By Isaac Tersoo Agber
The outgoing Director General of the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research, Professor Innocent Ujah, has called on the Federal Government to appreciate the value of research by investing reasonably into the sector.
According to Ujah, most Nigerians don’t know what research is all about that’s why they will never appreciate what happens at the institute. He said: “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.”
The professor said NIMR, which happens to be the only research institute in the country, has been undermined by the government particularly 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 disclosed further that the institute has been very committed to its mandate under his watch irrespective of 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 analyzed 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 is 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.
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 reliance on its innovations in science and technology.
Professor Ujah made this known when he was presented with an Award of Excellent Performance by a delegation of Benue Journalists Forum, Nigeria, as a token of gratitude for his meritorious service at the helm of the institute. The event took place on Wednesday 3rd August, 2016, at his office in Lagos, Nigeria.