Some Good News from Nasarawa

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Last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo joined people of Nasarawa State to celebrate some notable scientific and technological achievement, reports Igbawase Ukumba

“The Nassarawa State Infectious Disease and Research Centre (NASIDARC) is a landmark achievement. There is no question at all that anywhere in the world, this type of achievement deserves to be celebrated,” said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, when inaugurating the world-class health facility in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.

Perhaps, for Osinbajo, the lessons to be learnt from this very important achievement were about three things. The first, which he said was vision, according to him was critical, especially in development since money was not everything. As a matter of fact, he added that if one had the funds but did not have the vision, one would achieve nothing. But if one had the vision, one would most likely attract money.

For the Vice President, “Nassarawa State is not by any means the wealthiest state in the country. In fact, if you look at what Nassarawa State earns and what is allocated, it certainly does not come anywhere near the top one third, but with the vision, the state has proven that vision is even more important than money. I want to commend Former Governor Tanko Al-Makura, who conceived of this place as properly acknowledged by Governor Abdullahi Sule that he (Al-Makura) conceived of this idea and started the project.”
The second lesson the Vice President wanted to be learnt was that vision itself could be killed if one’s successor did not have a mind big enough. If one’s successor was small minded, vision would mean nothing, he maintained.

“Continuity is not just one party succeeding another. It is the very notion that when you succeed someone, you develop all of the great ideas that they started. You build on vision. And I think His Excellency, Governor Sule has proven that by building on the great vision of former Governor Tanko Al-Makura, that has got us to this place today, we are able to celebrate a notable scientific and technological achievement.”

But the Vice President thought that, perhaps for himself, the third and most important lesson was that Nigeria has everything it takes to be the best anywhere in the world.
“We have everything it takes. We have the talents. We have men and women of vision, and we have all of the resources that it takes to be just as good as any, anywhere in the world.
“As we have heard, the Centre here comprises a Bio-safety Level-3 Laboratory, a Molecular Biology Laboratory and Infectious Disease Isolation Unit, and an Epidemiology Unit as well. And we are told that these are top of the class, first rate facilities that you could find anywhere in the world.”

“This is not just some Mickey Mouse, Tiny Club achievement. This is a phenomenal achievement in technology terms, and it has been done and fulfilled by Nigerians and done here in Nigeria. So, I think we should congratulate ourselves and that we should really hold our heads up high. For those of us who are as tall as the governor, we can walk tall, for those of us of more modest heights, we can tell you the long and the short of the story,” he said.

Perhaps, all of the facilities were good, but Osinbajo wanted to really commend the governor and his team for seeing that the project actually came to fruition and for making sure that they did it in grand style. The Vice President also commended the governor for acknowledging the leadership and vision of his predecessor, Senator Al-Makura.

“This is as it should be and this, I think demonstrates his own personal capacity and his own humility and his own vision as well. I want to thank you all for this and to say that everything that we are able to achieve adds greatly to the greatness of our nation, our nation is a great nation.

“We must never despair. In the past few months, COVID, the economic circumstances, the figures and some issues of security, but I can assure you that just as the scripture says that, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’.
“I’m very assured and I am continually assured by the people of this country, by the kind of leadership that we have in our President, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is focused. I want to say I am very, very reassured that the dawn for this country is coming.”

He, however, concluded that the country’s greatness was only hidden slightly now by the clouds, but that those clouds would clear and what the people would see for themselves, would be a great nation. He posited that the nation that God has purposed Nigerian people to be and one of the things he told the gathering so eloquently was what they were there to commission.
When Governor Sule assumed office in May 2019, he made a solemn commitment to complete projects initiated by his immediate predecessor, Senator Al-Makura. Sule equally resolved to improve on the living conditions of citizens of the state through the provision of quality healthcare service.

It could have been for the aforementioned reasons that the governor, committed enormous resources towards the completion of the Nasarawa State Infectious Disease and Research Centre, considered critical in the diagnosis of different viral infections.
During the inauguration of the world class health facility, Sule told Osinbajo that before the inauguration, the diagnosis of several infectious diseases, such as Lassa fever, yellow fever, measles, cerebrospinal meningitis, as well as the current Covid-19 pandemic, were conducted outside the state.

