The Federal Government (FG) has announced a cash prize of N36m for any Nigerian that can find a cure for the dreaded Coronavirus and Lassa fever.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.
The offer by the FG is coming on the heels of heightened fears over the two diseases. The Coronavirus scourge is presently spreading across the globe like a wildfire; with fears growing that the virus may hit Nigeria soon. On the other hand, the country is also battling to rein in another outbreak of the Lassa fever.
Speaking on Thursday at an event held to mark the retirement from service of A.O. Oyesefo; a former director of the Department of Chemical Technology, University of Ibadan; the Minister challenged all Nigerian scientists to go out and find cures for coronavirus and Lassa fever.
“I challenge all Nigerian scientists to go out and find cures for coronavirus and Lassa fever,’’ Onu said. ‘‘“Any scientist that is able to do this will be given N36m. There is nothing that we want to do that we can’t do. Nigeria will be making contributions to the world.”
“We want our scientists to know that we place value on them. We want them to know that they are important. If you don’t do things like this, the scientists will think we don’t value them.
“Research takes a lot of time and energy, and we will be very happy to fulfil our pledge. This prize is open to the universities; it is also open to private laboratories and research institutes,’’ he stated.
Onu says FG eager to support research
Meanwhile, Onu, who was the first civilian governor of Abia State, noted that the FG considers the N36 million pledge; a fitting way to encourage local scientists to be more innovative. Further, he disclosed that the FG is keen to research and development.
Equally important, he urged Nigerian scientists to prove their capacity in solving problems facing mankind; even as he affirmed that this would go a long way in proving Nigeria’s capacity at the global stage.
1st News reports that the coronavirus which broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has emerged a global concern. Renamed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO); the death toll from the disease has now surged past 1,500. More than two dozen countries have confirmed cases and several nations have suspended trade and travel links with China; all in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. Also, three deaths have been recorded outside mainland China; one in Hong Kong, one in the Philippines, and the most recent in Japan.
Death toll globally from Coronavirus, internally from Lassa fever rises
Additionally, Egypt reported its first case of the coronavirus on Friday, February 14; becoming the first country in the African continent to confirm a case, and the second in the Middle East region; after the United Arab Emirates diagnosed its first cases late last month.
On the other hand, Lassa fever is a seasonal disease that usually breaks out in parts of Nigeria; usually during the dry season and most infections usually result in death. Lassa fever is a disease spread to humans through food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.
Data from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) revealed that the number of suspected cases has increased significantly from more than 700 to 1,708. Also, about 70 deaths have been confirmed so far.