When President Muhammadu Buhari departed Abuja for Seoul, South Korea to participate in the First World Bio Summit 2022, the usual, unjustifiable murmurings filled the social media space in the country that this is one wasteful trip too many.
Jointly organised by the government of the Republic of Korea and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the two-day summit that held from October 25-26 had ‘The Future of Vaccine and Bio-Health,’ as its theme.
However, reports about the proceedings and side events showed that Nigeria, like in all foreign engagements by President Muhammadu Buhari, recorded at least two landmark achievements at the end of the summit.
Earlier in a statement by Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, ‘Nigeria was selected along with five other African countries by the WHO and the European Union, EU during the EU-African summit in Brussels, Belgium last February for mRNA technology transfer and global training hub for bio-manufacturing of vaccines on the African continent.’
To further give teeth to the intended objectives of technology transfer, key Executives of global vaccine and biologics companies who will share and shape ideas on the theme graced the occasion because global health security profoundly depends on innovation and development in the bio-industry.
To further press home his preference for more effective partnerships that impact positively on the lives and safety of Nigerians, President Buhari used the unique opportunity offered him at the summit, during his engagements and meetings with stakeholders to solicit their support to give Nigeria the space to produce vaccines for the African continent because of her “capacity.”
Even his media Aide, Femi Adesina in an opinion piece widely circulated in the media titled ‘TRAVELOGUE: Inside the Soul of Seoul, South Korea,” revealed: “President Muhammadu Buhari has a number of passions. Security is one of them. Climate change is another. And anti-corruption, Power, energy sufficiency. And lately, vaccine manufacturing. He had pledged in an earlier broadcast that Nigeria would join the train for a safer country, continent and world through vaccine manufacturing. And that was what brought us all the way to Seoul, to attend the first World Bio Summit. It has the theme, The Future of Vaccines and Bio-Health.”
On the opening day of the Summit, President Buhari was quoted making some salient points: “This Summit certainly opens up global conversations at high levels of government on measures that are expected to forestall recurrence of the unpleasant experiences that Low-Income and Lower Middle-Income countries in Africa and Asia especially, had to endure with regard to access to vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It must be said that inequity in distribution of virtually all requirements for diagnostics and therapy was a key factor in the lack of capacity to produce basic or essential commodities, and the total dependence on imported goods. Although Covid-19 actually threatened and continues to threaten all of mankind with no regard for race, region or economic standing, global response was not only segmented but discriminatory. If the pandemic had taken the course that was predicted by some experts, there could have been an existential threat to sections of humanity. Such a serious public health failure should not be allowed to happen again and lessons must be learned from it.”
In the words of Adesina, “Undoubtedly, the global outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has jolted our collective consciousness and now more than ever, we must step up as leaders in a world in desperate need of healing and repair, to begin to have the difficult conversations about a future, which we must be better prepared for in order to avoid further devastation to our lives, livelihoods and physical environment.”
Since Nigeria is one of the six African countries selected to be the first on the continent to receive the technology needed to produce our own mRNA vaccines from a scheme headed by the World Health Organization, the country is taking steps to provide needed infrastructure and requisite funding for the implementation of the initiative.
It is thetefore heart warming hearing that a private pharmaceutical company to facilitate pharmaceutical production of the mRNA vaccines has been identified in the country to pilot this project.
One would seize this window of opportunity to call for an expeditious and speedy take-off of this project in the interest of global health.
Relentlessly and supported with a fashion and conviction, PMB has shown his desire and commitment to join global efforts in responding to known or emerging pathogens, including the global vaccine assurance ecosystem and equitable access for all.
“It is not in doubt that Nigeria shall continue to explore bilateral, multilateral and other opportunities for cutting-edge technology as a global hub for sustainable manufacturing and distribution of Vaccine and Biological pharmaceuticals to support initiatives to keep all of mankind safe,” PMB added.
In pursuing Nigeria’s larger interests, PMB scored another goal at the summit by ensuring that the state owned Petroleum Company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding, MoU with Daewoo Group, a South Korean conglomerate, for the rehabilitation of the Kaduna refinery.
Witnessing the signing ceremony, President Muhammadu Buhari said “Daewoo Group has massive investments in the automobile, maritime and other sectors of the Nigerian economy.”
Daewoo is currently engaged in the execution of the NLNG train 7 project and also constructing sea-going LPG vessels for NNPC and her partners.
Efforts that culminated in the signing of the Rehabilitation contract for Kaduna refinery with Daewoo was sealed in August 2021 when the federal executive council, FEC approved $1.48 billion for the rehabilitation of both Warri and Kaduna refineries.
Desmond Inyamah, as Acting Managing Director, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, WRPC, had said the refinery will commence full operations in December 2023.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has signed an agreement with Daewoo Group of South Korea for the rehabilitation of the 110,000 bpd-capacity Kaduna Refinery.
The biggest state-run refinery, which is Port Harcourt, is currently undergoing repairs handled by Tecnimont of Italy. The government says it expects the plant to start production this December.
Daewoo is also repairing the Warri plant which will at the first instance deliver fuel before the first half of 2023.
It is therefore not in doubt that PMB’s foreign trips were not wasteful. Rather, such trips have brought in developments to the country which are increasing the fortunes of the country to its economy, and the citizens too.
EMEKA ANYAOKU STREET, ABUJA firstname.lastname@example.org