National Universities Commission (NUC), has said it was assessing the readiness of universities vis-a-vis the safety guidelines against COVID-19 pandemic before approving the reopening of Universities which were shut over five months ago to contain community transmission of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
The Commission confirmed that no fewer than 32 universities are involved in different stages of research endeavours aimed at galvanizing Nigeria’s research and innovation resources towards the development of possible vaccines and non vaccine related solutions to COVID-19 pandemic.
Its Deputy Executive Secretary (Academics), Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf, who addressed journalists in Abuja, on various contributions of Nigerian universities to the fight against COVID-19, said the creative works of the Universities have received impressive endorsement and support from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
He said: “The compendium contains authentic ongoing efforts broadly in the areas of engineering such as development of mechanical and automatic ventilators at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria; Air Force Institute of Technology, Kaduna; Bayero University, Kano; among others.
In areas of genomic research, he said that researchers at the African Centre of Excellence at Redeemers’ University, Ede, Osun state, was actively collaborating with University of Cambridge, England, in terms of development of vaccines.
“Also, University of Jos (UniJos), ABU, Igbinedion University, Edo State, and several other universities are also involved in herbal research and remedies, while the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), and other universities are involved in other drug research.
“One proven measures against COVID-19 is the boosting of human immunity through food and nutrition. In this regard, Federal University of Technology, Akure; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Onabisi Onabanjo University have reported impressive contributions along this line and efforts are being made to sustain the effort.
“We are proud of modest and ongoing contributions of Nigerian universities to the nation’s battle against COVID-19. There’s also research consortium being funded by the Federal Government to capacitate researchers and provide resources that would enable more innovative intervention to emerge from our university system.”
Meanwhile, the Commission said aside industrial action embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), efforts were being made for safe reopening of Universities in no distant time.
“These universities were closed on the account of health concerns of students because of the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic. Howbeit, we have begun to deal with the Universities in terms of the necessary preparations before the reopening of the Universities, as was the case with the secondary schools. We have sent templates to Vice Chancellors of universities requesting them to make suggestions on protocols and strategies as regards safety protocols in their institutions with kind consideration to peculiarities, that will give some sense of confidence to parents and other stakeholders that students may return to universities without undue exposure to COVID-19 pandemic.
“Until we harvest these inputs from the universities, we can’t sit in Abuja and decide on the level of preparedness of the schools towards the reopening of schools. Meanwhile, some of the responses have begun to come in. We are collating them. At the end, pictures would emerge of the extent at which universities are prepared to reopen for academic activities without undue compromise on health and safety of students.”