The disclosure last week by the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) that 16 million doses of the Covax vaccine for Covid-19 pandemic would arrive in Nigeria very soon is not only heart-warming but also rekindles the confidence that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration will once again have a conducive environment to rebuild Nigeria into a strong, virile and leading economy in Africa.
UNICEF country representative to Nigeria, Mr Peter Hawkins, during a courtesy visit to Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state in Akure, explained that more doses of the vaccine would arrive over the next few months, which would ensure that the vaccine covered 20 per cent of the population of the country.
“In the meantime, we are exploring how else to bring vaccines in with a view to allowing Nigeria to go to 40 per cent by the end of the year. This should be possible things being equal. We are only halfway through. The pandemic will continue for another one or two years. A lot has been done in ensuring that Nigeria secures the right level of vaccine and plans for the equitable distribution of vaccine are being taken through,” he said.
Akeredolu thanked UNICEF for the support given to the state over the years. The governor, who lamented the delay in the purchase of vaccine for the Nigerian populace, described the situation as unfortunate.
UNICEF’s clarification is coming on the heels of a disagreement between the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and the BUA Group on the procurement of one million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for Nigeria. While BUA, a member of CACOVID, had said that it secured the vaccines through Afrexim Bank by “paying the full amount”, CACOVID had, however, discredited BUA’s claim of securing the vaccines. It said BUA could not have singlehandedly secured the doses, explaining that the purchase of the vaccine cannot be done by individuals or companies, but only through the federal government.
Replying to CACOVID, BUA asked the coalition to stop playing politics with the lives of Nigerians. The group said the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, announced at a meeting that CACOVID had been given the opportunity through the Afrexim platform to access and pay for one million doses of vaccine. It claimed that while other CACOVID members refused to offer the donation to secure the vaccine, BUA offered to do so by making a payment of $3.4 million, which is N1.3 billion, to the CBN.
CACOVID Coordinator, Zouera Youssofou, said while payment was indeed made for the vaccines, it cannot be attributed to a single person or company. She explained that the payment for the vaccines was taken from a pool of funds donated by different CACOVID members.
“In that call, President Oramah was telling us the model of how the vaccine task force was working with AU. He also told us that there was an extra 1 million doses that we could get if we confirmed that we wanted those doses immediately by February 8. And so we agreed that we would bring it to the meeting the very next day, which happened.
“What is important to note is that Afreximbank, after that call, already secured those doses for Nigeria because they had the confirmation from the CBN, Aliko Dangote and Herbert Wigwe that they would pay for these million doses. Nobody is disputing a transfer into Central Bank’s account. The challenge is a claim that one company has brought vaccines into Nigeria because that is not factual.”
However, the Presidential Task Force on Control of COVID-19 said on Monday in Abuja that government would not take chances over spread of the virus despite the fact that available records show global decline of reported cases.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said, “This trend in reduction compares with global observations of seeming decline in COVID cases, signifying that the second wave may be receding. We are, however, not drawing conclusions yet and certainly not declaring victory, but rather watching developments as they unfold nationally and internationally, ready to make use of comparative advantages that may emerge.
The minister said there are reports of an offer of 300 million doses of Sputnik V vaccines to the AVATT portfolio, which boosts availability to 557 million. He said this would be a great relief to the Africa, and also increase the variety of vaccines to four, stressing that the vaccine coordination committee would advise on the best options for Nigeria, bearing salient factors in mind.
“Nigeria is aware of official reports of large scale fraud and counterfeit vaccines that are already in circulation. Since our vaccine needs for this year are virtually fully satisfied by multilateral and bilateral original manufacturer sources, the Ministry of Health does not, for now, intend to procure vaccines from private importers”, he said.
We commend the efforts of the federal government in collaboration with the private sector to secure the Covid-19 vaccine for Nigeria. When the vaccine is delivered and administered to the citizenry, Nigeria will, no doubt, be repositioned towards accelerated socio-economic and political development, thus, taking its pride of place among the comity of nations as the giant of Africa.