– As BOF-PSN holds 3rd Annual Public Lecture
For Nigeria to leverage lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic for national development, scientists in the country must awake to the responsibility of making meaningful contributions to national issues, especially as it relates to the health of the citizenry, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha and Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC) Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, have unanimously submitted.
The duo challenged pharmacists, doctors, nurses lab scientists, and other health practitioners to cease from being backbenchers when it comes to taking key decisions on healthcare, but rather bring their professional knowledge to bear by advising government on appropriate healthcare measures for the nation, whether conventional or alternative.
Ihekweazu, who was the guest speaker at the Third Public Lecture of the Board of Fellows of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (BOF-PSN), held at the Sheraton Hotels, Ikeja, on 29 June 2021, spoke on the topic: “National Development and Healthcare System: Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic”. The NCDC boss examined responses from institutions, scientists, governments, the private sector and international bodies that helped the country to mitigate the spread of the infection.
Recalling the manner in which some drugs, such as ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and the Madagascar syrup, were hyped as cure for the novel coronavirus in the heat of the lockdown period, he said this shows that Nigeria has a fundamental healthcare issue, which should be vehemently addressed by scientists.
In his words: “All these activities happened to show that there is a fundamental challenge with our healthcare system, and if we as scientists cannot take up the responsibility to chart progress path for the nation’s healthcare delivery system, we may not make any meaningful progress in the nearest future. I challenge all of us to raise our voices, when health issues come up in the country, because the government has the issue of credibility with the population.”
Ihekweazu further hinted on the need for active collaboration in the health sector, saying this will serve as a catalyst for fast-tracking its development, as individual efforts are not yielding the much desired results.
To buttress his point, he disclosed the synergy going on among the three government research agencies of NCDC, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), stressing that they have decided to work together in co-creating a better future for Nigeria.
Ihekweazu said: “Collaboration among scientists is key to national development. One thing I’ve learnt is that none of us can do it all alone. Not public, not private, not doctors, not pharmacists, not lab scientists, none of us can do it alone. That is why we must look for a means of solving the problem of hero worshippers, who are always looking for people to celebrate, rather than leveraging the solution for national development.”
The NCDC DG also urged the nation to invest more in building capacity in acquisition of in-depth scientific knowledge, as seen in the example of the Indian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, most of who engage the services of scientists to become at experts at drug production.
He also mentioned the need to bridge the gap between researchers in the academia and manufacturers, saying this is paramount for the attainment of medicine security in the country.
“A lot of global funds are available for research purposes, but we are finding it difficult because we have not positioned ourselves to access them,” he quipped.
Mustapha, on his part, being the Chairman of the occasion, urged the BOF-PSN to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the government through the provision of the N100 billion COVID-19 funds disbursed to researchers to conduct investigation into the ravaging infection.
Mustapha, who was represented by Mr Andrew David Adejo, permanent secretary, political affairs, said the pandemic is an eye-opener for Nigerians, as the government has learnt better how to manage global pandemics.
Early in her address, the Chairman, BOF-PSN, Prof. (Mrs) Mbang Femi-Oyewo , noted the aptness and timeliness of the theme of the 2021 Mid-Year Meeting, saying that the global pandemic has exposed Nigeria’s inadequacies and lack of preparedness in every area of national development, especially healthcare, education, social, infrastructure and economy.
She specifically charged members of the BOF towards improved impact in the health sector, saying: “As the profession responsible for drug products availability and services to the entire healthcare sector, we as Fellows and elders must understand our roles and take up the responsibility.”