By NBF News

Prof. Oke, WAEC Registrar, Mrs Mulikat Bello (m) and his wife, Dr.Modupeola Oke after the inaugural lecture

A university don, Professor Oyedamola Oke of Department of Botany, Lagos State Universitry (LASU) has called for proper funding of research activities in the nation's tertiary institutions. Professor Oke made the call while delivering the 44th LASU inaugural lecture series entitled, Fungi: Angels and demons dwelling with man, stressing that efforts at funding research by federal and state governments must be taken seriously.

He disclosed that attempts to source for fund internationally is increasingly becoming difficult, adding that the management of LASU has given the issue serious attention but sought for an improvement in respect of equipping the central research laboratory.

The LASU don stressed the need to encourage research through financial reward and recommended the South African model where a published work in specific journals is rewarded with cash to the authors and another amount to the university thus enhancing research activities in that country.

The Professor of Mycology said there was no plan to build human capital that is essential for the survival of the university system insisting 'there should be manpower training programmes at both federal and state levels for academics'.

Prof. Oke also recommended the institution of Post-doctorate fellowships in Mycology as Fungi have effect on human life and that the most logical thing is to be ahead of the fungi in their angelic and demonic influences on man's life.

He called for the establishment of a culture collection centre because ordinary confirmation of identification which is essential in the study of fungi cannot be done in the country. He said: 'cultures are usually sent to America or Britain. The only recognized fungi collection centre in Africa is in South Africa'.

According to him, fungi are both friends and foes as they affect all facets of the life of man, participate in the recycling of organic matter within the ecosystem.

'Fungi are also used for the production of several industrial chemicals such as lactic acids, ethanol, methanol and such solvents that are extremely important for efficient functioning of some industries. Some fungi also act as bio-control agents' he noted.

Oke further explained that fungi have been exploited for biomass production, food fermentation, industrial enzymes production and those of health products despite the disease they cause in plants, animals and man while several other useful metabolites of fungi are yet to be exploited.

To check the problem of oil spillage, the university don said an important technology for getting over oil spill is the use of micro organisms to change the toxic pollutant to less harmful compounds but admitted that the method has not been used in Nigeria.

'This technology, the use of fungi has very scanty report in Nigeria, although fungi are known to eat (degrade) crude petroleum and this has been utilized elsewhere in the World. The principal criterion for the use of fungi is that the fungi must be indigenous to the environment where they are expected to be used' he stressed.

He disclosed that fungi are known to cause about 100,000 diseases of plants, 70 per cent of diseases of major crops and the damages according to him are translated into decrease in growth and reproduction thus leading to financial as well as yield losses to farmers. The LASU lecturer observed that federal and state governments have been paying lip service to the issue of funding research in the universities and noted that for sustained quality of life of man and plants, fungi would continue to play important roles that cannot be ignored.