By Ikenna Nwokedi
The Faculty of Biosciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka have commenced her two-day Second International Conference holding from Tuesday, 10th to Wednesday, 11th January 2023.
The conference with the theme: ”Post COVID-19 Pandemic Resilience: Roles of Biosciences” kickstarted on Tuesday with the opening ceremony held at the ASUU NAU Secretariat, UNIZIK Awka.
In his address, UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, FAS, stated that conferences, symposia and workshops are part of the rituals of an academic institution and the Faculty of Biosciences under the present leadership of Prof. Stanley Udedi has left no stones untouched in keying into the process.
Prof. Esimone who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Frederick Odibo stated that he played a pivotal role in creating the Faculty of Biosciences from the then Faculty of Natural Sciences but the process in achieving that dream started with the position paper written by Prof. Stanley Udedi to the then Vice-Chancellor before the current Dean’s elevation to the rank of a Professor.
Prof. Esimone described the theme of the conference as apt as COVID-19 pandemic has recently raised its ugly head with recent reports of increase in the number of cases in the country. The scholar opined that Bioscientists should be saddled with the responsibility of searching for solutions and providing answers to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 and Post COVID-19.
He also noted that Nigeria and indeed the sub-saharan Africa are being plagued by diseases such as Ebola and Lassa Fever which are virulent but the Bioscientists here at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka are well equipped and endowed to provide solutions to the challenges of the time.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of the occasion and CEO Nicky Okoye Organization, Dr. Nicky Okoye stated that the conference has provided a platform for the review of research findings on COVID-19 pandemic and ways to promote efforts towards the adoption of best practices in handling its aftermath in Nigeria and West Africa.
Okoye informed that progress has been made around the world in understanding the science of COVID-19 virus and the development of effective health tools to improve the global response to the pandemic but factors such as lack of support from developed nations and poverty among the citizens have limited the impact of these developments in West and Central Africa.
Also speaking, the Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Biochemistry, Prof. Stanley Udedi emphasized that the conference targeted at discussing re-strategic recovery from the pandemic with emphasis on survival strategies for COVID-19 and roles the Faculty have played and will continue to play towards curbing the menace.
Udedi disclosed that the conference promises to strategize and repackage the role of teaching, research and community service via showcasing what the faculty can offer in the face of the global challenge. He stated that the teeming scholars and academic at the conference are there to open up discussions that will bring out the best and reposition the Faculty and the institution at large in line with the ‘Project 200’ vision of the present administration under the leadership of Prof. Charles Esimone.
In his keynote address and lecture titled: ”Food Security Enhancement: the Entrepreneurial Perspective” delivered by Prof. Alex Ikechukwu Ikeme, a scholar in the Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), the scholar stated that COVID-19 gripped the world with a shock and overwhelmed the health system of most nations causing global social disruption by limiting global social relations.
“COVID-19 disrupted the globe in almost all sectors, the medical profession was not left out as beyond the personal protective equipment (PPE), health workers faced high risks and challenges which led to concerns that the fragile health system might be unable to care for high incidence of COVID-19 infection which could lead to dreadful consequences in terms of morbidity and mortality.
Prof. Ikeme highlighted some roles of Bioscientists and medical professionals such as the discovery that the virus has the propensity to kill more than 50 million people worldwide which led to the research for a vaccine in the mould of the astrazeneca and how to build resilience against the spread and advent of another similar epidermic. He also highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary research in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic which he described in three broad spectrum as multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinarity.
Ikeme also stated the roles of the food we eat and impact of biotechnology in food processing. He said: ”Our nutritional status, health, physical and mental faculties depend on the food we eat and how we eat it. It’s also important to state that biotechnology in the food processing sector targets the selection and improvement of microorganisms with the objectives of improving process control, yields, efficiency as well as the quality, safety and consistency of bioprocessed products,” Ikeme said.
Ikeme concluded by saying that the fight against the ravaging effects of COVID-19 is a collective responsibility of all and sundry in winning the war and saving the ecosystem for the future and the next generation.
Resource persons expected to speak during the technical sessions are Dr. Mrs Flora Nkemakonam Ilonzo, Founder, Centre for Psychic Healing Administration (CPHA) Nigeria who is expected to deliver a lecture titled ‘Let your food be your medicine’; Prof. Uche Nwogwogwu, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences expected to talk on ‘Economic Recovery and Sustainable Development in post COVID-19 pandemic Nigeria. Others are Tenya Zeczycki and Holly Ellis, Professors at Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, USA.