Don calls for investment in Research

Terver Dominic, Lagos.

The outgoing Director General of the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research, NIMR Professor Innocent Ujah, has called on the Nigerian Government to invest hugely into the research sector as a means of appreciating its value to the society.

According to Ujah, most Nigerians don’t know what research is all about which makes them not to appreciate what happens at the Institute of Medical Research.  “Some people don’t even know that research is key to innovations and discoveries in medicine and science in general. That’s why it is capital intensive,” he said.

Professor Ujah made this known in Lagos, while receiving an Award of Excellence from the National Executive Council Members of the Benue Journalists Forum, Nigeria (BJFN) in recognition of his meritorious service at the institute.

The delegation was led by its National President, Comrade Joseph Saater Undu where the professor explained further that the NIMR, which happened to be the only research institute in the country, has been undermined in the area of funding. “As a result, the institute has been rendered handicap with a weak financial muscle and lame technical capacity, not good enough to carry out major research projects conclusively.

There hasn’t been enough funding from the government. All along, we have depended mostly on our internally generated revenue and grants from foreign donors. In fact, throughout last year, the institute was only given N25 million for capital projects, but for this year (2016), no money has been remitted to the institute,” Ujah lamented.

He stated that the institute has been very committed to its mandate under his watch irrespective of its enormous challenges. “It has embarked on many research projects, including finding out the health challenges of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), cause(s) of sudden deaths, among others.

“Even in the face of these overwhelming challenges of structural deficiencies and poor funding, the institute has lived up to its onus under my watch to prove its relevance. We have the highest cases of HIV/AIDS. In fact, most foreign agencies rely on our data. Even when the US came, it was our data they used. We have also done some research on health challenges of IDPs. In fact, we went to Agatu and scoured through all the villages. We collected data, which is being analysed and the result will be out soon.

“And in the last two years, we wanted to find out the cause(s) of sudden death in Nigeria but our efforts have been restricted by funds to do the little we can. Meanwhile, we keep seeing sudden deaths every day; why would Stephen Keshi, Amadu Shuaibu, Ojo Madueke and many others die mysteriously? A woman in my village recently slumped and died in the church. There must be a cause behind these deaths but until research is carried out, one cannot pinpoint,” Ujah said.

The professor was pained that while research was given deserved priority in Europe and America, Nigeria plays around it without a viable policy thrust and poor or no funding at all. Even when there are budgetary allocations for the institute, they are hardly remitted to its coffers.

“Go to Europe and America, they invest hugely in research. In fact, the US National Institute of Health (NIH) budgets billions of dollars on research every year for the whole world. But here, nobody bothers about it,” Ujah said.

Change in negative attitude
He maintained that until there is a change in negative attitude and bad perception of government toward research, the country may never find the right path to nation building, which will translate to total dependency on foreign nations for its innovations in science and technology.

In his remark, the National President of the body, Comrade Joseph Saater Undu said the Benue state Journalists in Nigeria had done their research and found out that the outgoing Director General of the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research has done well in the last six years as the Director General of the Institute.

According to Undu, part of his achievements as the Director General of the Institute are; “Building of an e-library of a global standard that is eighty percent completed, establishment of a pharmaceutical company for the Institute, registration of commercial venture for the Institute, championing a successful war against Ebola virus, presently conducting research into the cause of sudden death in Nigeria among others.