President Muhammadu Buhari has given an ultimatum to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, to submit his report latest by May 2022 ending on covid-19 vaccine production in Nigeria. Buhari gave the directive today, Wednesday when he received the leadership of the Nigerian Integrated Biopharmaceuticals Industries Consortium (NIBI), led by Mr. Vilarugel Cuyas, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Fred lad. Mr. President lauded the NIBI as being a European company made up of biotechnology companies Merck, Unizima, Rommelag, and Fredlab for collaborating with Nigeria to start up PIA Bio-Pharma to establish a world-class Bio-Pharma Industry complex for a manufacturer of Vaccine and essential therapeutics in Nigeria.
Buhari disclosed that his administration is keen on food and medical supply sufficiency as he sees them as national security essentials, directing the minister to work closely with the consortium for the actualization of NIBI project.
In his statement, Buhari said, ‘‘While the Ministry of Health continues to drive collaboration with investors for vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, in a move towards self-sufficiency, I welcome the NIBI consortium’s desire to partner with the Federal Government in support of our agenda and look forward to the implementation of the NIBI project as it takes shape,’’
Recalling the impact of the pandemic on the economy and the general wellbeing of Nigerians and other nations with comparative advantage in the production of biopharmaceuticals, he said the adoption of the “me-first” attitude they deployed in securing supply for themselves is a lesson to Nigeria.
He said, ‘‘I want Nigeria to make a bold statement in this field not just for reasons mentioned earlier, but because of its knock-on effects on our economy at large.’’
The Nigerian leader said we have learned a lesson that each country should have sufficiency in food and medical supply at all times.
Buhari continued, ‘‘Having witnessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health system, our communal life, and national economy, from which we are yet to fully recover, we are reminded that the wealth of a nation is dependent on the health and wellbeing of its citizens.
‘‘At the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria was quick to respond to what seemed an existential threat, by strengthening the health system’s capacity to handle the pandemic – an initiative that continues till today in collaboration with the state government, private sector, and international partners.
‘‘Key lessons of the pandemic are that nations can be brought to their knees by disease outbreaks that cripple national and international trade, and that countries must be able to look inwards for sustenance in food and medical supplies. The benefit of this Administration’s early investment in agriculture came to light during this global turbulence.
‘‘However, we cannot say the same for essential medicines, health supplies, and most important vaccines to protect our citizens. Increasing the capacity for in-country production of vaccines and medical supplies has therefore become a matter of not just urgency, but of national security.
‘‘As we saw, many nations who had developed comparative advantages in being centers of bio-pharmaceutical productions adopted a “me-first” attitude towards securing their citizens. These actions placed developing nations, particularly those in Africa at a severe disadvantage.’’
As a response to the lesson learned during the pandemic, Mr. Buhari said the Minister for Health under his directive has been conducting both local and High-level consultations to see how Nigeria can revive its domestic manufacturing vaccine.
He promised that by 2028, Nigeria will move away from a foreign dependency on drugs into a major supplier of medications in the world.
Buhari concluded that since his administration has taken food and medical supply as a priority of the government, he revealed a technical and financial policy of his government would focus more on it to ensure that policy direction is strategised to harness technical expertise.