FG To Expand NCDC National Reference Lab

Joseph Bakare

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has disclosed plans by government to expand the facilities of the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, (NCDC) in Abuja.

Osinbajo made the disclosure on Friday, January 22, while on an assessment tour of the facilities at the NCDC NRL, Gaduwa, Abuja. The vice president acknowledged and commended the efforts of NCDC staff and other public health workers; describing their efforts as heroic.

Osinbajo also interacted with the laboratory staff and observed operations at the molecular laboratory; HIV mega-laboratory, biorepository and other critical areas of the laboratory.

The vice president reiterated the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to prioritise and strengthen health security.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire accompanied the vice president on the trip.

Also, he commended the critical role of the agency in the prevention, detection and response to disease outbreaks.

He said “I am particularly proud of the significant growth of NCDC over the last four years. The centre has shown a capacity to develop and maintain an efficient and coordinated structure for public health laboratory services in Nigeria.

“The impact of the work being done at the National Reference Laboratory is not limited to Nigeria alone,” he said.

On his part, the Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, thanked the vice president for the visit; as well as for the opportunities to update him regularly through the National Economic Council.

Ihekweazu shared the agency’s journey, including the COVID-19 response and challenges.

He said “We remain grateful to the executive arm of government for the strong political commitment to strengthen health security in the country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for stable, substantial, and sustainable investment for health security. We were able to activate the NRL and three other laboratories for COVID-19 diagnosis in January 2020; because we had been preparing for the next pandemic.

“Nigeria must invest in health security to be better prepared for the next pandemic.”

The NCDC boss added that the NRL had been recognised as one of the top eight sequencing laboratories in Africa, with full genomics and bio-information capacities.

He said that the NRL was selected as a regional reference sequencing laboratory for COVID-19 and other emerging pathogens.

The NCDC NRL was initially operationalised in May 2017.

Prior to this, Nigeria did not have a Public Health Laboratory for epidemic-prone diseases.

Since its establishment, the NRL developed the molecular capacity to diagnose yellow fever, Lassa fever, monkeypox, cholera and highly pathogenic viruses such as the severe acute coronavirus.

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