The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has inaugurated an ad- hoc committee on the establishment of central multipurpose laboratories in select universities in the country.

Inaugurating the committee Monday in Abuja, Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sonny Echono, said the move was part of efforts to provide relevant infrastructure to aid research in the country.

“It is universally accepted that innovative research and its commercialisation is clearly the driver of economic growth and prosperity in the contemporary world….

” Thus, it is imperative to make conscious efforts to not only develop our human capital but to also provide research infrastructure to support innovative R&D on a sustainable basis. It is indeed a key pre-requisite for accelerated national development and global competitiveness,” Echono said.

Speaking further, the TETFund boss said the agency is deploying billions of naira to fund research programmes and projects with a view to deepen the institutionalization of Research and Development to tackle national challenges.

” You will recall that the Fund has so far awarded a total of Seven Hundred and Twenty-Seven (727) Research Grants to researchers from public tertiary institutions at the cost of over N18 billion under the National Research Fund (NRF) to undertake applied research in various academic disciplines.

” It was observed that some of these scholars who have benefited from the NRF grants have often requested that, to complete the execution of the Research Projects may require them to cross international borders to access certain facilities/equipment due to lack of requisite research facilities in their institutions.

“In some cases, these tend to affect the financial burden associated with the research projects, coupled with time expended for travelling,” Echono said.

The Executive Secretary also went down memory lane on how TETFund provided resources to support groundbreaking research in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how deficit in laboratory infrastructure posed a major challenge to researchers.

” TETFund in 2020 through the Special Research Grant to address COVID-19 funded eight Research Projects at a total cost of Two Hundred and Sixty Million, Two Hundred and Eighty Thousand Three Hundred and Ninety-Three naira (N260,280,393.00) to support the Federal Government’s response….

“Again, the final report submitted by Nigerian Academy of Science indicates a glaring lack of facilities/equipment to conduct such study in some of the sites visited and a serious deficit in essential laboratory infrastructure needed to produce viable research outcomes.”

Echono further revealed that the “Academic Staff Training and Development Intervention Programme has enabled the Fund to sponsor over 10.227 academic staff for foreign Masters and PhD programs at the cost of over N146 billion, out of which 1,017 were sponsored for bench work at the cost of over N5 billion.

“However, upon return of the scholars to their various institutions, many were unable to share the knowledge acquired and replicate their experiences due largely to the research infrastructure deficit in their institutions.”

While saying the global ranking of Nigerian universities can be significantly improved through more research infrastructure, Echono said the Fund made a provision for the establishment of two central multipurpose laboratories under its 2023 Special Intervention, to be located in the Southern and Northern parts of Nigeria, prompting it to set up the ad hoc committee to work out modalities for the establishment of the facilities.

According to the TETFund boss, the Fund is also working to ensure that such laboratories are available in the six geo-political zones in the country few years from now.

He listed the term of reference of the ad hoc committee as : “Make appropriate recommendations for scoping and effective establishment of the laboratories including whether the Laboratories should be Specialized Laboratories or Multipurpose Laboratories.

” Provide objective guidance on selection of the two beneficiary institutions to host the Laboratories taking cognizance of historical contexts, accessibility, surrounding environment including presence of industries, needs of the nearby Institutions and strategic areas of focus for maximum impact.

“Make recommendations regarding quality infrastructure in terms of laboratory building itself and other necessary facilities needed and equipment.

” Identify the equipment, facilities and infrastructure needed for each laboratory.

“Make any other recommendations that will ensure effective and efficient achievement of strategic objectives for the Establishment of the Laboratories.”

Echono said the committee, which has former Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan, Emeritus Professor Olufemi Bamiro, has chairperson, has one month to submit its report.

In his acceptance speech, Bamiro, who commended Echono for setting up the committee, expressed the readiness of the team to deliver on the assigned task.

“This will surely go a long way in rejuvenating research and training in research in our nation state.

” Permit me to further commend you sir for the composition of the Committee to ensure the implementation of the assignment in line with the stipulated Terms of Reference.

” The Committee, like the assignment, is multidisciplinary in nature, with experts, and I mean really experienced experts, in the areas of food science and technology, energy, engineering, parasitology, medicine, biochemistry, nuclear physics, and architecture. I do not see any critical area of research endeavour that can escape the eagle eyes of the members.”

Aside Bamiro, other members of the committee are Professor Ekanem Braide, Professor Joseph Ahaneku, Professor Suleiman Mustapha, Professor Yusuf Saidu, Professor Nasir Isa Fagge, Professor Abubakar S. Sambo, Professor Ibrahim Katampe and Mallam Buhari Mikailu.