Friday, 26 August 2022

N1.25bn TETFund Sponsored COVID Vaccine Ready For Trial In November



 

The vaccine development efforts of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has started yielding visible results as its COVID-19 vaccine project would be ready for clinical trial in November this year.


The TETFund distributed a total of N1.250 billion to four clusters of researchers that included a Vaccine Production Cluster that got a total grant of N450 million.

The Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Professor Lawal Suleiman Bilbis, who led a team of researchers yesterday to brief the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Mr. Sonny Echono, explained that they were able to make the breakthrough through the maximum support of the fund.

Bilbis recalled how the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged and unleashed untold hardship on humanity globally, noting that Nigeria was only saved by divine intervention since the nation was not prepared for such eventuality.


He said: “TETFund believed in us and supported us to get to where we are now. That is why we have come to give a firsthand report on the progress made so far.”

A presentation by Dr. Bashir Muhammad Bello of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, revealed that it has become a matter of urgency for Africa to join the rest of the world in the production of its own vaccine rather than importing 99 per cent of its vaccines.  


Bello explained that this has given rise to the team coming together to form a consortium and put up a strong proposal with which they approached TETFund for sponsorship under its research and development intervention.

He said: “We graciously got the support of TETFund not only in COVID-19 but also in Lassa Fever and other infectious diseases, because whether we like it or not, diseases will continue to emerge and reemerge. They don’t have international boundaries and that is why they are called pandemic.


“That was when we realized that we really need to sit up. Those producing these vaccines abroad are mostly Nigerians after all, so why can’t we do it here. That is why we decided to form a consortium and TETFund was magnanimous to release N225 million for the first tranche.” 

He noted that the team was meticulous in their research by ensuring that all the factors responsible for the reemergence of different COVID-19 variants were considered to make sure they do not manifest in future.


Responding, Echono lauded the team for the great feat it has achieved within a time limit by making the country proud with the progress recorded in the vaccine production.


 


The Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Prof. Mohammed Haruna, yesterday made a case for the revival of  the  steel sector as part of efforts to realise  the nation’s automotive aspiration.


He said the federal government should adopt public-private partnership (PPP) model to fund steel complexes, where  Nigeria should not own more than 40 per cent equity in such partnership.

Haruna, who made the submission in a presentation to the steel council in Abuja, said NASENI will invest in any venture, targeted at producing iron and steel products from Nigeria raw material, with the private sector and the steel council.

He said the government should support local production by levying a development for tax on steel imported into Nigeria


According to him,  the government should raise fund or generate a fund for privatised Ajaokuta Steel with incentives to guarantee its completion.

He said: “In the past planning of 1958 and the post-independence, it was only government that has financial muscles to fund steel projects.

“Now private sector can conveniently undertake such investment to fund steel complexes but in PPP Model. Federal Government of Nigeria should not own more than 40 per cent equity in such partnership.


“Government should raise fund or generate a fund for privatized Ajaokuta Steel with incentives to guarantee its completion.

“Government should thereafter, support local production by levying a development for tax on steel imported into Nigeria during the resuscitation period to fund the establishment of steel development fund which is accessible to investors.

“The new National Steel Council has to resist the temptation of using foreign consultants and the so-called development partners who are here to corrupt the officials and offers foreign travels as free meals to ensure that the country geopolitical interference and sectional partisan politics.”


He assured the council that NASENI will seek its board’s approval to invest in any venture, targeted at producing iron and steel products from Nigeria Raw Material, with the private sector and the council.

“NASENI charged with responsibility of developing Engineering Manufacturing complexes will partner and collaborate with this council actively for the benefit of the nation.

“We will seek our board approval to invest in any venture targeted at producing iron and steel products from Nigeria Raw Material with private sector and the council. Currently the Agency produces its ductile iron through its own invented rotary furnaces producing liquid iron from scrapped metals.


“I recommend to this important council to patronize Nigerian professionals both within and those in diaspora. I know that the Nigeria Academy of Engineering, of which I am a Council Member, has developed and submitted comprehensive document to Government on way forward for the Ajaokuta Steel Company.”

On the nation’s automotive dream, Haruna said it cannot be realized without a virile steel industry.

He said: “The automotive industry in Nigeria cannot function well without the steel industry, we are establishing an automotive industry park in Nigeria and looking at Nigerian professionals, providing services elsewhere in the world to come back let’s develop our country together.


“Ajaokuta steel has the capacity to become a major producer of industrial machineries, auto-electrical spare-parts, shipbuilding, railways and carriages.

The Chairman of the National Steel Council (NSC)  Mohammed Murtala Aliyu, who was a former Minister, said the steel sector at the moment was  in  bad shape.

He said: “Nigeria’s steel sector is in a bad shape at the moment because if you look at our per capita consumption, it is below the African average by looking at our population and quantum of steel required in the country, a lot has to be done.


“What you will notice is that the steel sector has been running in bits and pieces, this is the first time since the enactment of the act 40 years ago that the council is being set up.

“We intend to carry out an audit both on ground and under like the steel plants and so on, players in the industry, importers, exporters, miller’s and so on. In everything we are going to ensure that we use local expertise as much as possible.


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