in the fight against coronavirus pandemic and other diseases in Nigeria.

It also mandated the committee to make appropriate remedial and sustainable measure for the health sector and report back to the House within three weeks.

The House reached the resolution following the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance moved by the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, at the plenary on Tuesday.

In his lead debate, Okechukwu said that out of 4,540,244 confirmed caronavirus cases the world over, Nigeria has witnessed 6,000 confirmed cases with 167 death as at May 15, 2020.

He stressed that 472 laboratory cases of Lassa fever including 70 deaths were confirmed in 25 states of the federation and the FCT between January 1 and February 9, 2020.

The Deputy Minority Leader recalled how the outbreak of Ebola disease brought into Nigeria by Patrick Sawyer from Liberia resulted in 19 confirmed cases of infection and eight deaths, in what is widely acclaimed as having been effectively contained.

The lawmaker warned also that cholera remains a disease of public health importance in Nigeria associated with high morbidity and mortality.

Okechukwu emphasised the disclosure by the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as reported in THISDAY of May 19, 2020 that the bank was developing a framework to provide support to aid the fight against caronavirus disease in the country.

The lawmaker however stressed the need for a methodical approach by the federal government in providing effective coordination, supervision, mandate and funding for intense medical research for cures of the diseases and for Iocal production of essential medical supplies used in the fight against the diseases in the country.

He said: “Alarmed by the revelation by the Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) published in Vanguard, May 14, 2020 that the agency has received only one application for approval of a product for the treatment of symptoms of Covid -19, and not cure of the disease; a situation that would be different but for lack of coordinated government’s effort and funding for medical research.”

Okechukwu expressed concern that while countries are overwhelmed and occupied with their challenges, Nigeria appears to depend entirely on external interventions in the health sub-sector of the economy, in spite of the fact that the country is endowed with qualified and talented scientists who are capable of developing indigenous cures for the diseases.

He stressed the need for a home grown approach in dealing with the threat and spread of these diseases, and the need for government’s action in assembling and mandating medical researchers towards developing indigenous solutions for the health care needs.