VP’s Speech At NCDC National Reference Laboratory Inspection

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I am very honoured to join you here today and witness first-hand, the excellent work that you are doing at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control National Reference Laboratory in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.

I would like to thank the staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for the warm welcome and great tour of the facility. The Director-General has regularly updated me formally and informally on your work and especially at the monthly National Economic Council meetings where we hold briefings on our response to the challenges to public health and safety created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures that we are taking to protect our country.

I call the Director-General frequently, always asking all sorts of questions and by now, he knows I am forever on his case to find out what is going on and he very generously, gives me updates on what is going on.

I am very proud of our public health workforce across Nigeria who have been doing outstanding work since January 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was first reported globally. This is not only the most severe pandemic in modern times that the world has seen, it is also the first pandemic response for the NCDC as our country’s premier public health emergency response agency.

Thousands of health professionals have been working tirelessly on Nigeria’s COVID-19 public health response; from the people across sample collection sites and laboratories ensuring testing, and our dedicated physicians, nurses and other health workers in treatment centres providing care to the sick, to our medical scientists that are conducting research on various aspects of this plague.

We also have State Public Health Teams working hard to ensure data reporting and analysis, contact tracing, risk communications and so much more.

Within this period, you have all worked extremely hard to activate testing in all States of our country, you have increased our knowledge of this disease, grown our capacity to swiftly identify those infected by the plague and render aid to them.

I know that the work you do can often seem thankless and the long hours you put in is unnoticed and unappreciated. Often it happens in the background and in the shadows, away from public attention and it will not often grab the headlines, but it only seems this way. In truth, this is the sort of work that builds nations and saves lives. This is the real impact of the work you have been doing over the past ten months.

Your work has literarily meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of Nigerians. It is fair to say that the staff of the NCDC and all those engaged in Nigeria’s COVID-19 public health response, represent public service at its very best in Nigeria, and are an example of the type of public sector that we all want to see.

Today, I want you all to know how much the Government and people of Nigeria appreciate you. Many of you have had to stay away from your families for long periods and have even gotten infected in the course of duty.

We heard how one of you, Uche Njoku, lost his live in the process of just trying to get the work done and didn’t get any mention, I am just hearing about it. Our nation is extremely grateful to those who have put in so much and lost so much, particularly their families who have to bear the grief.

Hearing the personal stories of staff of NCDC like Rahab, Innocent and Eme, shows how incredible in such a short time, so many young Nigerians have been able to, not only learn and imbibe, but also contribute to all of the public health response and the pandemic. This is truly a transformational period in the history of our country and it is a very silent revolution that is taking place in the public sector, but it is certainly worth noting and commending ourselves.

Indeed, we remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty while keeping the rest of us safe from this pandemic. You are doing heroic work in often extremely challenging circumstances. We are very proud of you all.

We agree that we have a critical situation on our hands currently with the increasing number of cases being recorded. However, we have made a lot of progress since Nigeria’s first case was recorded in February 2020. We have activated nearly 120 laboratories nationwide – 70 of them public laboratories – and have significantly ramped up our testing and case management capacity.

We have expanded the footprint of our sovereign public health response capabilities especially at the subnational level and in areas where previously such capabilities did not exist.  Not so long ago, test samples had to be flown out of the country for examination. This is no longer the case as we now have the capacity to process samples internally.

This is not an achievement that should be taken for granted, but one that we are determined to consolidate on. This very facility is a testament to the strides that we have made during a short period. While we are not yet where we want to be as a nation, we are most certainly not where we were at the onset of the pandemic.

The excellent work I have witnessed today at the NCDC Reference Laboratory, is one of the best examples of how this pandemic has produced at least one silver lining, a show casing of   the remarkable skills and talents of our public health experts here at NCDC and across the health sector.

Last week I was in briefing meetings, listening to the landmark research of a team of Professors from LUTH who have demonstrated the efficacy of the Ivermectin drug in the therapeutic management of Covid-19 and are researching its prophylactic use.

A few days later, I was listening to Professor Christian Happi and his team who have produced ground breaking rapid tests, but more remarkably, are developing a Nigerian anti-Covid-19 vaccine.

I think it is incredible that all of these things are happening in this country but getting very little mention (I think only bad news seems to travel quickly as they say.)

So, to all staff of the NCDC and Public Health Teams across the States, thank you for the excellent work that you do. I want you all to know that your country is extremely proud of you.   Incredible as it may sound, you are indeed making history every single day. No one could have imagined how well our public health system would respond to a pandemic that has left the better resourced health systems bewildered.

When the record of our response to this unprecedented threat to our public health is written, the efforts of our healthcare professionals will occupy a significant place with the thanks of a grateful nation.

Ultimately, our aim is to emerge from this pandemic with our nation’s health capacities strengthened and the overall resilience of our health care system enhanced.

We believe that this is very possible, because of your sacrifice, commitment and dedication to duty, we can make this happen. Every achievement and capability we attain as a country in tackling this plague from this point onwards will be part of your legacy.

Every life that has been lost to COVID-19 is a major loss to our country. With this in mind, we will not relent until we assert control over the critical phase of this pandemic.

I urge all Nigerians to continue to comply with the advice of our scientists and healthcare professionals and to continue to take every measure to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. We will come through this period of our history as we have come through all previous seasons of adversity, by working together, protecting each other, believing in each other and committing to seeing better days ahead for our nation.

Again, I would like to thank you very much for all your hard work and for the very warm welcome.

Thank you.