But with the establishment of the Centre and its full operation, the governor said the perennial diagnosis and management challenges of infectious diseases previously experienced would become a thing of the past and treatments of such ailments will be greatly enhanced.
Sule added: “Furthermore, as the name implies, the Centre will also serve as research hub, crucible for innovations and operational research that will provoke policy initiation. Similarly, the Centre will conduct clinical trials for vaccines, drugs and other products, in compliance with ethical standards, as well as support trainings in public health and researches at all levels.

“In addition, it will also provide scientific guidance for the local production of vaccines, diagnostic kits, sera, anti-sera and other related health products. I am happy to state that the Centre is one of the best diagnostic centres in the country.”
The governor explained further that the Centre was equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities and has a provision of a Bio-safety levels II & III Laboratories, a Molecular Laboratory, an Isolation Ward, an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), an Administrative Structure and a Conference Hall.

“Let me commend the effort of the federal government for the support and provision of equipment, as well as other critical facilities, which eventuated the readiness of the Infectious Disease and Research Centre (NASIDARC), hence our gathering to witness its commissioning today. We will continue to cherish federal government support, intervention and partnership in our collective commitment for the socio-economic development of our dear country,” Sule assured.

Nevertheless, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has exposed the state of its healthcare centres at all levels hence it was for this reason that the governor resolved to evolve measures that would strengthen the provision of health facilities at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, which part of the governor’s commitment in that direction was completion of the Infectious Disease Centre project. He continued: “It is worthy of note that, as a result of the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nasarawa State, government has converted the 300-bed IDPs hostel in Shabu and upgraded the facility to serve as Isolation Centre in the state. Similarly, we have upgraded a structure in Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Lafia to an Isolation Centre. We have also established smaller Isolation Centres in the 13 Locality Government Areas of the state.

“As a responsive government that is desirous of uplifting the state to be among the top economically-viable states in the country, prioritising the health system has become imperative, considering its importance to human lives. This is in line with the vision and commitment of this administration to continue to strengthen the healthcare system in the state, conscious of the fact that the achievement of an industrialised state is contingent upon a healthy population, as the saying goes, ‘a healthy state is a wealthy state”.

THISDAY’s findings revealed that it was in that connection that the Governor Sule administration, aside from the Infectious Disease Centre’s project, has committed to the continuous expansion of the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Lafia, which was started by the previous administration.

For the Consultant to the Infectious Disease and Research Centre, Eleshe Abimiku, it was really fortunate and thankful to God for her seeing such a day. This was because about 20 years ago when she left Nigeria and went to do her postgraduate, she actually wanted to work on things that could help her country, Nigeria.
She said for the first time, in the research she did, she selected and characterised HIV in Nigeria, which showed that it was distinctly different from what is found in the west and there she started her passion to make sure that she support and bring it to home.

Abimiku said: “What we have here is a summary of several years of experience, probably over 20 years of experience and research in coming back to the country to set up infrastructure that can conduct research especially in viruses that are pruned to epidemics.
“This is probably one facility that has benefited from all of the experience and that has in one place a complete comprehensive facility that takes care of infectious disease, both known and unknown, due to the molecular techniques that have been set up and the fact that you have negatively pressured and bio-safety laboratory level-3 that can handle any infection in the world.

“This complex also has the foresight from the governor of the state to also include an Isolation Unit. What this facility does is a tussle. You can bring in individuals that are infected and you don’t know what they are infected with, you got the Isolation Unit that is negatively pressured. You can collect the samples and treat it in the Negatively Pressured Bio-safety Laboratory, which is the highest in terms of safety to understand what it is.”

“Once you extracted the RNA and the DNA, you can take it to the Molecular Laboratory and isolate and really identify what the problem is within Nasarawa State. This is really phenomenal. This is exceptional. It is not exaggeration to say it is the first in the country. It is the first in West Africa and we are very proud to be part of it,” she concluded.