OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives on Tuesday urged the federal government to set up a strategic N15billion coronavirus emergency fund for Nigerian tertiary institutions to respond to the impact of the disease on academic, research and administrative operations.
The lawmakers also urged tertiary institutions to launch a Covid-19 student emergency fund to enable indigent and vulnerable students apply for grants to assist them recover from the economic impact of the Covid–19 pandemic.
Furthermore, the House urged the federal government to immediately establish an Infectious Diseases Research Institute in 6 selected federal government universities across the six geo-political zones of the country to receive specific research funding.
They called on the federal government to empower some select universities to build the capacity to do the required testing so as to meet up with the national demand on testing due to rising number of coronavirus cases; and advised the setting up of a team of relevant stakeholders to undertake a study tour to Madagascar and Senegal to explore the reported progress in indigenous research into a possible cure of Covid-19.
These calls were the prayers of a motion presented by Mr. Steve Azaiki and 9 others at plenary on Tuesday. Other lawmakers who signed on to the motion are Ndudi Elumelu, Muktar Betara, Fred Obua, Francis Agbo, Makwe Livinus, Umana Aniekan, Olaide Akinremi, Mahmud Gaya and Kabiru Tukura.
Mr. Azaiki who led the debate on the motion noted that Africa and particularly Nigeria was still being viewed through a colonial prism due to the continent’s vulnerability rather than its capacity to contribute to concerted global efforts to defeat coronavirus.
He called on Nigeria to stand up to be counted as one of the countries making contribution in science and research to find the cure and vaccine for Covid-19.
To achieve the objective, he canvassed the provision of support and funding to universities and research institutions through special emergency funding to enable them carry out such responsibilities.
According to him, “the Covid-19 pandemics have had a devastating impact on Nigeria’s universities and tertiary education system and without a major mitigation, like discovering an effective therapy or vaccine, mass testing and a new strategic infusion of federal funding, the landscape of Nigeria’s university and tertiary institutions may be forever change.
He noted that in the African continent and globally, some institutions are establishing the infrastructure needed so that they are able to move all their courses online (should there be an extended lockdown due to the pandemic now or in the future).
According to him, “the government of the United States recently provided the sum of $14.3billion for higher education, with $12.4billion split between emergency grants to student and money to colleges for expenses directly related to coronavirus and the disruption of campus operations, as $1billion would be targeted at historically black colleges and universities, while $300million will be given to colleges most affected by coronavirus.
“In March, 2020 the government of Canada earmarked an investment of $275million in funding for research on medical counter measures against coronavirus, which will allow 96 research organizations and projects to continue essential research within the field of infectious diseases, vaccines and clinical management.”
The lawmakers however commended the efforts of some Nigerian institutions like University of Benin (UNIBEN) Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (ABU) and Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) for their contributions towards the ongoing fight against Covid-19.
The motion was passed and the Committees on Tertiary Education, Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and Science and Technology were mandated to ensure implementation and seek the concurrence of the Senate as well.