The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) has touted health research as essential to improving human development and responding to health, social, technological and agricultural challenges.
The director-general, NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako made this assertion at a two-day stakeholder meeting organised by the institute in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to discuss the feasibility and acceptability, as well as organs and functionality of the Medical Research Council for Nigeria (MRCFN) yesterday (January 25, 2023) in Abuja.
Salako said that health research in the country is still poorly funded and called for the need to establish direct funding for health research in the country via a dedicated Medical Research Council (MRC).
The NMIR boss said that a MRC would engender high-quality research that translates into policy adoption and increased return on investment in research resulting in economic prosperity and national development.
According to him, the NIMR was established as a Medical Research Council in 1958 and it would be easier to request an amendment of the Act back to MRC 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.
Salako said that most modern successful countries were functional through research and development which is 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, even though the government is funding research through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
“TEDFUND 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, due to 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 further said that 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.
In his remarks, the chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, Hon. Dr. Tanko Sununu said it was high time research works took the front burner in the country.
“One of the essences of this meeting is how to improve our research conduct, documentation and 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.
Similarly, the technical officer, monitoring and evaluation, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Nkiruka Ukor said that one of the organisation’s key functions is 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.
She, however, said that WHO is happy that the event is taking place, as it is a sure step toward the results the continent wants to achieve.
Meanwhile, the secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Medicine, Prof. Wole Atoyebi, also called for the establishment of a medical research council to fund research works in the country. If he established, he said, it would fund health research for all health researchers in the country.