By Emmanuel Aziken
The thrust towards scaling up research and development in universities has been the singsong of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) management led by Prof. Suleiman Bogoro.
The concept easily found favour with the TETFund board led by Alhaji Kashim Imam who may have also brought his legendary savvy in the political arena to bear in the more than 100 per cent raise in the approval from President Muhammadu Buhari to the agency in the current year.
Speaking when the board had a retreat earlier this year, Bogoro said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved an increase of the TETFund National Research Fund (NRF) for 2020 to N7.5 billion from N3 billion.
With the approval also came the directive to establish six medical simulation research and clinical training facilities in six colleges of medicine in each geopolitical zone within the year.
That may have opened the window for the agency to fund the establishment of 12 COVID-19 molecular laboratories in the six geopolitical zones.
TETFund is going beyond testing to funding research on COVID-19.
As Bogoro said during the retreat: “The BOT also approved that TETFund sponsors some COVID-19 Research proposals to the tune of over N200 million, mainly from universities and NAFDAC, this being one of the reasons TETFund has recently been made the secretariat for the Nigeria COVID-19 Research Consortium R&D.”
It is remarkable that the Fund is not limiting its research initiatives to the universities.
Not too long ago, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology signed an agreement with TETFund towards boosting research.
The agreement is coming against the background of the duplication of resources that had in the past seen laudable research efforts stymied by bureaucracy and dysfunctional schemes in the government.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said at the signing that Nigeria had been greatly disadvantaged in not mobilising enough of her human intelligence.
Bogoro also said the Fund would fashion out ways of scaling up research through the many agencies in the ministry.
“TETFund in the Education Ministry, because of its focus on R&D, has today come to sign a document with the Ministry that will get us engaged specifically with agencies in the Ministry that have various mandates in the numerous areas of science and technology that define our capacity to apply science to solve Nigeria’s national, technological and particularly economic problems,” he said.
Bogoro added that TETFund’s board had approved for private universities, polytechnics, and research institutes to apply for the NRF Grant to broaden research activities.
The need to broaden R&D in Nigeria (from an abysmal 0.02 per cent compared to developed countries’ 5-10 per cent) informed the constitution of an ad-hoc committee last year.
Members of the committee include a former Vice Chancellor of Federal University, Umudike, Prof Placid Njoku serving as Co-Chairman; and a United States-based professor of Chemistry, Ibrahim Katampe who holds nine patents as Vice Chairman.
The initiatives of TETFund coming against the present realities in the country, especially the worldwide race for a COVID-19 cure especially put into focus the perspectives of the TETFund board under Alhaji Kashim and the management as led by Prof. Bogoro.
Aziken is publisher of GWG.NG