FG should channel part of COVID-19 monies to drug development

NCDC Chairman

A brilliant primary school pupil was asked in a scholarship promotional interview to complete what is written in John Chapter 3:16 “For God so loved the world that….”

The chap added “That …. He did not put it in the hands of commissioners.”

In the efforts to develop the vaccine or drug for the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic both the traditional and orthodox medicine practitioners should be encouraged.

The minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has seemingly lent credence to the collaboration when, while briefing members of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday (5/5/2020), said that the Federal Government has not ruled out the possibility of using local herbs to fight (treat) the COVID-19 pandemic. According to reports,  the minister made the declaration when members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 payed him a visit.

Dr. Ehanire maintained that such herbs must first pass the standards of the Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development. He directed those claiming they have found cure to subject it for test by the institute.

He said that local herbs can be categorized into drugs that can cure the virus or reduce the symptoms….”

Nigerian herbalists should not shy away from the efforts in this direction. The field is now open for all –including genuinely ‘God-ordained spiritualists’ who have something to offer humanity. I am not talking about deceivers, but real ones in the mode of the Elija of the ancient days.

By the way, where are the anointing oils, water, sand, candles, etc, that most pastors had hitherto used to gyp people of their hard earned money?, claiming this or that of each one’s potency. Have they all become powerless before COVID-19?

A close friend of mine whose sister is a US-based nurse, in a chat with me, disclosed that the lady said that most Nigerians there now practise ‘Ikpu-ogwu’. A method in which a malaria patient is covered with cloth to inhale steaming hot herbs. Our parents introduced it during our teens and it helped us a lot to cure acute malaria or hepatitis (ocha n’ anya) in Igbo.

Before now our radio waves were awash with claims upon claims by the traditional medicine practitioners of having drugs for men’s virility in beds with women. The practitioners often so much profess the potency of such drugs and how many sex rounds a consumer will have with a woman that you wonder whether sex is a football tournament. Now is the apt time for producers of such sex enhancing drugs to diversify and help in the quest for the coronavirus cure.

The Madagascar efforts in the development of a drug for the coronavirus is also a case in point. The Senegalese are managing their confirmed cases well too with an infinitesimal number of deaths. Similar examples of drug efforts abound in other countries’. A legion of both traditional and orthodox medicine practitioners, including spiritualists have claims they have developed a possible cure of the virus. But none of them has been invited by the Federal Government to substantiate those claims. It behoves on these practitioners to redouble their efforts, considering that the symptoms of the coronavirus resemble those of the malaria, common cold, fever, etc, which they can handle. Ordinarily, malaria, sometimes, goes with runny nose and/or catarrh.

And the rest of the practitioners should desist from high-falutin claims of finding cure for the virus.

Although the U. S. has come up with Rendesivir, (on serious testing now), Nigeria should joint the rest of the world in clinical search for cure. Our traditional medicine practitioners should wake up. And then while waiting for the development of the vaccine, the Federal Government should avail itself of the Madagascar drugs to help in the treatment of the rising cases in the country.

One of the reasons for the doubts in some quarters over the coronavirus is that the confirmed cases/patients of the virus so far in the country are shrouded in secrecy. The public want to see the confirmed patients or where they are quarantined and receiving the treatment. They need video clips of these patients, not necessarily exposing their identities.

Though, that is playing the doubting Thomas any way. But it will go along way in removing any lingering doubt concerning the presence of the virus.

It sounds incredible that many cases are recorded every now and then yet these victims are usually unknown to the rest of the masses. Nobody knows who the victims are. Those have been the feelers. But truly, coronavirus is real and lethal.

Governments, banks and wealthy public-spirited individuals have donated billions of naira so far, including aids from foreign donors and countries to fight the coronavirus in Nigeria. There have been debts forgiveness too –all to assist the country. Will all be spent on only television press briefings by the Presidential Task Force (PTF)? The briefing, necessary though, should be staggered to take place Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to conserve the scarce resources for other national economic emergencies. It should not be allowed to exhaust all the money.

 It is very unfortunate that no amount of the monies has been earmarked by the Federal Government for finding or sponsoring local remedies for the virus. It rather devotes its energy and efforts in recording the so-called cases without any single plan to sponsor claimants or developers of the drugs. Are we only waiting for a foreign solution?

This is the right time to create a high-powered committee comprising medical eggheads with a view to collecting and monitoring claims and counter claims of the drugs developed, and financing these findings to help in treating the now 3,145 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though minus 103 deaths and 543 that recovered. (as at Thursday, May 7, 2020) according to NCDC.

Again, the lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic should be used to up the country’s ante in its health care. The Federal Ministry of Health, should for once, find a way of bringing both the traditional and orthodox medicine practitioners on the same page to collaborate on other terminal diseases like cancer. I do not know why this has been an uphill task in Nigeria? The collaboration is inevitable because (1) it will help to fast track cure for certain endemic diseases, some of which defy orthodox solutions.  (2) It will help to sustain the health sector which has been suffering neglect, in successive years, culminating in the exit of some physicians for greener pastures.

  Meanwhile, the Federal Government has announced its plan to build isolation centres across the thirty-six (36) states including the FCT. According to a news report, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and chairman of the Presidential Task Force, Boss Mustapha, made the disclosure Tuesday while addressing the entire members of the House of Representatives in Abuja. While the Federal Government deserves commendation for its efforts up to this moment in handling the coronavirus, the idea of building these ‘state-of-the-art hospital’ is unacceptable to Nigerians.

The coronavirus is not an industry that requires expansion. It is an emergency disease that has just enveloped the entire world and which every effort is being made to curb it. With legions of economic problems bedeviling the country can it go into building such facilities now? China, the progenitors, harbingers of the virus did not go that far. Even though China built a 1000-bed hospital within nine (days), that did not mean spreading new hospitals all over the place there. The virus falls into  what may be regarded as a ‘nonce disease’. Therefore, what is needed is immediate cure and not erection of permanent structures to tame it. 

Let me, at this juncture, join millions of other well-meaning Nigerians to commend the brilliant medical personnel in their indefatigable efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic since the virus made its incursion in Nigeria towards the end of February, 2020. I pray God to give those who have contracted the disease quick recovery.

Last line: Some Nigerians know very well how to obey any rule by half or in the breach. The nose mask which is meant to cover the mouth, nose, especially at crowded places like markets, banks, public buses,  taxicabs, etc, have been converted to ‘chin masks’. It baffles me that even at crowded places some people pull the masks down the chin. Most people in the Owerri metropolis are doing this. I asked a pedestrian. He said his mask made breathing difficult for him. This is true of the majority of the masks. Perhaps, a light or cotton material should be used instead. The majority of the people observed wearing the masks on the first day they were made compulsory in the Imo State pulled them to the chin as if saying: ‘The Government wants us to wear the mask. Here we are with them.’

For the umpteenth time, the face mask is absolutely necessary for the wearer’s own good.  From left to right: Hon. Dominic Ezerioha (House Committee Chairman on information and judiciary), Hon. Uche Ogbuagu, (Majority Leader) Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins (Speaker) and Rt. Hon Amara Iwuanyanwu (Deputy Speaker) in a group photograph shortly after briefing newsmen last week.

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