CBN Engages Experts to Evaluate N67bn Health Research Proposals

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James Emejo in Abuja

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday inaugurated a Body of Experts (BoE) for the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme (HRDIS).

Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha performed the inauguration of the body, which is chaired by the Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye at the CBN headquarters, Abuja.

Speaking at the ceremony, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele said till date, over 20 applications had been received requesting for N67 billion worth of funds to participate in the health sector research initiative.

He said the BoE is expected to review and evaluate submitted research proposals as well as provide recommendations for financing the identified R&D proposals.

According to him, attention will be paid to research projects with high potential to contribute to the development of the Nigerian vaccines that will help curb the spread of infectious diseases.

The apex bank boss stressed that all submissions will be subjected to strict scientific and empirical scrutiny considered to be the best in class, adding that the programme is directly in conformity with the bank’s resolve to diversify the economy and be a catalyst for job creation and facilitate inclusive economic growth.

He said the intermediate objective is to boost domestic manufacturing of critical drugs and vaccines to ensure their sustainable domestic supply and reduce the bulk manufacturing costs of the drugs, herbal medicines and vaccines in the country.

Emefiele, further disclosed that the 20 projects valued at N26.27 billion had been funded under the N100 billion credit support intervention for the healthcare industry, as part of proactive measures to cushion the impact of COVID -19 on the economy and to support the growth of the healthcare sector.

Noting that the country spends over $1 billion in medical tourism annually, the CBN boss added that the lack of quality healthcare had undermined the growth of the health sector, leading to medical tourism to India, UK, Thailand, China, Turkey, France, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt and South Africa in search of medical attention.

“Notwithstanding the fact that Nigeria has one of the largest stocks of Human Resources for Health (HRH) in Africa, Nigeria’s score of 1.9 across WHO’s 15 Joint External Evaluation (JEE) indicators sadly suggests that Nigeria has limited capacity to respond to a health crisis.

“This is evident in the low testing rates for COVID-19 in the country. Nigeria currently has the capacity to test 2,500 samples a day, and half of these tests are administered each day because of the shortage of human resources, testing kits and laboratory.”

Essentially, the HRDIS is one of the two components of the CBN health sector intervention in the wake of COVID-19.

The scheme represents a grant to researchers and institutions that want to embark on research either to develop vaccines or herbal medicines or drugs that could address not only COVID-19 but other infectious diseases that affect Nigerians.

The apex bank recently released a guideline for administering the research fund, limiting the grant to N500 million.

Speaking while inaugurating the BoE, the SGF said COVID-19 pandemic had particularly exposed the weaknesses in the health, governance, security infrastructure and inclusiveness as well as creating social safety nets for the people.

He commended the efforts of the CBN toward addressing the defects in the public health system through its landmark intervention, adding that the pandemic represented a golden opportunity to reposition the country’s health system and redress all the deficiencies in the sector as well as other infrastructures.

He also expressed confidence in the composition of the body to deliver on its task.

He said: “In the last three months as I had cause to chair the presidential task force, I have seen to my greatest surprise how the entire world has been confounded and confused by a single virus. It has exposed the weaknesses even with the developed economies and democracies and I believe this singular intervention by the CBN will set us on the path of recovering our healthcare system in Nigeria.”

Adeyeye however, assured that the body will diligently seek the truth by ascertaining how the hypothesis driven

questions raised in the proposals will be answered.

She noted that the success of the exercise will increase

access to medical products which could impact positively the health of our population, create jobs and also expand trade whilst reducing the over dependence on importation and further encourage local production.

She said:”It is in seeking these truths that the Central Bank of Nigeria, and indeed the federal government can achieve the ideals and realities it has for the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Scheme.”