From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Monday warned that a black market for fake vaccination certificates now exists in the country.
The Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, raised the alarm during the committee’s media briefing in Abuja, disclosing that arrangements are in place to vaccinate 50 per cent of Nigerians by the end of January 2022.
Mustapha said the Committee had reliable intelligence that an illegal vaccination certificate market has been created in the country.
He, however, assured that no vaccination certificate illegally procured would scale scrutiny whenever the need arises as all vaccination records have to be verified as authentic at every relevant point.
‘We have received intelligence and even detected that some unscrupulous citizens are procuring vaccination cards through the black market,’ Mustapha stated.
‘Let me assure everyone that the vaccination records/certificates will be verified and this should serve as a warning to those criminally minded persons to desist because they will be prosecuted accordingly,’ he assured.
Speaking on recent developments around the COVID-19 pandemic locally and internationally, the SGF called for greater caution as the virus’ spread is not slowing down, but getting rather more virulent in some places.
He gave assurance that the vaccination process was being accelerated as arrangements were being perfected for a mass roll-out of vaccines from Friday, November 20, 2021, with a target of achieving the vaccination of about 50% of the population by the end of January next year.
‘The PSC has not briefed the nation for some time now, but we have been working and monitoring the trends around the world so that the national response can continue to be based on data, research and experience. The situation is still challenging, hence, the need to continue to strictly adhere to the non-pharmaceutical intervention measures.
‘We are currently seeing some surges in cases in some countries in Europe (especially eastern Europe) due to under vaccination. In other territories where massive vaccinations have occurred, the infections are rising. What we see in Nigeria right now is that there is an increase in the case fatality ratio, which calls for great concern.
‘In our last briefing, we announced the Vaccine Mandate for 1st December 2021. I will like to state that this is in the best interest of Nigeria, looking at what is happening globally. We are gearing up to further engage with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to push through the mass vaccination programme and mandate for our citizens.
‘The vaccination phase is being accelerated and the NPHCDA has concluded arrangements to roll out a mass vaccination plan with effect from Friday, November 20, 2021. The PSC wishes to assure Nigerians that the NPHCDA has enough vaccines in the pipeline to vaccinate about 50% of the target population by the end of January 2022. Efforts are also ongoing to bring on board the booster dose so as to build a healthy level of anti-bodies,’ he said.
To mark the end of its nine months mandate, the SGF said that the PSC is planning a National Summit to end COVID-19 in 2022/strengthening global health security, adding that the date for the event had been set to hold between 6 and 8 of December this year.
‘The PSC is approaching the end of its nine months mandate by the end of December 2021. To effectively capture the core elements of our national response, a National Summit to end COVID-19 in 2022 and to strengthen Global Health Security is being planned to hold in Abuja from 6 – 8 December 2021.
‘It is imperative that all hands must be on deck if we must lay a solid foundation for a sustainable response to COVID, which will be with us for quite some time; and continue to push to minimize the impact on health and economic sectors,’ he said.
Addressing some of the concerns of international travellers and some of the issues being raised about inconveniences that have been imposed by the outbreak of the pandemic, the PSC chair, while assuring that Nigeria’s international travel portal had been primed to give more effective services, challenged travellers from Nigeria to get conversant with the various travel protocols of their travel destinations.
‘Travellers leaving the country are encouraged to be conversant with the travel protocols of all countries (origin, transit and destination). This has become necessary because of comments and reports in the media that some citizens are denied boarding due to a lack of pre-departure protocol compliance.
‘Others returning home also complained about requirements to be met. The protocols are clear and simple and they should be observed accordingly.
‘The National International Travel Protocol portal has been upgraded to meet existing protocol and the demands of our travelling public. The portal is now live and running smoothly,’ he said.