By Iyemah David
The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) said health research remains essential for improving human development and is also required for response to health, social, technological and agricultural challenges.
The Director-General of NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako, said this on Wednesday in Abuja at a two-day stakeholder meeting to discuss the Feasibility and Acceptability, as well as Organs and Functionality of the Medical Research Council for Nigeria.
The meeting was jointly organised by NIMR in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Salako said that health research in the country was still poorly funded.
According to him, there is need to establish direct funding for health research in the country via a dedicated Medical Research Council (MRC).
He said that an NMRC would engender high-quality research that translates into policy adoption and increased return on investment in research resulting in economic prosperity and national development.
He said the NIMR was established as a Medical Research Council in 1958 and requested for an amendment of the Act establishing it, rather than a request for the creation of a new MRC altogether.
“We are, therefore, making a case for an amendment to the NIMR act to simply return to its original vision of MRC.
“The impact will be felt in the country’s health indices, number of direct grants to Nigeria, number of locally funded projects and use of policy briefs from research evidence and innovation,” he explained.
He said that most modern successful countries were functional through research and development anchored by a health research funding agency.
“In most African countries, only a few do have this kind of body providing specific funding for health research. For us in Nigeria, research has not been adequately funded, though the government is funding research through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
“TETFUND is restricted to the universities and it covers all forms of research works. Health research has been shown to contribute to human development by ensuring higher life expectancy and good health indices.
“The health indices are poor in Nigeria and the main reason is inadequate funding for health research for the health system.
“The best thing that can happen to Nigeria is for Nigeria to create its medical research council to fund health research for all health researchers in the country,” he said.
Salako said the establishment of the council would enable the provision of local solutions through funding of peculiar health challenges in Nigeria.
“We might also be able to develop our drugs. Research can provide new knowledge and new evidence, and more importantly, for decision-makers, research can provide evidence for a policy that will have a significant positive impact,” he said.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Services, Dr Tanko Sununu advocated for research works to take the front burner in the country.
“One of the essences of this meeting is how to improve our research conduct and documentation and how to get the acceptability of the international community to have a body that can stand for the country and attract resources.
“We have to look into transforming NIMR into a medical research council that can be more effective and can coordinate research funding.
“With this research council, many modalities of funding will be put into the council which can be shared with other organisations,” Sununu said.
Dr Nkiruka Ukor, Technical Officer, Monitoring and Evaluation, World Health Organisation (WHO), said that one of the organisation’s key functions was harnessing research, information and evidence supporting the development and implementation of research strategies in countries.
Ukor said that the establishment of an MRC would help in the bridging of gaps in research funding and ultimately in the improvement of the country’s health and health system.
“WHO is happy that the event is taking place as it is a sure step toward the results the continent all want to achieve.”
Meanwhile, Prof Wole Atoyebi, Secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Medicine, also called for the establishment of medical research council to fund research works peculiarly in the country.
Atoyebi said that if established, it would fund health research for all health researchers in the country.